|   Answering your mental health questions

How Does Outpatient Treatment Work?

Receiving treatment on an outpatient basis means that you attend regular or even daily appointments with your doctor, therapist and/or other mental healthcare provider, but you continue to live in your home throughout the course of your treatment instead of in a hospital or residential healthcare facility.

Many forms of mental illness are treated on a largely outpatient basis. Inpatient care is preferable in situations where the patient would benefit from close medical supervision, such as if they are at risk of or have suffered a breakdown, and becomes the necessary choice if there is a danger of them harming themselves.

Outpatient Addiction Programs

Some treatment locations, such as addiction centers, may offer both inpatient and outpatient services to meet the needs of all patients. Process addictions, in which the addiction revolves around a compulsive behavior instead of a substance, such as a gambling or video game addiction, are usually treated through outpatient programs.

Did You Know?

Despite the various treatment options available for substance addictions, many people still do not get the help they need. According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), only 2.9 million of the 23.1 million Americans with a drug or alcohol use problem received treatment from a hospital, rehab center or other mental health facility.

You can be treated as an outpatient for an alcohol or other drug addiction if the doctor or team of medical professionals overseeing your recovery believes that it is an appropriate and safe option for you — that is, if your detox withdrawal symptoms are mild to moderate, if you have no other mental or physical condition that could put your health in danger (especially during detox), and if you do not have an unusually high risk of relapse.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Outpatient Drug Rehab

There are significant advantages to an outpatient drug addiction treatment program, including:

  • Less disruption to your life.¬†Right from the start of your rehabilitation, you can begin to acclimate yourself to what your life as a recovering addict is like. Many outpatient programs offer evening and weekend appointments, so you can have the option of continuing to work as usual.
  • More private.¬†Because it is less disruptive to your life, an outpatient program allows you, if you choose, to keep your treatment more of a personal matter than if you were removing yourself to a residential facility for weeks or months. (Of course, you should never keep an addiction or your efforts to recover a secret from those closest to you.)
  • Less expensive.¬†The cost of outpatient treatment is generally very affordable; in contrast, depending on the facility and factors such as length of stay and care required, inpatient rehab programs can cost tens of thousands.

The biggest disadvantage of outpatient drug treatment is that it only works with consistent outpatient commitment. Unlike with inpatient care, your behavior isn’t supervised and restricted by the limitations of the center: you are the person primarily responsible for making sure you go to your therapy and other medical appointments, take any medications as directed, and avoid stressors or temptations that are most likely to trigger a relapse — although, of course, your therapist will help you recognize and implement strategies for dealing with those stressors and temptations when you are faced with them.

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