Outpatient Programs (OP)

Outpatient programs have a great track record of helping people learn to manage their addictions. And these programs come with some benefits inpatient programs can’t touch.
When compared to an inpatient version, an outpatient program offers:
  • Cost savings
  • Flexibility
  • Interaction with family and friends

You’ll pay less per day while still tackling 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 a job they can’t leave for a period of time. Interaction with family and friends. Since you 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.

benefits of outpatient

Outpatient programs come with many benefits, but they’re not 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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1 to 2 days per week, 3 hours per day
Evening and day schedules
Individual Therapy
Group Therapy
Family Therapy
Case Management
Aftercare clubs (select locations)

What Is Outpatient Care?

In the simplest terms, an outpatient care program lets you live at home or in a sober living environment while you work on your addiction. You access many of the same therapies that are given in an inpatient program, but where you live during treatment differs.

As the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains, an outpatient program delivers treatment in appointments. Early in your recovery, you might visit your team every day. As you progress, your meetings might move farther apart.

You are supported throughout the program, but when you’re not in a session, you’re not surrounded by your care team.

Outpatient programs typically begin when medical detox is complete. That means you won’t have drugs in your system, and you won’t be dealing with acute withdrawal. Your brain will be focused on your recovery, not current drug use.

Your Program Might Include:
Individual Therapy
You’ll meet with your therapist in one-on-one sessions to discuss your past and your future.
Group Therapy
You’ll share a session with other people who are also in recovery. You’ll talk through topics together with one therapist.
Family Therapy
You’ll bring your loved ones to meetings with a therapist, and you’ll all talk about addiction recovery together.
Support
Your peers share their stories of healing, and you all learn more about addiction and coping skills. No therapist is present for these discussions.

Addiction experts consider this a “moderate” level of addiction care. You’re still tapping into tools to help you grow and change, but you may have a day or two per week when you’re on your own with no therapeutic support.

Cost Information You Should Understand

Medical fees vary by the intensity of care. If you’ve ever had another medical issue, you’ve seen that reflected 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 versions, it costs less, says NIDA.

finance pay for treatment
Those cost savings come because outpatient programs don’t provide:
  • Food
  • Housing
  • Medications
  • Around-the-clock staff

The actual services you receive, such as therapy, are very similar to what you might receive in inpatient treatment.

If you have health insurance, price might not be at the top of your consideration list, but you should still keep the difference in mind.

Most health insurance plans follow the rules dictated by the federal marketplace. By keeping their structure the same for private plans, they ensure they can leap into the marketplace whenever they choose to do so.

The marketplace rules say that insurance companies can’t offer care for physical problems (like broken bones) that they don’t provide for mental health issues (like addiction). Those parity 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. If they are too large, those fees can strain your budget. By choosing a less expensive option, you could save money.

Insurance plans might also require that you try the least expensive option before you move on to something with a high cost. That means you might be forced to use outpatient care first, even if it’s not something you want.

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Why Should You Choose Outpatient Care?

As we mentioned, your insurance company may require that you try outpatient care. But there are good reasons to choose this option, even when you don’t have to.

With outpatient treatment, you can continue with 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 treatment, you can stay in school and continue to make progress toward your education goals. You can keep working at your job since outpatient care doesn’t require that you take a leave of absence.

iop schedule

In an outpatient program, you’ll remain in touch with the people who mean the most to you. That could be a huge part of your recovery.

Outpatient care allows for all of this, and this can reduce stress you might have about the recovery process. Recovery can then be combined into every aspect of your life rather than being a separate part of it initially.

A Step-Down Approach

Oftentimes, patients start with a more intensive level of care in the beginning of their recovery journey. They may begin with a partial hospitalization program (PHP) where they receive six hours of treatment, five days of the week. Clients don’t live at the facility, but they receive a high level of intensive care.

They may then transition to an intensive outpatient program (IOP), where they receive three hours of treatment, three to five days per week. Clients can choose from both day or evening schedules, making it easy to fit treatment into other aspects of life.

Once a patient has reached a level of stability in an IOP, the next step is outpatient treatment. This involves three hours of treatment, one to two days per week.

This step-down approach allows patients to move to less intensive levels of treatment as they progress in recovery. Each person follows their own unique journey, so there isn’t a set timeline for how long anyone will stay at a certain level of care.

The Necessity of a Safe Home Environment

While you’re in outpatient care, you’ll be exposed to relapse triggers in the outside world.

For example, in a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, half of the people enrolled in addiction care said they saw content on social media that sparked cravings. They wanted to escape and dive into stories from friends and family, but instead, what they saw caused them to crave drugs.

In an outpatient program, you’re not living in a protected bubble away from the things that might harm your sobriety. It’s critical that you have a safe and sober home environment.

The people with whom you live must be aware of your treatment and your desire to remain sober. They can provide a crucial support system during the vulnerable time of early recovery. These people will support you when you’re not standing within the walls of your treatment facility.

A study from Cigna suggests that more than half of us have at least two close friends. But that same study shows that most of our friends are like us. If you have trouble with addiction, your friends might too. When you’re tempted to relapse to drugs, will your friends help or harm you?

Your home life could also hold dangers, including:
  • Economic insecurity, which leads to added stress.
  • Interpersonal difficulties, including violence.
  • Too much responsibility, which leaves you little time to work on your health.
  • Isolation, especially if you live alone.

Any or all of these issues could make your home a risky place to tackle your addiction. And if you’ve tried to get better before and failed, you know that all too well.

In these cases, inpatient treatment or moving into a sober living home while getting outpatient care is a better choice.

Sober Living

If you don’t have a safe home environment, a sober living home is an option you should consider. Studies show that sober living homes promote treatment retention rates.

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

Is Outpatient Care Right for You?

There are various levels of outpatient treatment, and the choice of which one is right for you is very individual. An initial assessment at a treatment facility will help you determine which level of care will be best for your situation.

Remember that your journey in recovery is unique, so choose a facility that offers tailored care.

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