Addiction is a complicated, chronic disease that requires a complex solution to achieve any lasting change. It goes beyond issues with the chemical pathways in your brain. It’s a deeply rooted issue that has to do with the limbic system, which is also called the reward center. The rewarding effects of drugs and alcohol are misunderstood to be positive rewards for life-sustaining activities. As a result, your reward center triggers powerful cravings for a drug when faced with triggers, stress, and high-risk situations. For that reason, it can take more than a week of detox to address a substance use disorder successfully.

Triggers and cravings can last longer than your treatment program. However, through treatment, you will learn to cope with stress and cravings without the use of drugs. Some people go through detox and treatment with great success but find new struggles when they return home.

A return to independent life can be a significant challenge to a person in recovery, but outpatient services are an excellent option for someone who has completed higher levels of care. It also can be a good option for someone who enters treatment but doesn’t require high levels of care.

Outpatient programs can be an excellent way to continue to safeguard your recovery while you ease your way back into independent, everyday life after treatment. Learn more about this low-intensity level of care in addiction treatment and how it can help you achieve lasting recovery.

What Is Outpatient Drug & Alcohol Treatment?

Outpatient drug treatment is a low-intensity level of care that involves fewer than nine hours of clinical services every week. It offers the same programs and therapies as intensive outpatient services but allows you more free time to pursue an independent life.

Typically, someone in outpatient therapy will attend treatment and clinical services once or twice a week, while IOP would require multiple sessions, often every day. Besides early intervention, outpatient treatment is the lowest level of care in addiction treatment, and it’s an inegral part of deinstitutionalization in addiction treatment.

Deinstitutionalization is the process of helping people that have gone through treatment to avoid becoming dependent on the structure of more intensive services. For instance, if someone completes an inpatient or residential program with 24 hours of monitoring and supervision and then immediately returns to normal life, they may be overwhelmed by the sudden lack of support.

Outpatient treatment allows you to return to independent life while you still have access to support and clinical services. As you encounter challenges in your day-to-day life, you will be able to present them to your therapist and group sessions to gain more insight. The things you learned in higher levels of care are put to practical use, and you can process it in treatment. You also can return to the comforts and obligations of your home life, like family, work, or school.

What Do Outpatient Programs Offer?

Outpatient programs will offer many of the same therapy options as IOP with a less intensive structure. In many cases, outpatient therapies will be a continuation of the services you started in IOP. You may continue with behavioral therapy, group sessions, individual sessions with a therapist, and family therapy.

When you attend outpatient treatment, the goal will be for you to continue your commitment to addiction treatment as you prepare for independent life. Here are some essential factors in outpatient treatment:

Substance Abuse Therapy

As with all levels of care in addiction treatment, the primary goal of outpatient treatment programs is to help you overcome a substance use disorder, and any underlying causes. Individual and group therapy sessions will be centered around dealing with addiction and learning ways to cope with cravings. There is a multitude of other factors that can feed into an addiction problem that needs to be addressed, but substance abuse therapy will be at the center of addiction treatment.

Dual Diagnosis

Addiction has a close relationship with other mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety disorders. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that nearly 8 million people had both a mental health issue and a substance use disorder at the same time in 2017. Treating a substance use disorder effectively involves addressing underlying mental health problems that contribute to a person’s use of addictive substances.

If you have a depressive disorder, anxiety, PTSD, or another mental health issue, you may go through specific therapies designed to address those problems. Severe mental health issues like schizophrenia may be referred to specialists that can meet your needs.

Life Skills

Addiction can bring your life to a screeching halt. When maintaining a substance use disorder becomes your chief focus in life, other areas of development may be pushed aside. To be successful in life in recovery and to avoid relapse, it’s vital to pick up some of these skills before completing treatment. Outpatient treatment is a great setting for you to learn how to create and keep a schedule, manage money, and demonstrate social skills.

Relapse Prevention

One of the most critical things you might learn in addiction treatment is relapse prevention strategies.

Throughout the addiction treatment process, you will learn ways to cope with stress, triggers, and drug cravings. When you complete treatment, you may still experience those cravings. However, you will be equipped with positive coping strategies, the ability to recognize high-risk situations, and a strategy to deal with strong cravings when they happen.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a commonly used tool for developing relapse prevention strategies. You learn how to identify the thoughts that lead to actions so you can stop a potential relapse in your thinking before you take action.

What Are The Different Types Of Outpatient Treatment?

An outpatient drug rehab program is going to vary in the numbers of days each week and hours of attendance. The outpatient program must be tailored to your specific needs. Below we will delve into the three most common outpatient options, which include:

  • Day Treatment: Day treatment, which is also referred to as partial hospitalization, is the highest level of outpatient drug or alcohol rehab. The client will meet five to seven days a week for up to six hours per day. Some individuals will start drug rehab in day treatment, and others will transition into this level of care once they’ve completed residential addiction treatment.
  • Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP): Intensive outpatient programs are offered at various times for those with busy schedules. Day and evening options are available to clients and give them a chance to participate in treatment while attending work, school, or other responsibilities at home. Many will start their journey in an intensive outpatient while others transition from residential or day programs. The typical schedule is around four sessions per week and will meet less frequently as specific milestones are achieved.
  • Continued Care Groups: These are often referred to as aftercare, and counseling groups will meet once a week on average. These groups are specific to certain client populations, such as men, women, health care professionals, or those with opioid addiction. Clients can only participate after completion of residential or outpatient programs.
  • Recovery Residency: For those who require additional assistance during outpatient treatment, transition, or sober living is an excellent option. There are several types of sober housing available with varying levels of support. There are peer-run sober homes, monitored, clinically supervised, and clinically integrated options that allow individuals on all levels to be taken care of.

Where Is Outpatient Services In The Continuum Of Care?

California Highlands Addiction Treatment follows the levels of care model outlined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), which is called the continuum of care.

According to this continuum, outpatient treatment is the lowest level of formal treatment, and it’s only higher than early intervention. Outpatient is a step lower than intensive outpatient services and partial hospitalization.

In many cases, outpatient services come after more intensive interventions and act as a way for clients to ease back into regular life. Outpatient services also can serve as a way to reinstate treatment for people who fear an imminent relapse but haven’t started using drugs again. Though it is a low-intensity part of treatment, it’s a vital part of the overall continuum of care.

How Long Is An Outpatient Program?

The primary objective of an outpatient program is to stabilize health and provide you with the tools, knowledge, and skill set to attain long-term sobriety. It will allow you to prepare for the triggers you’ll face and avoid relapse. Length is going to vary from one individual to another, and the way at which you pace yourself will not be identical to your peers. The milestones may be similar while healing from addiction, but everyone’s situation is different.

Addiction is a chronic disease, and you must learn how to manage your symptoms and regain your health. The structure and support of a treatment setting will eventually follow you home, which is where the real changes will occur.

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