While most people believe that the best type of treatment for addiction is a residential programme, these are not for everyone. Some individuals are unable to fund the cost of private care while others simply cannot be away from home for the length of time involved in inpatient addiction treatment.

Outpatient treatment is an effective alternative to residential care. It is less intensive and less expensive and, therefore, the ideal option for some people.

Getting Sober First

In terms of treatment for substance abuse addictions, it is necessary for patients to get sober before attempting rehabilitation. This process is known as detoxification and is necessary for those attending both inpatient and outpatient treatment. This means quitting alcohol or drugs and waiting until all traces of the chemical substance have left the body. Once the patient is free from drugs or alcohol, he or she will have a clearer mind and will be ready to take on the task of rehabilitation.

What to Expect from Outpatient Treatment

Most outpatient programmes will start with an interview and assessment, which will include an element of family history. Patients will also be given a physical examination, which will include a urine test, test for liver disease, and other blood tests to determine the health of the patient.

Outpatient programmes usually include regular visits with a doctor, and there will be elements of individual counselling, group therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, and family therapy. Patients are usually advised to join a fellowship support group, and many facilities will incorporate elements of 12-step work into their programme. There will also be a number of workshops on relapse prevention and life skills.

The hours of daily treatment will be much less than those provided by inpatient programmes, but it varies from facility to facility. For example, some programmes require daily attendance while others expect patients to attend for a few hours each week. Since there are fewer hours of treatment in an outpatient programme than with inpatient care, outpatient programmes usually run for a much longer period. For example, residential programmes typically last for six to eight weeks, but an outpatient programme might last for a number of months or even up to a year or more.

Who Will Benefit from an Outpatient Programme?

Outpatient programmes are not ideal for those with a severe substance abuse problem. They are also unsuitable for those who are on the brink of relapse. However, they are beneficial for those who have been struggling with drugs or alcohol for a short period.

Outpatient programmes are also suitable for those who have completed an inpatient programme of care but do not yet feel ready for an aftercare programme. Outpatient treatment bridges the gap for those who feel they are not strong enough to make the transition to independent sober living.

Others are unable to leave their families or jobs for an extended period and so, for them, outpatient care is the best option, especially if they have a strong support network at home.

When Outpatient Care is Not Suitable

While outpatient care is an ideal choice for many individuals, there are some for whom it will not work. Those who are unable to concentrate on their recovery due to distractions such as work, family and other personal issues may find it preferable to enrol in a residential facility where they are free from distractions and do not have to worry about external issues.

Some studies have shown that those who are away from the problems of day to day life, find it easier to recover from addiction. Nevertheless, some experts believe that learning to get sober and stay sober while also having to deal with the real world is the best way to ensure long-term success.