What is Intensive Outpatient Treatment for Substance Abuse?

What is Intensive Outpatient?

Every year, millions of people enter a drug rehabilitation center for substance abuse treatment. Drug and alcohol addiction are complex illnesses, where treatment methods must be tailored to the individual’s medical needs, and their circumstances. Care is often administered across a spectrum and on a continuing, ongoing basis to prevent relapse. Patients can enter an inpatient treatment facility for a more focused, intense approach to treatment. But inpatient treatment is extremely disruptive, and patients may also face barriers to more intense treatment models. Instead, intensive outpatient treatment might be the first step to take for recovery.

What is the difference between inpatient and intensive outpatient rehab?

Inpatient treatment programs require the participant to live on campus for a set period. Some treatment programs may last for six months or longer, depending on the severity of the patient’s addiction. Inpatient treatment programs also offer medically-supervised detox, which is highly recommended for patients with polydrug addictions or severe addictions to drugs or alcohol where withdrawal timelines can be dangerous.

Inpatient rehab allows patients to fully focus on recovery, where they are kept away from everyday distractions and living arrangements that could be triggers for drug use. Patients who have had issues with relapse in the past may benefit from an inpatient treatment program, where they live in a long-term environment that is 100% free of drugs and alcohol. In addition, inpatient treatment programs give patients access to medical staff and therapists on a 24/7 basis.

In contrast, an intensive outpatient treatment program enables patients to live at home and continue going to work or school. They would attend rehab and treatment sessions on a part-time, pre-scheduled basis. Usually, outpatient treatment is scheduled for ten or twelve hours per week. Outpatient rehab programs are designed to accommodate a patient’s work and family life. Intensive outpatient rehab also gives patients the ability to rebuild family and community ties while they are in recovery, instead of having to wait until they leave an inpatient rehab facility.

What happens in intensive outpatient rehab?

Patients who do not need to undergo a medically-supervised detox can go through outpatient detox. The patient will meet with the medical staff at specific intervals so that they can monitor their withdrawal process. Doctors can prescribe medications to lessen the severity of withdrawals and symptoms. After detox, patients can begin a customized, outpatient treatment program that mainly focuses on developing the skills necessary to achieve and maintain lifelong sobriety.

In most cases, intensive outpatient programs focus on group therapy, but patients are also encouraged to meet with a therapist on a one-on-one basis weekly. They may participate in CBT, DBT, talk therapy, or other forms of therapy depending on the patient’s needs. Group sessions are usually restricted to ten or twelve people.

With the guidance of a therapist, patients will be given the skills and tools they need to maintain sobriety, avoid triggers, and prevent relapse. Some of the areas that are covered in an intensive outpatient program include the following:

  • How to recognize and treat the symptoms of post-acute withdrawal symptoms.
  • Patients will learn a variety of effective relapse prevention techniques.
  • Patients will learn how to manage cravings for drugs or alcohol.
  • Therapists and doctors will educate patients on the disease of addiction and how it progresses.
  • The patients may be introduced to a variety of 12-step programs, which focus on the stages of change and spirituality.
  • Patients may participate in family therapy and family education programs.
  • Therapy sessions may focus on co-occurring disorders and how they can influence addiction, relapse, and recovery.

The most effective treatment programs must be customized to the individual patient’s needs and circumstances. Patients who are diagnosed with a dual diagnosis or co-occurring mental health condition may need additional mental health treatment. Some patients may need employment counseling, or they may need to learn how to improve their relationship or life skills. Intensive outpatient treatment programs are not a one-size-fits-all approach, and there is room for flexibility.

How long will an intensive outpatient treatment program last?

The duration of intensive outpatient treatment will depend on a multitude of factors. Treatment programs may begin with an official start date or end-date. However, the patient’s progress may change the length of the program, and its scope. Outpatient treatment programs can last for a few months, to up to a year in some cases. In general, though, patients will receive ongoing counseling after the treatment ends. They may also continue to attend 12-step programs or other support groups for years after initial recovery and therapy.

Who is a good candidate for intensive outpatient rehab?

Outpatient treatment programs are ideal for candidates who have caregiving responsibilities, are in school, or who cannot afford to stop working. Patients who do not suffer from a severe addiction disorder, or who have not been addicted to drugs and alcohol for a long time can benefit from outpatient treatment. Inpatient treatment is a better option for patients who have had issues with relapse, who have severe addictions, or have serious, co-occurring disorders and they need to be treated in a more clinical setting. Studies on inpatient versus outpatient programs have found that people with weak social support networks, or who’re also suffering from severe psychiatric issues have better outcomes with inpatient treatment.

What are the success rates for intensive outpatient rehab?

Studies have found that inpatient treatment and intensive outpatient treatment programs have similar success rates. Choosing inpatient or outpatient treatment will depend on the patient’s needs, but either program is effective.

Are you or a loved one struggling with drug or alcohol addiction? It’s never too late to get help. The trained drug abuse counselors and support staff at Windward Way have successfully treated thousands of addiction patients with medical detox, inpatient, and outpatient treatment programs. No matter what your needs are for addiction treatment, Windward Way can help you. Please contact the representatives at Windward Way today to explore your options for substance abuse treatment.


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