How does an outpatient program work?
There are a variety of different types of outpatient treatment programs, and they sometimes work differently depending on the types of services offered. Generally, an outpatient program provides treatment – most often in the form of group or individual counseling, education, and medical treatment if needed – for a period of time during the day. The person is then able to go home for the night and go to work or school as needed.
How long does outpatient treatment last?
Treatment periods can be anything from six weeks to 90 days or more, depending on the person’s needs. As demonstrated by a number of studies, the longer a person stays in treatment, the more likely it is that long-term recovery will result. For this reason, using outpatient treatment as a form of aftercare following inpatient treatment can result in even better rates of abstinence and recovery after treatment.
What are the limitations of outpatient treatment?
There are a number of challenges and limitations inherent in outpatient treatment. The biggest is that a person undergoing outpatient treatment is more likely to have continued access to the substance of abuse when not at the treatment facility. This results in a high potential of relapse during treatment, and it increases the likelihood that the person will drop out of treatment.
Because staying in treatment and length of treatment are some of the most important factors in long-term recovery, this potential can be dangerous. For this reason, a person with more intense cravings, an environment that increases the likelihood of access to the drug of abuse, or a previous history of relapse is less likely to have a positive outcome in an outpatient program.
Another limitation of outpatient treatment is that it may be harder to get the comprehensive range of services needed for treatment that is required for many people. For example, a person with a co-occurring mental health disorder may not be able to get the expertise needed to effectively treat both the addiction disorder and the co-occurring disorder through outpatient treatment. Many outpatient programs don’t have the resources to make sure an expert in co-occurring disorders is part of the program.
When is it better to choose an inpatient program?
There are several indicators that a person would benefit more from inpatient care than an outpatient program. These include:
- Severe or long-term addiction
- Multiple drug addictions or co-occurring disorders
- Addiction to substances with dangerous withdrawal symptoms, like alcohol or benzodiazepines
- High levels of craving
- Home or daily life environments that encourage continued substance abuse and relapse
- Few or no social network resources
- History of relapse and numerous cycles of treatment and relapse, which can be dangerous
Because these indicators make it more likely that a person will relapse during treatment, these individuals require more consistent monitoring during treatment to prevent relapse and increase the likelihood that they will complete treatment and achieve long-term recovery.
What is a typical day in outpatient treatment like?
A day in outpatient treatment varies depending on the type of outpatient program and the level of time committed to treatment in the program. Because these programs vary widely in structure, so do the typical days. However, a standard, intensive outpatient program, based on the minimum of nine treatment hours each week, could include:
- A 90-minute peer support group session, twice per week (a total of 3 hours)
- A 90-minute drug abuse education program, twice per week (a total 3 hours)
- A 60-minute individual counseling session
- A 60-minute family counseling session
- One hour of training in skills to help avoid triggers and maintain abstinence
The structure might include having the support group and education sessions back to back two days or nights per week, with the other sessions all taking place on a third day or night.
Some intensive programs involve more time in treatment – up to eight hours per day, plus weekends. In order to provide the greatest chance for recovery and to avoid relapse, the program should involve as much time as necessary for the specific individual to get the full spectrum of treatment needed, including treatment for any co-occurring mental health disorders or physical illness or disease that may complicate drug abuse symptoms.
What’s the difference between traditional outpatient and an IOP?
Intensive programs (also called partial hospitalization) usually require treatment time of more than nine hours per week, with as much as eight hours per day spent in treatment. These programs usually include weekend treatment as well. They often include a wider range of treatment types that can be customized to meet the individual’s treatment needs, including individual, group, and motivational therapies, medical support, and aftercare.
Traditional outpatient treatment, on the other hand, usually involves less than nine hours per week of treatment. This is typically offered in the form of individual, group, or family therapy offered once or twice weekly, along with some other limited services.
Does insurance cover outpatient treatment?
Some insurance plans do cover outpatient treatment. Medicare insurance and public insurance through the Affordable Care Act are required to provide addiction treatment coverage. Medicare Part B coverage specifically provides potential coverage for partial hospitalization or outpatient treatment. Other employer-provided or private insurance plans may also cover treatment to some degree.
The specialists at an addiction treatment center are often able to help with figuring out what coverage is available through a specific insurance plan and how it applies to the individual’s specific circumstances.
What are the payment options for treatment?
Payment options for outpatient treatment are often similar to those for residential treatment. In addition, outpatient treatment is often less expensive. Some of the options for payment include:
- Financing through loans or credit
- Sliding scale plans where people pay what they can based on income levels
- Insurance coverage
- Financial support through federal, state, or local grants for community rehab centers
Often, the cost of rehab is small compared to the cost of the drug abuse or addiction problem. Working with the rehab center to find the best payment options for the individual’s particular circumstances can help get the right treatment that will prevent future financial issues based on substance abuse problems.
Is outpatient treatment ideal for those with co-occurring disorders?
As described above, many outpatient programs that have limited treatment types are unable to provide the expertise needed to treat co-occurring disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Sometimes, these clinics or organizations do not have onsite staff who are trained in treating co-occurring disorders.
If a person is dealing with co-occurring disorders, it is particularly important to find a treatment program that specializes in treatment for those with dual diagnoses. Because co-occurring disorders can often complicate the symptoms of drug abuse or addiction and increase the chances for relapse, getting the expertise needed to make sure that both or all disorders are being treated at the same time can increase the potential for long-term recovery on all fronts.