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Outpatient Services

Addiction is a complicated disease that often needs a complex approach to treatment to address it effectively. Addiction is also a chronic disease that affects the reward center of the brain. Your reward center is designed to encourage you to repeat activities that cause a release of certain feel-good chemicals in the brain. 

Unfortunately, addictive drugs also cause a release of those chemicals. Your brain will start to mistake drugs with life-sustaining things like eating and sleeping. Even if you stop using the drug and go through a period of detox, you may still have cravings and compulsions to use again, because of the effect of the disease on your reward center. For that reason, effective addiction treatment often requires more than a week of detox. Plus, treatment needs to be complex and customized to meet one’s individual needs.

There is no one treatment plan that works for everyone, so treatment needs to be tailored to the individual. Treatment can also be administered at different levels based on your needs. The person who is still chemically dependent on alcohol will require different treatment techniques from someone who’s been sober for three weeks.

Outpatient treatment is an important step in effectively treating addiction. Returning to everyday life can be difficult after higher levels of care in addiction treatment.

What Is Outpatient Treatment?

Outpatient treatment is the lowest level of care in formal addiction treatment. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), outpatient services are the first level of care in a four-level continuum. Outpatient services involve fewer than nine hours of therapy each week and are equipped to handle low-level psychological, biological, and social needs. 

In many cases, outpatient is the last stop in treatment before complete independence, for someone on the road to recovery. Though it’s a low-intensity level of care, it’s an instrumental part of treatment and allows clients to adjust to challenges at home and in their regular lives, with therapy sessions to fall back on.

For people who have progressed to outpatient treatment from higher levels of care, outpatient helps protect against a phenomenon called institutionalization, which is when a person thrives in high-level treatment but struggles to protect their sobriety when they are living on their own. 

Outpatient is a step between inpatient services or intensive outpatient services and complete independence. This allows clients to adjust to an independent lifestyle and the stresses that might come with it. The extra time in the week allows clients to pursue careers and family responsibilities, and process the challenges to their sobriety that may come with these new experiences. You can learn to cope with real-world challenges in groups and individual therapy sessions.

What Do Outpatient Programs Offer?

Outpatient treatment services can address multiple needs. You may go through many of the same therapies you would in an intensive outpatient treatment program with fewer hours devoted to clinical services each week. However, outpatient treatment is equipped to address multidimensional needs through individual, group, and family therapy. Here are some of the most important aspects of outpatient treatment.

Substance Abuse Rehab

Of course, the main goal of addiction treatment is to address your addiction. Through outpatient services, you will participate in therapies that are designed to address substance use issues directly. Though you may have gone through a detox and withdrawal process to help rid your body of chemical dependence, you will still experience cravings and compulsions to use. Addiction is a disease that affects the reward center of the brain and can take more than a week of detox to address fully.

Effective rehab is a holistic process that addresses the physical and psychological effects of addiction in addition to any underlying issues. However, several therapies are designed to directly treat addiction such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps to identify triggers and develop positive coping mechanisms that can help you maintain sobriety. Still, a host of other factors can contribute to addiction. For instance, if you have an anxiety disorder, your relapse prevention strategies will be an uphill battle if that’s not addressed.

Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is an important component of addiction treatment and outpatient programs. This type of program refers to the simultaneous treatment of substance use problems and other mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), almost 8 million people struggled with both a substance use disorder and a mental health issue in 2017. 

Presenting to treatment with a co-occurring mental health issue is very common. Some experts say that up to half of the people who experience a mental health issue also experience a substance use disorder. Mental health problems and substance use disorders can sometimes feed off of each other, which is why it’s important to address both issues at the same time.

Life Skills

Addiction can put your life on hold. Many people start using when they’re young and don’t achieve lasting recovery until they’re in their 20s or 30s. But this time, they may not have learned basic life skills like balancing a budget, finding gainful employment, or even how to shop for groceries. If a lack of life skills are neglected in treatment, they may lead to issues like financial instability, isolation, depression, and anxiety that can lead to relapse. Outpatient treatment is an ideal setting to identify life skills that need improving. You may also be connected to community resources like job placement services during or after treatment.

Relapse Prevention

Relapse prevention is one of the most important aspects of effective addiction treatment. Through addiction therapies, especially CBT, you will develop ways to identify triggers, avoid high-risk situations, and cope with cravings. Compulsions to use may continue to happen for a long time after you stop using drugs or alcohol. Having a plan to deal with it can help you safeguard your recovery for years to come.

Where Is Outpatient Treatment in the Continuum of Care?

Outpatient services are at the lowest level of the continuum of care, and they are often the last stop before aftercare services. It’s common for people to start outpatient treatment after they’ve already gone through detox, inpatient, or intensive outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment is also common for people who are receiving medication-assisted treatment. In that case, they may spend several months attending outpatient services each day to get medications.

Outpatient is an effective last stop after inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment as a way to adjust to fewer hours of clinical support each week. In some cases, people with low-level needs can attend outpatient treatment without needing higher levels of care. People who are diagnosed with mild substance use disorders but don’t have high-level medical needs, psychological issues, or risk of relapse may have their disorder addressed in outpatient treatment.

Seeking Addiction Treatment Today

If you or someone you know may have a substance use disorder, there is help available. Learn more about addiction treatment and outpatient services by speaking to an addiction treatment specialist at Desert View Recovery. Addiction may be a chronic disease that can be extremely difficult to overcome, but with the right help, it’s very treatable. Call anytime to learn more about the therapy options that are available to you.

SourcesSources

ASAM. (n.d.). What is the ASAM Criteria? Retrieved from https://www.asam.org/resources/the-asam-criteria/about

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, August). Comorbidity: Substance Use Disorders and Other Mental Illnesses. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/comorbidity-substance-use-disorders-other-mental-illnesses

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (Alcohol, Marijuana, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Nicotine). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral

SAMHSA. (2015, July 21). Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment

SAMHSA. (2019, January 14). Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disorders

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