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Outpatient Alcohol Rehab

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a chronic medical condition in which it is difficult for a person to control or stop their alcohol use despite experiencing negative health, occupational, or social consequences as a result of drinking.1 In 2020, more than 28 million people aged 12 and older had a past-year AUD, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).2

Fortunately, several types of treatment are available for AUD, including behavioral therapies, AUD treatment medications, as well as mutual support groups to complement other recovery efforts. Treatment is available in various settings, including outpatient treatment for alcohol misuse, which may be a good option for certain patients.3 Your doctor can help determine which treatment setting is right for you, but researching your options can help you make an informed decision about your health.

This page will help you learn about alcohol outpatient treatment programs, including what they entail and their benefits.

What Is Outpatient Alcohol Treatment?

Outpatient treatment for alcohol misuse takes place at a program site (e.g., a counselor’s office, health clinic, hospital, or local health department) but, unlike inpatient rehab, patients live at home or in a sober living facility outside of treatment hours.4

Outpatient alcohol rehab programs vary in duration and intensity. Some lower-intensity outpatient programs may only offer alcohol education, while others, such as intensive outpatient programs (IOP), may be similar to inpatient programs in terms of effectiveness and the services provided.5

While no two outpatient alcohol treatment programs are exactly alike, patients can expect to participate in a combination of group and individual counseling, alcohol use disorder (AUD) education, life skills training, relapse prevention training, and more.4, 5 This can help patients achieve and maintain sobriety while learning how to live productive lives within their community, home, and workplace.6

Types of Outpatient Alcohol Treatment Programs

There are several types of outpatient alcohol rehab programs available. Treatment may begin at a relatively intensive level of care, with a patient attending numerous sessions each week before transitioning to a less time-intensive, more standard outpatient program that meets less frequently and for fewer hours.

These relatively intensive levels of outpatient alcohol rehab programs include:4, 5, 6

  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs): Also known as day treatment, patients in a PHP typically attend treatment for 4 to 8 hours a day and return home in the evening. PHPs commonly last for at least 3 months.
  • Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs): Patients in an IOP for alcohol misuse may attend treatment between 9 to 20 hours per week. IOPs can last a few months to 1 year.

Benefits of Outpatient Alcohol Rehab Programs

Although patients do not have the same around-the-clock support as an inpatient program, outpatient programs offer education, resources, and support that are helpful in a patient’s early recovery and while maintaining sobriety.

Outpatient rehab offers several other benefits, including:3, 4, 7

  • Outpatient programs are often more affordable than inpatient programs. This can help remove cost as a barrier to treatment.
  • Outpatient programs offer more flexibility. Outpatient programs often offer more flexibility than inpatient programs. Many patients can attend treatment when it is convenient for them, which is helpful if they have responsibilities at home, school, or work.
  • Outpatient programs allow patients to remain in the comfort of their own homes. For patients who have a strong support system, living at home can be beneficial as the environment is comfortable and familiar. This also allows patients to incorporate family members more easily into their recovery.

What Can I Expect From Outpatient Alcohol Treatment?

For many patients who struggle with alcohol use disorder (AUD), recovery begins with alcohol detoxification, especially if they are at risk of experiencing severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Depending on withdrawal severity and the risk of any significant withdrawal complications, alcohol detox may take place in either an inpatient or outpatient setting. The goal of any alcohol detox is to help patients achieve a substance-free state, relieve withdrawal symptoms, and begin to address any co-occurring medical or mental health conditions.8, 9

Following detox, a patient may transition to ongoing outpatient treatment for alcohol recovery, should outpatient management be an appropriate level of care. Although treatment programs vary, effective programs are individualized and include a combination of therapies and services to meet the specific needs of the patient.5

Patients can expect to participate in group and individual therapy to help identify and modify damaging behaviors. Treatment may focus on education to help patients learn the effects of alcohol on the body and brain, relapse prevention skills training, as well as orientation to 12-step programs and other mutual support resources for post-treatment life.4, 5

Medical professionals may also prescribe medications, such as acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone, which can help patients maintain their recovery progress and prevent relapse.3

Behavioral therapies are one of the most used forms of treatment and aim to help patients change their attitudes and behaviors toward their alcohol use and increase healthy life skills. Common behavioral therapies a patient may participate in during outpatient treatment for alcohol misuse include:6

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): Helps patients develop coping skills to avoid or work through situations that can trigger their alcohol use.
  • Contingency management (motivational incentives): Utilizes a rewards system for positive reinforcement to maintain sobriety.
  • Multidimensional family therapy: Though created for adolescents, multidimensional family therapy can assist with integrating the family unit back together.
  • Motivational interviewing: Helps engage the patient’s motivation to begin and work through treatment.

How Long Does Treatment Last?

The length of treatment depends on several factors including the patient’s needs and the type of program. Different programs may last for several months to 1 year, but this can vary.4

Remaining in treatment for an adequate time is important. Studies show that treatment lengths of at least 90 days are associated with better patient outcomes.5

Finding Outpatient Alcohol Treatment

If you are struggling with alcohol use and are considering treatment, you don’t have to go through it alone. Treatment is available and recovery is possible. Around 1/3 of people who receive treatment for alcohol use report no further symptoms 1 year later. Many others significantly reduce their drinking and experience fewer alcohol-related problems.3

It’s important to keep in mind that outpatient treatment can be an effective option for people struggling with mild to moderate alcohol use disorder (AUD). However, patients struggling with relatively more severe AUD or those who don’t have a stable home environment may benefit from more intensive treatment in an inpatient setting. Your doctor can help determine the right treatment setting for you.10

If you’re beginning your search for outpatient treatment for alcohol misuse, our directory allows you to easily find a facility near you when you filter by “outpatients services,” and location. If you need help or want to learn more about alcohol treatment, our admissions navigators are available 24/7 when you call .

 

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