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Outpatient Treatment for Addiction: What to Expect

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Getting help for addiction doesn't have to mean pressing "pause" on life. Many people who struggle with substance use disorders benefit from the flexibility of outpatient treatment. Here's what it's like at an outpatient program and how to tell if it's right for you.

For many people, starting addiction treatment is more complicated than deciding to stop using. Despite a strong desire to rebuild a healthy life, taking that first step can feel overwhelming. You may have work or family obligations. You might worry about inadequate insurance coverage. Even if you’re ready to get help, you might not be ready to focus solely on treatment.  

If this describes you, outpatient treatment may be a good option. Outpatient programs typically offer the same intensive treatment offered at inpatient programs, but without the overnight stay. Clients have access to expert medical care, counseling, therapeutic activities and aftercare with the freedom to return home in the evenings. Some choose to stay in a sober living environment during treatment, but they can still attend work and see family.

This flexibility makes treatment accessible to a greater number of people, but it’s important to know when outpatient treatment is, and is not, appropriate. Addiction to opioids, for example, typically requires the 24-hour supervision of inpatient care to manage dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Individuals with unstable physical or mental health will also benefit from inpatient programs.   

Outpatient treatment is a good option when addiction is not life-threatening, but has become a problem in everyday life. How can you tell if it’s right for you or a loved one? Below, we’ll explore how to decide.

Inside Outpatient Treatment

Most people understand that outpatient treatment is similar to residential care, but what is it really like? At Sprout Health Group’s outpatient facilities, clients receive the same intensive treatment and supportive, nurturing care offered at our residential programs,  including medical support, individual and group therapy, addiction education, behavioral counseling, and aftercare.

Personalized Assessment

As with inpatient programs, treatment starts with a personalized assessment. During this initial evaluation, you’ll meet with a team of medical professionals that may include a medical doctor, a psychiatrist, and a therapist. These individuals will ask you for information about your daily life, your symptoms, and your history with addiction.

They may also want to know about your health, your family life, and any history of trauma that you have. The answers to these questions will help them determine a course of treatment for you, so it’s important to speak with them openly and honestly. 

Starting Treatment

Your current health and needs will determine your next step. Some people will need a medical detox before starting any kind of treatment. Others will need medical staff to carefully monitor withdrawal symptoms in order to avoid serious health risks. If your evaluation revealed a co-occurring disorder, such as anxiety or depression, you will start treatment that addresses these issues separately.  

After your assessment, you will attend treatment sessions on a regular schedule. More intensive programs include treatment 5 to 7 days a week for several hours, giving clients the structure they need to remain focused. Other programs are more flexible, but might require a longer time in treatment.

Learning the House Rules

However flexible the program, it is important to follow all the “house rules” when you enter outpatient treatment. This includes adhering to treatment recommendations, following the treatment center’s dress code, and abiding by other courtesy rules. Be prepared to turn off your phone and limit outside distractions. 


Is Outpatient Treatment for Me?

Seeking professional help is the best way to tell if outpatient treatment is a good option for you. During your intake process, experienced clinicians will help you understand the risks involved with your particular addiction, the state of your physical and mental health, and how your home life might affect your recovery. 

Intake clinicians can also help you understand what you give up to gain flexibility. Although returning home every night may seem attractive, the stress of balancing family obligations and everyday life with recovery can be a challenge. 

If you have a strong network of friends and family who support your fight against addiction, you may be a better candidate for outpatient treatment. Not only can friends and family help you avoid unhealthy situations or temptations, but they can also help you manage the stress of home life as you focus on regaining your health.

Speaking openly and honestly about your stress levels, home environment and level of drug or alcohol use can help your intake team guide you toward the best treatment path for you.  

Benefits of Outpatient Treatment

If your initial assessment shows that you’re a good candidate for outpatient treatment, this option has a number of benefits: 

Lower Cost

Some insurance companies may not pay for inpatient rehabilitation treatment if outpatient treatment is an option. If you don’t need medical detox, it may be necessary to attempt outpatient treatment before inpatient treatment can be considered. In addition, outpatient treatment costs less overall than 24/7 inpatient treatment.


If you don’t want colleagues or acquaintances to know that you’ve entered rehabilitation, it’s easier to keep your information private while adhering to the schedule of an outpatient rehab center. An inpatient rehab center is a greater commitment, and it can be more difficult to explain your absence.

Continue Caring for Family

If you have children or an adult that needs your care at home, an outpatient treatment program allows you to be present for them in the evenings. You can continue to take care of necessary home tasks on a limited basis while attending a rehab program during the day.

Utilize Your Support System

You’ll be able to lean on your support system as you attend outpatient treatment, speaking to them more frequently and spending time with them in the evenings. This can allow for a more gradual adjustment to your home life so that incorporating daily relationships and tasks is a simpler process after you complete treatment.

Just remember to balance these benefits with the drawbacks and be honest with yourself about whether you can dedicate yourself to recovery in an outpatient environment. 


When to Consider Inpatient Treatment

As you complete your initial evaluation for rehabilitation treatment, you may discover that you need more comprehensive treatment than an outpatient program can provide. In these situations, you’ll be referred for either a medical detox, inpatient rehabilitation, or both.

Medical detox is the process of removing illicit drugs and alcohol from your system safely, while mitigating dangerous physical withdrawal symptoms. You may also need medication during detox, which requires a doctor’s supervision.

For individuals who don’t necessarily need a medically assisted detox, but will still benefit from 24/7 supervision, inpatient treatment is often the best option. Inpatient programs provide around-the-clock monitoring, medical treatment and emotional support in an environment dedicated to treatment, allowing clients to focus solely on their recovery.

Many clients choose the distraction-free environment of inpatient care even if their health and stability allows for a more flexible option. 

Have questions about addiction treatment options?
Call us at 855-430-9426 to speak with a recovery specialist.


Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

If you struggle a mental health issue such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or PTSD, breaking free from drugs and alcohol can be complicated. Mental health issues that occur alongside drug or alcohol addiction are called co-occurring disorders, and they require separate, dedicated treatment from addiction recovery. 

However, this extra step doesn’t mean that outpatient treatment isn’t an option. An addiction recovery center that understands co-occurring disorders will be able to evaluate your health and determine the best course of action. If your physical and mental health is stable, an outpatient program can still give you the treatment you need for any co-occurring disorders alongside your addiction. 

If you already have a psychiatrist or therapist, you can sign a consent to exchange records. This allows you to coordinate with existing efforts and determine an appropriate course of action. 


Life After Treatment

After you’ve completed outpatient treatment, it’s important to understand that recovery is a lifelong process. Recovery requires a commitment to healthy living, which often means developing new habits, hobbies and relationships. As you complete treatment, start to focus on what you’d like to see in your life. What are your priorities? What are your goals?

Your treatment team can often connect you with an outpatient psychiatrist and therapist, as well as 12-step meetings near you. Attending these meetings give you the support that you need as you work toward lifelong recovery. As you begin life after treatment, it will also be important to let supportive individuals around you know how they can assist you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to loved ones. 

If you have considered seeking help but aren’t sure how to balance treatment with everyday life, call us at the number below. Our experienced intake professionals can help your personal path toward recovery. 

Written By: Sprout Editorial Team

The Sprout Health Group editorial team is passionate about addiction treatment, recovery and mental health issues. Every article is expert-reviewed.

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