Outpatient Alcohol Treatment: What to Expect

Outpatient alcohol treatment is a program format shown to be as effective as residential rehab among those for whom it is appropriate. Outpatient programs require that clients travel to a facility for treatment a few times per week, but they also offer flexible program times that allow those participating to attend to personal responsibilities such as school, work, and family. Still, enrolling in an outpatient alcohol treatment program can be intimidating for some, especially those that are being treated for the first time. During outpatient programs, a number of services are offered to clients, typically in stages as listed below.

Outpatient Alcohol Treatment Stages

STAGE 1: Intake and Assessment

An initial intake evaluation is typically conducted before a person enters an outpatient alcohol treatment program. During this assessment, addiction specialists determine the severity of the person’s alcohol abuse and addiction and may also diagnose concurrent mental health disorders. Assessments usually require that the client answer questions about their family environment and medical history, and undergo a physical exam and drug testing. This information helps staff develop a treatment plan, which is then supervised and amended during treatment as needed. Many alcoholics need to go through detox under medical direction before beginning an outpatient program. Medical detox provides alcoholics with a safe environment while they endure withdrawal. Doctors and nurses in medical detox will work to make the process of withdrawal more comfortable, assist in the event of complications, and administer medication as necessary.

STAGE 2: Therapy and Treatment Modalities

1. PsychotherapyPsychotherapy is the foundation of most outpatient alcohol programs. Persons enrolled in alcohol treatment will usually be required to engage in individual counseling and group therapy sessions on a regular basis. Participation in family therapy and peer self-help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, is also highly recommended. 2. Medication Many alcoholics respond well to pharmacotherapy, or the employment of medication to treat their addiction. A variety of medications are approved to treat alcoholism, such as buprenorphine and naltrexone, which have a few different effects. Some reduce withdrawal symptoms, some minimize the cravings for alcohol, and some prevent drinking from being pleasurable. 3. Education Understanding how the body reacts to alcohol and how alcohol acts on the brain often makes addiction less mysterious and daunting. For this reason, most outpatient alcohol programs offer educational treatment sessions to clients, in which recovering alcoholics are taught about the disease model of addiction and strategies to overcome it. 4. Supportive Services Without adequate support, a stay in rehab may be completely wasted. For this reason, outpatient alcohol rehab programs usually offer many supportive services to those in recovery, both during and after rehab. For example, they may hold group therapy sessions, assist with educational or vocational goals, or even help those on a limited income find ways to pay for alcohol treatment. 5. Holistic Practices and Therapies Research has shown that certain holistic therapies can help improve outcomes after outpatient addiction treatment. These include a variety of practices that are very different than standard behavioral therapy. Many of these practices are based on other ways of expressing oneself and include art, music, and gardening therapy. Also, disciplines that focus on the mind-body connection, such as meditation, yoga, and exercise, have been shown to help people manage cravings and stay active throughout recovery.

Therapy and Treatment Modalities

STAGE 3: Aftercare

Aftercare is crucial for a successful reentrance into the community. It helps recovering alcoholics continue to use the lessons learned in treatment in their own lives. Before leaving treatment, clients will be asked to help create a relapse prevention plan, and establish a connection with external peer support groups. Also, clients will likely be invited to return to the program for group and individual counseling sessions. These aftercare services help people prevent relapse.

What To Expect After Outpatient Alcohol Treatment

Completing an outpatient alcohol rehab program is just the beginning. Recovery is a life-long process, and several steps should be taken after completing a program to ensure the highest likelihood of success. Upon completion of an outpatient rehab program, a recovering alcoholic will work with an addiction specialist to create an aftercare/exit plan. This plan typically includes details about where the person in recovery will live and/or work, what methods are instrumental in preventing relapse, and which treatments he or she should continue after discharge.

How To Help a Loved One in Outpatient Alcohol Treatment

As noted, outpatient alcohol rehab is not like inpatient rehab, in which clients are required to reside in a facility or center throughout treatment. Instead, clients are free to come and go as they please. For this reason, visiting a loved one in an outpatient alcohol program is usually unnecessary. Outpatient alcohol programs, however, usually do encourage the participation of friends and family during the recovery process, and many allow loved ones to sit in on educational sessions. Close family members and others may be encouraged to participate in family counseling with the recovering addict as well. This inclusion of others allows them to better understand alcohol addiction in general, as well as how to help support a person in recovery during this challenging time.

Getting Help

Starting an addiction treatment program can be intimidating for many. However, knowing what to expect can make the entire process a lot less scary. If you or a loved one needs help for alcohol addiction and want to know more about our outpatient programs, contact us today to discuss treatment options!

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