If you’re considering attending either an outpatient or residential rehab program, it’s important to understand their core differences and what to expect from each. In this article, we’ll primarily be discussing outpatient programs, which are known to be much more flexible in terms of schedules, locations, and therapy styles. For various reasons and depending on the patient’s addiction, outpatient programs are considered to promote long-term sobriety more than live-in alternatives.

While any sort of rehab facility can be very intimidating for first-timers, it helps to have a well-rounded understanding of their services, expectations, styles, and schedules before you sign up. Let’s take a look at the most common features within outpatient rehab facilities so that you can be as prepared as possible for the experience.

Be ready for an intensive personal assessment 

When you first arrive, an addiction specialize will run you through a comprehensive session to determine the level of your addiction. However, they’re not only looking at your addiction at face value— but they also take into consideration any possible mental disorders and relevant medical history. It’s very common to undergo a physical exam and drug test as well. These insights will assist the program specialists in formulating a plan specific to your needs. If needed, they’ll make changes to your plan along the way.

Depending on the severity of your addiction, many outpatient programs will recommend that you undergo a medically supervised withdrawal before entering. These medical detox centers will ensure that your withdrawal takes place in a safe, alcohol-free location. Medical professionals are also on-call 24/7 and make sure that your detox experience goes as smoothly as possible and limit the risk of medical emergencies. It’s important to note that while some outpatient programs provide these facilities, many do not and will simply recommend nearby locations.

You’ll participate in many types of communicative sessions

Within outpatient programs, there are a variety of therapy methods that you’ll most likely partake in. Psychotherapy is what most outpatient programs are built around. These programs include one-on-one and group therapy sessions where you can learn about others’ experiences and become a part of a supportive, safe network of people. Family-involved meetings are also highly encouraged, and outside of the program, it’s suggested that you participate in support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon.

Within the program, you’re also encouraged to participate in educational programs where you can learn about the dangers of addiction and its effect on the body.

If necessary, proper medications will be prescribed to you as well. While some alcoholics can experience positive results from psychotherapy alone, many also need to use treatment-related medications. Some of these medications can reduce the alcohol craving, others prevent its consumption from being enjoyable, and others will actually make you feel sick when consuming it. All of these have proven to be very effective methods for outpatient recovery.

You’ll prepare yourself for sobriety in the outside world 

If you aren’t properly prepared to handle your sobriety outside of the rehab program, it can be difficult to stay away from drinking. This is why your treatment program will have you design your own prevention strategy and attend local support groups, such as AA meetings. It’s also encouraged to visit the treatment facility regularly to attend group sessions and receive the proper support.

Your loved ones are encouraged to participate 

Since it is an outpatient program, you are not required to sleep there but can instead come and go on an organized schedule. Because you aren’t living there, it’s not necessary for your loved ones to visit you, but they are encouraged to join you in various sessions. They’re also often encouraged to partake in family counseling to become as supportive, understanding, and involved as possible.

You aren’t required to complete the program

Unlike live-in programs, your attendance is voluntary. You are free to leave the program without completion. However, this is clearly not suggested.

A program is a well-rounded solution with multiple crucial steps, and cutting out certain aspects will jeopardize your sobriety. Without fully committing to the program, you’re at risk for life’s stresses, making you more prone to alcohol consumption.

At the end of the day, your sobriety is up to you

Ultimately, successful, long-term sobriety stems from a commitment to the program and following its various steps, no matter how uncomfortable they make you feel. Opening up can be difficult and facing your problems can be painful, especially in front of strangers. We completely understand that. But having the right support in place—whether it’s doctors, addiction experts, program facilities, fellow addicts, or your family—should not be taken for granted, so take full advantage of your resources.

Outpatient programs are a great option for many who are looking to get sober, but perhaps an inpatient program is more appropriate for you. Consult with both medical and addiction specialists before making these choices, as both types of programs can be very costly and time-consuming. At the end of the day, this is an investment in yourself and long-term future, so make sure you’re doing everything you can to achieve the best results.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.