Footprints to Recovery

Outpatient Rehab

Medically Reviewed by Lisa Tomsak, DO

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Weekly addiction counseling and therapy at an outpatient level.

Outpatient rehab, sometimes referred to as OP, is an addiction program that doesn’t require you to check into a treatment facility. It’s considered a step down from intensive outpatient treatment. This level of care involves all aspects of an intensive outpatient program; the difference is less frequent treatment sessions that are shorter in duration.

Why Choose Outpatient Addiction Rehab

Outpatient rehab is a safe, less intensive option that allows you to continue to receive addiction treatment for an extended period of time while you maintain a regular commitment to family, work, or school. Most people step down to a traditional outpatient program after attending an intensive outpatient program (IOP).

Outpatient Treatment Center Program Details

  • 1 to 2 days per week, 1 hour per day
  • Evening and day schedules
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Case management
  • Aftercare (select locations)

Outpatient Treatment Center Program-specific Groups

  • Psychoeducational
  • Didactic lectures
  • Process programming
  • Specialized and culturally specific programming
  • Mutual self-help programming
  • Skills training
  • Expressive therapy (yoga, tai chi, art, music, comedy)
  • Vocational rehabilitation
  • Community support
  • Experiential programming
  • Nutritional counseling and other wellness initiates
  • Recreational programming

The Pros Of Outpatient Treatment Programs

Outpatient rehab programs have a great track record of helping people learn to manage their addictions. Some research shows that outpatient programs can be just as effective as residential programs for people whose addictions are not severe enough that their clinical needs require a higher level of care. And these programs come with some benefits inpatient programs can’t provide. When compared to an inpatient service setting, an outpatient program offers:

You’ll pay less per day while still getting treatment for your addiction. When you’re not in the treatment center, you can still participate in other aspects of your life. This is particularly appealing for those who have family members they care for or jobs they can’t leave for a period of time. Since you’ll still live at home, you’ll be able to receive support from your family and friends. This can often strengthen relationships that may have been strained by addiction.

An outpatient rehab program comes with many benefits, but it might not be right for everyone. Let’s dig a little deeper and explain how these programs work and who might benefit from them.

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What Is Outpatient Treatment?

An outpatient treatment program lets you live at home or in a sober living environment while receiving treatment for addiction. You’ll have access to many of the same therapies available in an inpatient program without having to stay in a treatment facility 24/7 until the end of the program. There are several levels of outpatient treatment. These range from partial hospitalization where you’ll attend treatment for a full day to intensive outpatient that meets for a few hours 3 to 5 days a week, to regular outpatient treatment that meets for just one to three hours a week.

You will come in for appointments, like treatment sessions. Early in your recovery, you might visit your team every day. As you progress, your meetings might become less frequent. You are supported throughout the program, but when you’re not in a session, you won’t be surrounded by your care team.

Outpatient programs typically begin when medical detox is complete. At this point, you’ll be stabilized, meaning you don’t have drugs in your system and you won’t be dealing with acute withdrawal. Because you won’t have many physical symptoms, you’ll be better able to sit through sessions of treatment. Being sober is especially important during outpatient treatment, since that will make it easier to avoid relapse.

This stage of treatment is meant to address two things:

  1. The psychiatric consequences of substance abuse
  2. The medical consequences of substance abuse

In order to do that, you will partake in therapeutic activities, counseling sessions, group and individual therapy, etc. In these activities and sessions, you’ll learn more about:

  • Yourself
  • Your cycle of addiction
  • Your triggers
  • How to cope with cravings
  • And much more
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Group Therapy

Group therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for a number of conditions like addiction, PTSD, mental health disorders, and eating disorders. Support groups and group activities play a big role in recovery. First, they help you realize you are not alone—that what you are going through can happen to anyone. You’ll work on social skills while learning to be independent and individualistic in a group setting. Finally, you will get to learn by helping others. This will also build a sense of purpose. These are crucial to tackling the mental and emotional aspects of recovery.

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Family Therapy

Family therapy and family activities are just as important because they help get patients and their families on the same page. The dynamic between you and your family can affect your chances of relapse. Family therapy can also help break toxic cycles and behaviors, and it’s a great way to better inform your family about addiction, relapse prevention, enabling, and so on. Families are part of your support group, so they need to be in the loop about your situation. Research continues to show the importance of family therapy for long-term recovery from addiction.

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Co-Occurring Disorders

Many people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol are also suffering from psychiatric disorders like anxiety or depression. Some research shows that almost 40% of people with an addiction also struggle with mental illness and over 18% of people with mental illness also have a substance use disorder. This is called having “co-occurring disorders” or a “dual diagnosis.” Both disorders must be treated because they feed off each other. Not taking care of one could make the other worse with time or trigger relapse episodes. If you have a dual diagnosis, your treatment will be designed according to this medical scenario.

Why Should You Choose Outpatient Treatment Center

First and foremost, any decisions about treating your addiction should be made according to the instructions of a doctor. After doing an assessment, they will help you understand the options you have for addiction treatment. Outpatient rehab programs come in different service settings, and a licensed professional can help you understand what options suit your needs. With outpatient treatment, you can continue other aspects of your life when you are not in therapy sessions. If you have children or elderly family members, you can continue to care for them. You won’t have to put your pets into a boarding facility or hire pet sitters like you would if you opted for an inpatient rehab program.

With outpatient rehab, you can stay in school and continue to work toward your educational goals. You can keep your job, since outpatient care doesn’t require you to take a leave of absence. In an outpatient program, you’ll remain in touch with the people who mean the most to you. This could all be a huge plus for your recovery.

With outpatient care, recovery is included in your daily routine and lifestyle rather than being separate from it.

Addiction Treatment Programs and the Step-Down Approach

When it comes to getting treatment, it’s important for you and your treatment team to know your limitations. Some patients will start a specific program, finish it, and feel ready to go back to their usual routines. Others might need to transition back gradually.

That’s why there are different options available—to better help you overcome addiction and avoid relapse. All service settings provide medical and psychiatric support. The main differences are:

  • The number of visits a week
  • Their duration
  • Their intensity

This transition process is considered a step-down approach. It allows you to move through different levels of treatment as you progress in recovery. You’ll follow your own unique journey. There isn’t a set timeline for how long you will stay at a certain level of care, and you don’t have to go through all of them, but if you want to, you can!

Step Down from a Partial Hospitalization Program

Patients that need a more intensive level of care at the beginning of their recovery journey may start with a partial hospitalization program (PHP). In PHPs, you get six hours of treatment sessions, five days of the week. This is the most immersive outpatient rehab setting. You receive a high level of intensive care, which means you’ll stay out way less, helping you to avoid triggers and opportunities for relapse.

Step Down from an Intensive Outpatient Rehab

After PHP, you may transition to an intensive outpatient program (IOP). An IOP is also an option if you think a PHP is not needed but do need more than basic outpatient care. In an IOP, you’ll have shorter sessions—about three hours long, three to five days a week. Additionally, you can choose from a day or an evening schedule, making it easy to fit treatment into your routine.

Once you’ve achieved stability in an IOP, your next step might be a basic outpatient program. In this case, your sessions would be even shorter—about three hours, and only one to two days per week. A basic outpatient program could also be the starting point for you if you suffer from moderate to mild addiction. It is a good final step before going out on your own independently.

The Need for a Safe Home Environment

While you’re in outpatient care, you’ll be exposed to relapse triggers in the outside world. While there’s no way to completely avoid them, it’s important to do so as much as possible. In an outpatient program, you’re not living in a protected bubble away from the things that might harm your sobriety. That’s why it’s critical that you have a safe, sober home environment, with support from your loved ones.

The people you live with need to be aware of your treatment and your desire to remain sober. These are the people who can support you when you’re not standing within the walls of your treatment facility. Staying sober means a lot of changes will have to be made to your living environment and social habits. The people beside you should be prepared and informed about them and be ready and willing to help.

Though you can’t make everyone around you change, you can change. If your home situation is no good for pursuing and maintaining sobriety, inpatient treatment might be better for you than OP. But if you can’t afford it or don’t meet the diagnostic criteria, moving into a sober living home is a safe option.

What Is Sober Living?

A sober living home, or halfway house, is a group home meant to be a safe space for people recovering from addiction. It’s free of drugs and alcohol, with a set of rules to follow.

Sober homes work like a co-op: Each resident pays part of the costs and helps with chores. There are different types of sober houses from which to choose. Some are privately owned; others are owned by businesses and/or religious groups, or even charity organizations.

Sober living provides a secure, substance-free environment where you can live with others who are going through the same things as you. You’ll be able to implement the lessons you learn in therapy into your everyday life with support from your housemates along the way.

How to Pay for Outpatient Rehab

Medical fees vary according to the intensity of care, which is why outpatient rehab tends to be less expensive. If you’ve ever had another medical issue, you’ve seen the difference in your bills. A doctor’s visit costs much less than a trip to the hospital. Since outpatient care is less stringent and intense than inpatient addiction treatment, it costs less. But the actual services you receive, such as therapy, are very similar.

The reason for the cost savings is because outpatient programs don’t provide:

  • Food
  • Housing
  • Medication every day
  • Around-the-clock staff

Paying with Insurance

The marketplace rules that insurance companies must offer care for mental health issues—like addiction—the same way they would for physical problems—like broken bones. Mental and behavioral services are considered essential benefits. Those rules mean your insurance plan should cover at least some of the cost of care, and spending limits and preexisting conditions bans can’t apply.

But you may have out-of-pocket expenses like copayments and deductibles, and those fees can be a strain on your budget. By choosing a less expensive option for treatment, you could save money. Insurance plans might also require that you try the least expensive option before you move on to something more costly. That means you might have to use outpatient care first, when possible.

Get started verifying your insurance here.

Paying for Outpatient Treatment Without Insurance

There are government programs that fund rehabilitation services. You have to apply through a mental health agency or a substance abuse agency, both of which can be local or state agencies. Government grants are another possibility and are offered in multiple states.

If you have to pay out of pocket, reach out to us! We’ll be happy to talk to you about payment plans. We also accept payments on credit cards. Both allow you to pay for rehab gradually, though the latter might come with some extra fees. There are also personal and/or private loans available to those who can take them and will be able to make repayments in a certain period of time. These can affect your general credit and might require that you make repayments sooner rather than later.

Is Outpatient Rehab Right for You?

There are various levels of outpatient rehab to suit different situations and needs. Everyone is unique; that means their addiction treatment is too. An initial assessment with a treatment provider, like Footprints to Recovery, will help you determine which level of care is best for you. Once that is done, you can count on the right team to help you. At Footprints to Recovery, we provide levels of treatment from detox to aftercare.

Contact us today and ask us your questions, schedule a tour, and learn more about our options!

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Jenna Richer
Medically Reviewed by Jenna Richer, MSW, LCSW
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