The main difference between outpatient alcohol rehab and a residential program is that individuals are allowed to remain at home. Although some may view outpatient treatment as a diluted form of rehab, it is in fact highly effective if the individual’s circumstances make them a good candidate for a more flexible program at an alcohol rehabilitation center.

In this article, we take a closer look at what’s involved in outpatient alcohol rehab and the kind of people who would benefit from it.

At some point in most people’s recovery journey, there is likely to be an outpatient component. Outpatient services are either delivered as primary care for those with mild addiction or without the need for supervised detox or as a form of aftercare for someone who is leaving an alcohol rehabilitation center.

The Benefits of Outpatient Treatment for the Right Person

Outpatient treatment is generally considered preferable for the following reasons:

  • Clients are able to continue engaging in their daily activities while receiving care which means much less disruption to their lives than staying at an inpatient alcohol rehab center
  • Outpatient alcohol rehab as increased flexibility, with therapy sessions offered at times that are convenient to the client and their daily responsibilities
  • Clients who are able to remain at home while they receive treatment are able to deal with their issues with increased confidentiality
  • Outpatient alcohol rehab allows clients to put what they learn into practice in the “real world”
  • There is an equivalent quality of treatment on an outpatient alcohol rehab center program as a residential one
  • Treatment is generally more affordable without a residential element

The Basic Types of Services Available for Outpatients

The one aspect of alcohol abuse treatment that can’t be addressed by outpatient alcohol rehab is supervised detox. In many cases where people are at risk of experiencing acute withdrawal symptoms, it is important to have qualified staff on-hand to help. Detox is an essential step that has to be taken before it is able to continue in rehab.

Not everyone needs a supervised or medical detox as they may have been abusing alcohol for a shorter period of time and have not developed dependence. In all cases, a full assessment is made of an individual’s treatment needs when they enter an alcohol rehabilitation center.

The types of services available for outpatients include the following:

Medically assisted treatments: The majority of medications prescribed to assist in treating alcohol abuse are available to outpatients.

Behavioral or psychosocial interventions: There are several kinds of behavioral interventions offered to outpatients including:

  • Alcohol abuse disorder therapy
  • Behavioral therapies including CBT
  • Social support groups including 12-Step
  • Complementary and holistic treatments including massage therapy, music & art therapy, adventure therapy, yoga, and meditation

Educational services: An important component of all rehab treatment is psycho education, which seeks to inform clients about alcohol abuse. This can be delivered to outpatients in the form of workshops, lectures, and skills training.

Case management: Case management generally assists outpatients in the practical aspects of their daily lives such as vocational rehabilitation, finding housing, childcare or tutoring, etc.

Other support services: Some individuals require more support in their recovery journey than others. Assigning a mentor, organizing transportation to support group meetings or arranging caregivers if required is another facet of outpatient treatment.

Both outpatient and residential alcohol treatment shares a common goal of rehabilitating individuals so that they can live substance-free. However, everyone has an individual experience of alcohol use disorder and some respond better to remaining at a facility than others. Even people who are considered to have severe addiction can thrive in an outpatient setting, often by attending a more intensive program known as an IOP.

What Is an IOP?

An intensive outpatient program, or IOP, is a structured form of rehab that requires patients to attend therapy sessions throughout the week. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), the minimum amount of time that should be dedicated to an IOP is nine hours each week.

Clients on IOPs are expected to meet therapists from three to five days each week, with sessions lasting anywhere from three to six hours. The level of time-commitment required on an IOP very much depends on the severity of the individual’s treatment needs and also their personal circumstances.

A Treatment Path for Everyone

Overcoming alcohol use disorder is challenging although the rewards are immeasurable. Once someone has made the very difficult decision to reach out for help, there is a wealth of resources available to them. The decision whether to enter into an inpatient or outpatient alcohol rehab center is very personal and requires careful consideration in consultation with addiction specialists and loved ones.

One of the most important components of any alcohol treatment program is individual and group therapy. This is because overcoming addiction issues requires a great deal of soul-searching and self-exploration which is often easier when guided by others. Outpatients and inpatients alike can draw great strength, motivation, and support from sharing their recovery journey with others on the same program. Some of the bonds formed during any form of therapy can go on to provide mutual support to people in recovery for the rest of their lives.