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Outpatient Treatment Centers


Sober Recovery Expert Author

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Outpatient treatment is a convenient way for addicts to receive treatment that allows them to remain in their living environment. Many addicts cannot go to inpatient treatment, due to responsibilities at home and on the job. While not as in-depth as in-patient treatment, programs are structured at several levels of intensity for meeting the needs of many addicts to maintain abstinence.

How Outpatient Treatment Programs Work

Most programs will provide a minimum of three sessions per week for treatment purposes. This can increase to daily treatment sessions, depending on the need of the client, as well as their particular life situation. An average out-patient program will provide sessions 4-5 times per week, averaging approximately 3-4 hours for each session.

Outpatient treatment is a convenient way for addicts to receive treatment that allows them to remain in their living environment.

The services provided in outpatient treatment will mirror the basic services of in-patient treatment. They often include group counseling and group educational services. Some agencies may provide therapy as well in both group and individual sessions. Many employ counseling staff who are not trained as therapists. They will refer clients to therapists outside the program if that need is recognized.

Some programs will provide education about family interaction as well as education about substance abuse and recovery. They may or may not allow family members to participate in what are frequently called Family Programs. These may be offered as separate group sessions or involve the addict in treatment. Some agencies may have a week-long program, others provide these services weekly or as needed for each client and their family members. Family program services may have extra costs or be part of the payment structure for treatment of addiction. This can offer support to parents, wives, husbands, children and others who have been impacted by the addiction of a family member. There are many ways that families and others can support an addict in recovery.

Hospital Treatment Centers

There are hospitals who incorporate both in-patient and out-patient programs into their facility. This is done to meet the needs of those clients who may require detox, but cannot remain for in-patient treatment services. They will structure their program much the same as those outside of hospital settings. Because clients may need to be monitored by medical personnel, this is a good fit for those who have additional medical concerns aside from their addiction.

Outpatient Treatment: What's Included

Treatment in an outpatient setting can vary greatly from program to program. Most have a structure that is consistent from one client to another, but variables can be included for specific client needs.

The basic format for most treatment programs will include group and limited individual counseling services. The schedule will vary from one program to another, but most will provide services that are convenient for the client. This means that the programs have evening and weekend sessions for those who work full-time and want to go to treatment during hours they have available. Others will offer day-time program services for people who have family obligations and can only go to sessions while their children are in school, etc.

Programs may be structured to allow for clients to be involved intensively at the beginning, and then to attend sessions less often, as they progress in their recovery process. This means that they go to sessions 4-5 times a week at first, then reduce to 3-4 times a week for several weeks, and then remain at 3 times per week until they complete the program. Other programs will require the client to attend sessions at the same number of times per week until they have completed.

Other programs are structured to provide more structure for clients who are high risk for relapse or who have had relapse during treatment. Some of the types of structure are:

  • Intensive outpatient treatment: 2-4 hours, provided 3-5 days per week. Can be daytime or evening, weekday or weekend program.

  • Specialized outpatient treatment: Can also be called by other terms. This will include 6-8 hours, provided 4-5 days per week, and either weekdays or weekend sessions.

  • Follow-up or step-down treatment: Can be designed for clients who have completed an inpatient program and require more help in getting stabilized in recovery. This may be 2-3 hours, provided 2-3 days per week.

  • Aftercare: This is provided in an outpatient format for those who have completed either inpatient or outpatient (intensive) programs. Used to reinforce their ongoing recovery, most aftercare programs include a weekly session (or more often) for a period of time, up to one year after treatment. These sessions are often less structured and resemble group counseling. Some aftercare groups may be used by clients who come from other programs and are referred to aftercare near their home or in a new city after they move.

Many outpatient programs may include all of these features, designing the program structure to serve the client’s needs and ability to pay for treatment. There are many combinations of program services. Beginning in early treatment, it is recognized that the more time spent in treatment, the better. This can be tapered off to suit the client’s progress and to allow them to grow into their recovery. Many addicts are able to decrease their involvement within 30-60 days of beginning treatment.

Finding the Outpatient Treatment Program for You

Check with the program you are interested in to find the best fit for your recovery needs. Most programs will work with the client to adapt services suitable for their needs. This means working to fit financial limitations, insurance benefits, and work or home schedules as best they can. Not every program will serve every addict. It may be necessary to contact more than one program to find the one that is going to work best for your specific needs. It may take some compromise by the addict and the family to gain freedom over addiction.

If you or someone you know is seeking outpatient help for addiction, please visit our directory of outpatient treatment centers or call 866-606-0182 to start the path to recovery today.

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