Everyone knows that there are thousands of people in the United States who have addictions. Thankfully, there are also thousands of facilities in the United States that are devoted to providing addiction treatment relief. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are more than 14,500 specialized drug treatment facilities in the United States.
Some of these facilities provide outpatient care for addiction. In addition, there are thousands of private addiction treatment providers that might not show up in these metrics but can provide key help for addiction.
Is outpatient care right for someone in need? That is a very personalized question. Knowing a little more about how outpatient treatment programs work might help people to make a good choice when the time comes.
What Is Outpatient Care?
Unlike an inpatient program, which requires people to move into a facility for a specific period of time, an outpatient program allows people to stay at home and in their communities while they work on their addiction issues. Some programs have a set schedule, in which people who enroll are expected to appear in groups with other people at times that cannot be varied. Other programs have an appointment-based system that could accommodate issues such as work and childcare.
Addiction treatment is a big business, as Market Watch reports that $35 billion was spent in the industry in 2014 alone. Providers often look for new and novel ways to provide care for people in need, so their companies can stay in business. For many providers, outpatient care is a great model.
The main benefits of outpatient care involve convenience. For people who do not want to move out of their homes and abandon their responsibilities in order to deal with an addiction, an outpatient program can be a great option. They can get very real assistance, without dealing with the stigma and hassle that could come with inpatient care.
An outpatient program can also be a cost-saver. Even though the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that about 62 percent of treatment facilities use sliding-scale fees to help people in need, many people find the cost of treatment simply too hard to bear.
An outpatient program comes with no fees involving room and board. That could mean that these facilities are significantly less expensive than their inpatient counterparts.
Who Uses Outpatient Care?
Outpatient programs are often considered a less intense form of addiction treatment care. There are no around-the-clock supervision services involved with these programs, and there are no clinicians available when a crisis hits in the middle of the night. As a result, these are programs that are often recommended for those who have:
- Been through inpatient care before and need a treatment touchup
- New cases of addiction, with habits that are not firm and fixed
- Close sober partners who can assist in a crisis
- Good mental health, aside from addiction
People like this really do need to deal with addiction, but they might not need around-the-clock care and supervision. They may succeed in programs that offer a lower level of help.
However, all sorts of people enroll in outpatient programs, whether or not they are recommended. For example, a study in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse: Encompassing All Addictive Disorders, researchers found that about half of the people eligible to enroll in a publically funded outpatient program had a mental health disorder. That means these people are not typically considered ideal for outpatient care, but they got help in that format anyway.
Outpatient Treatment Offerings
An outpatient program often blends individual counseling and group counseling to help people understand and overcome an addiction issue. This is a similar mix to what is seen in an inpatient program. Counseling unifies the two formats.
But an inpatient program might provide a variety of amenities that an outpatient program does not provide, such as:
- Job placement assistance
- Parenting classes
- Nutritional support
- Medication management
- Exercise opportunities
- A speaker series
People who enroll in an outpatient program might be shown a list of community resources that could provide this sort of assistance, but it is not typically available in an outpatient program.
How to Choose an Outpatient Program
Outpatient programs are not all created equal. In fact, according to an opinion piece in The New York Times, some addiction treatment facilities use outdated treatment ideas that were made popular in the 1950s and 1960s, which have been debunked today.
As a result, it pays to do homework and find out if the program really is the right option. Families can ask about the credentials and experience of the person who is running the program, and they should ask what the treatment program will consist of. If it is reasonable, people should ask about success rates of prior patients, and determine what kind of follow-up care the provider offers.
In most cases, families can find the right provider by asking key questions and doing interviews, but families should not be afraid to get an expert opinion. A mental health counselor can help the family to understand whether outpatient care really is the right option. That counselor can run tests for mental health, which can help families to understand the scope of issues that should be addressed.The Recovery Process
- Intensive Outpatient Programs
- Partial Hospitalization Programs
- Residential Treatment
- Therapy & Counseling
- Outpatient Services
- Alumni & Aftercare Plans
Sticking with It
Most outpatient programs last for several months. In some cases, people who complete these programs maintain therapeutic contact with a professional for an additional set of months. This is vital work that can help them to head off a relapse when it might appear. In some cases, people find that they need to head in for another set of intense outpatient counseling during their follow-up work. There is no shame in returning to therapy. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease. Those that respect that fact could find that they heal at a level they never thought possible.