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Outpatient Alcohol Treatment

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Outpatient alcohol treatment is an effective and popular type of rehab. Rather than its counterpart inpatient rehab, outpatient treatment provides more flexibility for the patient. This can mean they will be able to continue working, fulfill their everyday obligations, and live in the comfort of their own home. If you’re someone that’s currently looking into rehab and have settled on an outpatient program for this reason, then this article will detail everything you can expect from the process. Additionally, if you are someone that is currently trying to decide what type of alcohol treatment is right for you, this article will cover the ins and outs of who is suited for outpatient alcohol treatment.  

What Is Outpatient Alcohol Treatment?

Outpatient alcohol treatment is a type of rehab that typically requires the patient to visit a treatment center multiple times a week. Contrary to inpatient rehab—the type of treatment which often comes to mind when we think of addiction rehabilitation—the patient is allowed to live at home, keep a flexible schedule, and does not need to stay at the facility for long durations of time. Many healthcare experts have come to criticize this type of treatment for that very reason. They argue that the flexibility, exposure to “triggers,” and the lack of focus opens more opportunities for relapse. In some ways, they’re not wrong. But the fact is this: deciding between inpatient and outpatient treatment depends on the severity and type of addiction. This is best determined by an addiction specialist, doctor, or healthcare professional.

Who Usually Enrolls in Outpatient Alcohol Treatment?

Typically, those who use an outpatient model to beat their AUD (alcohol use disorder) do so because their drinking problem is somewhere between moderate and severe. While they cannot quit drinking on their own, they also do not need to be live-ins at a facility for a month or more. They choose outpatient alcohol treatment because they can lean on the resources provided to them, yet still go to work, live with their families, and not sacrifice all facets of their lives outside of recovery.

How Does Outpatient Alcohol Treatment Work?

To give an exact description of how outpatient alcohol treatment works would be a disservice to the healthcare industry. Today, addiction specialists work to tailor each treatment plan to the patient specifically, rather than painting with broad strokes to mass-treat everyone. In which case, outpatient alcohol treatment works in different ways, dependent on the patient and the rehab center.

What Is the Goal

Outpatient alcohol treatment works to provide a patient with the resources they need to recover while complementing their schedule and everyday responsibilities. Addiction specialists want to provide the perfect amount of care (in other words, their recovery services) to keep the AUD sufferer sober throughout the initial recovery, then the perfect amount of aftercare to keep them sober throughout the rest of their lives. Identifying this balance is the thesis of our next section:

How does the Process work?

Again, each outpatient alcohol treatment process is going to differ from client to client, clinic to clinic. But there are commonalities between treatments, held together by the ubiquitous end goal; sobriety. Below we outline the typical process of an outpatient alcohol treatment plan.


Once the patient has made the choice to enter rehab, a specialist will evaluate their situation. This assessment covers their current state of being, the severity of their addiction, underlying disorders, and reaches far into their medical history, current, and prior health, and will often involve drug testing. The professional will chart out a treatment plan, which may involve them recommending inpatient care rather than outpatient rehab. This initial evaluation will be referred to throughout the recovery process and used as the foundation for strategies instated along the way. And what is one of the primary concerns of the specialist carrying out the assessment? The patient’s detox.


Every person suffering from addiction will have to go through detox and AUD is no different. The truth is this: alcohol withdrawals, dependent on the severity of the condition, can put the sufferer at risk of serious health complications. With this understanding, specialists take the detox process seriously. There is a possibility that, after the evaluation, they recommend the patient check into a facility for detox. In which case, if they are to continue with outpatient alcohol treatment, then the only time in which they’ll need to remain within the recovery center is during the initial detox period, which can last anywhere from 2-7 days. In which case, you might be asking: what should I expect from in-house detox?

  • Addiction specialists will provide you with a safe place to go through withdrawal, monitoring your vitals and well-being from start to finish
  • You may be required to take medicine which will help mitigate the withdrawal symptoms and ease the process
  • Nurses and healthcare professionals will be ready to respond if a complication is to arise, and will often be able to anticipate one based on their monitoring process

If your condition is not deemed to require an in-facility detox, then the process will be different. What should you expect from outpatient detox?

  • You will push through your withdrawal symptoms outside of a facility, but you’ll be required to come in for medical check ups throughout the process
  • The detox should take anywhere from 3-5 days to complete
  • Clinicians or doctors may prescribe medicine to ease the process (often mitigating psychological symptoms like anxiety, depression, and an inability to sleep)

Once the detox process is complete, the patient will then begin their treatment plan.

Daily Outpatient Alcohol Treatment

For those that have moderate AUD leaning more towards severe, clinicians will often recommend that they enroll in a daily outpatient program. This means that the person on the road to recovery will visit their rehab facility daily to treat their addiction. What is to be expected from this treatment? From group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, coping skill learning, to DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), the patient will have access to support groups and professional counseling. These groups and therapy sessions will help educate the patient on their condition, develop coping skills to ward off triggers and the chance of relapse, and identify the root cause of why they began drinking in excess. The fully inclusive treatment program works to peel away the scar tissue developed throughout the years of drinking, exposing the root issue or underlying disorder. Through the care of these professionals and the influence of a motivated peer group, the patient is able to learn about themselves, their addiction, and ultimately they’re equipped with the weapons they need to stay sober after treatment.

Intensive Outpatient Alcohol Treatment

Despite the word intensive, typically this type of treatment requires less than daily outpatient alcohol treatment. The patient will have the same access to resources as one that’s enrolled in the daily program, just with less frequency. This can mean coming into the treatment center 2-3 times a week to sit down with therapists, join support groups, and work with the professionals provided by the program to conquer the challenges along the road to recovery. The extensiveness of these programs is subject to change depending on the patient. While rare, there are cases in which an AUD sufferer utilizes outpatient detox and then does not return for treatment, instead, working through their issues without the support of a clinic. This is not recommended.


Once the treatment is completed, the road to recovery continues. Relapse is rehab’s kryptonite and too many times patients leave their program ready for the world ahead, neglect to keep up with aftercare, and relapse months later. This too can be part of the journey but it’s also avoidable. An outpatient program will integrate an aftercare strategy specific to the patient. This can include everything from remaining in support groups, monthly checkups, to continued monitoring of the process through prolonged counseling. Outpatient programs often hammer down on the importance of aftercare, being that the process is less intensive than inpatient; some argue the tools developed and lessons learned are more likely to fall by the wayside.

What Are the Benefits of Outpatient Alcohol Treatment?

If outpatient alcohol treatment is the right solution for a patient’s needs, then compared to inpatient, the benefits are endless. The most pronounced benefits include:

  • A continuation of everyday life: the person who wants to quit drinking does not need to sacrifice everything by living in a facility for 30-90 days. Rather, they can quit drinking from the comfort of their home, keep their job, and uphold their obligations
  • It’s easier: this ease is often due to the severity of the condition, being that those who are recommended for an outpatient program are in a less severe state than those that must commit to an inpatient one
  • Affordability: by design, being that room and board are unnecessary and the process is less intensive, outpatient programs are cheaper than inpatient programs. This becomes a bigger point when you take into consideration the continued income upheld by the patient who remains an employee
  • The choice: being that many who enlist in outpatient alcohol treatment programs have made the choice on their own, catching the addiction before it spirals out of control, they’re able to go at their own speed. The choice is theirs and theirs alone, the program is merely there to support their needs

If outpatient alcohol treatment is right for the patient, it comes with many benefits. From affordability to the process itself, it is less intensive, rigorous, and stigmatized as inpatient.

Who Should Not Enlist in An Outpatient Alcohol Treatment Program?

There are a few glaring reasons why a patient should not choose outpatient alcohol treatment, no matter what the situation may be.

  • Prior relapse: if a patient has enrolled in an outpatient or inpatient program prior, only to relapse once it was finished, they should not choose an outpatient alcohol treatment program. Typically, this is a strong indicator that the outpatient platform won’t yield the results desired
  • A poor living environment: every night, the patient is going to be in their “natural” environment. If they started drinking because of the influences they have at a home, then it defeats the purpose of utilizing this type of program. This flexibility is designed to allow people to maintain control of their lives and to reap the reward of being at home. If the environment that the patient must reside in is part of the problem, this greatly increases the chance of relapse
  • Poor health: a healthy body is a strong body, and a healthy body does not beget a healthy mind. This works both ways. If the patient is in poor mental and or physical health then they may not have the power to fight through when the road wages war on them, meaning it would be wiser if they remained under the close supervision of medical professionals. In many ways, outpatient alcohol treatment is for drinkers that know they will have to face many challenges by themselves. One needs to be healthy to do this effectively

Speak with A Professional, A Better Future Awaits You

While it’s easy to focus on the benefits of an outpatient alcohol treatment program, we also must be realistic. These programs are not recommended for everyone. Ask any alcoholic that has gone through recovery and most would have loved to do it from the comfort of their own home, operating in their own life, with limited visits to the rehab center. Yet, many drinkers will also tell you that if that were the case, they would still be upside down because of their AUD. In which case, it’s paramount that you pick up the phone, head to a clinic, and speak to someone. If it’s you that’s currently suffering and looking for a program that suits your condition, an expert will be able to guide you along the path you’ve chosen and, at the very least, provide valuable insight into what works and what doesn’t. Regardless, you’re already on your way. Now it’s time to keep pushing on.



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