The benefits of outpatient treatment
Even though recovery represents a process rather than a task to be checked off your to-do list, the journey can vary from one person to the next. In other words, a form of treatment that helps one individual achieve long-lasting sobriety might not be the right fit for everyone. There are several different types of addiction treatment, and each is effective for people with specific needs, preferences, and circumstances.
Outpatient treatment is one of the two main types of clinical recovery programs; the alternative is inpatient care. While the latter provides patients with temporary residential accommodations, outpatient treatment allows patients to continue living at home while completing their treatment programs. While many experts cite inpatient as being the most intensive type of care, outpatient treatment can be the ideal choice, depending on your particular situation.
If you’re trying to figure out whether outpatient care is the best option for you or a loved one, here are some of the top reasons why outpatient treatment is a great recovery option.
It’s a closer representation of post-treatment life.
One of the main reasons why many treatment professionals recommend inpatient care of outpatient treatment is because inpatient programs — which are usually residential-style programs — separate individuals from the home environments in which they developed their addictions. While this is undoubtedly beneficial as patients complete treatment, these residential scenarios are unrealistically safe and drug-free.
In the real world, people in recovery confront (and must deal with) temptation on a daily basis. The temptations they encounter can be people, places, situations, or any number of other things that cause them to experience cravings for alcohol or drugs. When a person is in inpatient treatment, these “triggers” are all but eliminated from the equation, which makes for an idyllic treatment setting; however, real life isn’t idyllic. So there’s definitely an argument to be made that individuals in outpatient treatment could be better prepared when it comes to maintaining their sobriety in the real world.
It offers more flexibility.
If we look back on some of the reasons why people have chosen outpatient instead of inpatient treatment, flexibility is often at the top.
For inpatient care to be so intensive and effective, patients must essentially take an extended leave of absence from their lives. Individuals with familial obligations or careers or other responsibilities must make arrangements so that they can complete inpatient treatment at a residential treatment facility for up to several months or possibly even longer. This is a really long time to be an absentee in your relationships and job, but outpatient treatment doesn’t require so much sacrifice.
When in an outpatient program, individuals can often continue going to work — or at least fulfilling their work duties remotely — while also maintaining their relationships and familial obligations. In other words, outpatient treatment allows individuals to incorporate addiction treatment into their existing schedules. It means they can receive treatment without having to make immense sacrifices and potentially cause major problems in other areas of their lives.
It’s part of the “continuum of care.”
Most of us who are at least moderately familiar with addiction rehabilitation will have heard the term “continuum of care” before. For those who haven’t, it basically refers to a certain trajectory for recovery, achieved by progressing through the recovery process in such a way that an individual is receiving the most appropriate form of care for his or her state of recovery progress. In most cases, the continuum of care looks like this: An individual begins with detoxification treatment before progressing into inpatient care, which is followed by outpatient treatment and some form of aftercare.
So why does it matter that outpatient treatment exists on the continuum of care? In short, it’s important because the vast majority of individuals for whom rehabilitation consists of many common points on the continuum of care will receive outpatient treatment at one point or another. When used in such a way, outpatient treatment becomes a useful and even important stepping stone as a patient progresses from active addiction to lasting sobriety.
It’s less costly.
As mentioned above, inflexibility has historically been a major deterrent when it comes to inpatient treatment. But another drawback was cost.
Before the advent of the Affordable Care Act when insurance providers began covering most types of addiction treatment, individuals had to fund their recoveries out of their own pockets. With inpatient care being a residential form of treatment, it was often prohibitively expensive to seek treatment from an inpatient facility, making outpatient the only feasible option. However, even with insurance coverage making inpatient care more accessible to many, there are still some expenses inherent to inpatient care. For instance, if you choose an inpatient treatment center that’s located in another part of the country, you’ll incur travel expenses as you make your way to and from the treatment center. So there’s more to the expense of inpatient care than just the cost of the actual program.
Fortunately, outpatient treatment has very little of these types of secondary expenses. While it’s true that patients are responsible for commuting to daily treatment, it’s typically the case that outpatient treatment centers are located nearer to where the patients live, making transportation less costly. And since the patients can continue working while in treatment, the expense of commuting is less burdensome than it might otherwise be.
It still offers many of the same core treatments.
Last but certainly not least, outpatient treatment is a viable option for recovery because it still offers many of the same types of treatment and therapy as outpatient programs. In fact, all the staple components of an inpatient program — e.g., individual or one-on-one psychotherapy, group therapy sessions, and holistic treatments — are still offered in outpatient treatment programs.
The chief difference between what you get from an inpatient program and what you get from outpatient care is that, since an inpatient program is residential, inpatient treatment affords patients more time spent in treatment, which means they can incorporate more elective and complementary treatments into the program as a means of personalizing their recovery curricula.