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Outpatient Alcohol Rehabilitation

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What is Outpatient Alcohol Rehab? 

Outpatient alcohol rehabilitation is a treatment program for people with alcohol use disorder (AUD). This kind of program allows people to attend treatment sessions every day while maintaining other responsibilities in their community and at home.

Sessions in outpatient rehab programs vary depending on a person's individual needs. Many programs involve behavioral therapies, while some include the use of medications.

Outpatient programs are regarded as the foundation for long-term recovery for alcoholics. They allow people to continue with other aspects of their lives while accessing intensive treatment therapies.

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Who is Outpatient Alcohol Rehab For? 

Outpatient rehabilitation is considered a necessary step in the alcohol recovery journey. People who want to maintain sobriety might enroll themselves in an outpatient treatment program. 

It’s not suitable for people who are still in the beginning stages of alcohol recovery. Professionals recommend inpatient treatment for these people because they need 24-hour medical supervision.

Outpatient rehabilitation is for people who are further along the recovery process. It’s for people who want to develop the necessary cognitive skills to change behaviors and attitudes related to alcohol abuse.

Types of Outpatient Alcohol Rehab Programs 

Outpatient alcohol rehab is one of the more flexible kinds of treatment available to people with AUD. Facilities and healthcare providers try to customize treatment plans according to people’s individual needs. That’s why there are three main types of outpatient alcohol rehab programs:

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

PHPs are the most structured and intensive outpatient programs. These programs typically last 6 hours every day of the week. At the end of each session, people can return to their homes. Some facilities also offer transportation to and from the treatment center.

PHPs focus on individual and group therapies, skill-building lessons, and group counseling sessions. People’s progress is noted periodically to ensure the program is effective.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

Intensive outpatient programs are suited for people who don’t meet the criteria for inpatient treatment but still need more than bi-weekly sessions.

The length of these sessions depends on the needs of a person. However, 9 hours a week is a common standard among facilities offering this program.

Aside from individual, group, or family therapy sessions, IOPs also provide psychoeducation. This includes information about substance abuse and mental disorders that commonly occur with addiction.

Support Groups

Support groups are the least intensive forms of outpatient treatment. They’re also known as care groups and provide resources to help people commit to sobriety.

Support groups build camaraderie among a group of people with similar goals. They can help people who struggle with loneliness during recovery.

These groups often meet at least once every week under the supervision of a licensed therapist. Some groups may be limited to specific people depending on gender, age, and similar factors.

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How Does Outpatient Rehab Work? 

Most outpatient rehab facilities see people at least once or twice a week. They use different treatment methods to help people recovering from alcohol addiction.

Sessions can focus on different kinds of counseling and therapeutic techniques, skills training, educational lessons, or medication therapy. Psychosocial treatment also plays a significant role in this kind of treatment.

The different treatment methods are meant to give people skills and support to overcome recovery challenges. These can include:

  • Family behavioral therapy
  • Contingency management
  • Motivational enhancement
  • Twelve-step facilitation

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Outpatient vs. Inpatient Treatment 

The main difference between inpatient and outpatient treatment is the level of medical monitoring involved. Inpatient treatment programs occur in a hospital setting. A professional medical team provides around-the-clock supervision.

This type of treatment is best for people with minimal support, unstable living environments, and/or conditions that need urgent care. These conditions include:

  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Numerous relapses
  • Physical conditions that require medical treatment

Outpatient treatment programs are more flexible and allow people to also focus on other aspects of their life like careers, relationships, and community involvement. Despite its flexibility, outpatient treatment still demands time and effort.

People undergoing outpatient treatment programs are expected to tell their family, friends, and coworkers where they’re going and why. It’s intended to help people build a diverse support system, which is most effective when there is no secrecy or shame involved. Outpatient treatment is also less expensive than inpatient treatment.

How to Find the Right Outpatient Program 

It’s essential to consider a person’s specific needs when looking for the right outpatient program. There isn’t a single treatment approach proven to be more effective than others. That’s why professionals always recommend a blend of different techniques.

The right outpatient program should be able to help a person feel supported and encouraged to continue their sobriety. It also helps if a facility’s program treats problems commonly associated with alcohol addiction.

Other factors a person should consider include:

  • Cost and coverage of therapy by insurance
  • Therapists involved in the program
  • Personalities/habits (that could influence how they respond to the treatment program)
  • Facility principles
  • Treatment setting
  • Treatment components
  • Posttreatment adjustment factors (family, friends, career)
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Updated on May 26, 2022
7 sources cited
  1. Ackermann, K. “Treatment for Alcohol Addiction.” American Addiction Centers, Alcohol.org, 17 Dec. 2021
  2. Chapter 5—Specialized Substance Abuse Treatment Programs.” National Library of Medicine, NIH, 1997
  3. Cho, G. “Treatment of patients with alcohol use disorder in outpatient department of psychiatry.” Journal of Korean Neuropsychiatric Association, Korean Neuropsychiatric Association, 31 Aug. 2019
  4. Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab for Alcoholism.” American Addiction Centers, Alcohol.org, 17 Nov. 2021
  5. McCarty et al., “Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient Programs: Assessing the Evidence.” Psychiatric Services, American Psychiatric Association, 1 June 2014
  6. Schmidt et al. “Duration of therapy – Does it matter?: A systematic review and meta-regression of the duration of psychosocial treatments for alcohol use disorder.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Schmidt et al., 9 Mov. 2017
  7. What Types of Alcohol Treatment are Available?” Navigator, National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.

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