While it is widely accepted that residential treatment is the most effective for those with addictions to substances such as alcohol or drugs, it is not feasible for everyone. The cost involved with private residential treatment can be too high for many people, which may prevent them from availing of it. The good news is that many private clinics accept referrals from the public sector and government funding is available for some people.

Outpatient Options

If private inpatient treatment is not suitable for you, you can still get help for your addiction. An outpatient programme may not be as intensive as inpatient treatment but it can be very effective and it is not as expensive.

Outpatient programmes typically begin once a person is sober. Therefore, it is often necessary for the person to complete a programme of detoxification before they start their day care programme. There are a few options available to those who are interested in outpatient programmes, including:

  • outpatient treatment with a doctor or addiction specialist
  • outpatient treatment with an addiction counsellor or therapist
  • outpatient treatment with a psychiatrist.

What is Involved?

If you are about to start an outpatient treatment programme for addiction, you may be wondering what is ahead of you. The following is what you can typically expect although this will vary depending on the programme.

  • The first thing you can expect is an assessment and evaluation of your situation. This will usually be carried out through an interview and will include questions about your family history.
  • You may be given a physical examination that will test for liver disease. You will probably be given blood tests and a urine drug test as well.
  • You will then have to attend regular meetings with the doctor, counsellor, therapist or psychiatrist.
  • Your outpatient programme may involve a series of individual sessions as well as some family therapy. You may even have to take part in group therapy and counselling sessions with other patients.
  • Your programme may require you to attend regular fellowship meetings such as AA or NA. It will be necessary to get outside confirmation that you have been attending.

Outpatient programmes vary in length and intensity. You may be expected to attend every day or for just a few hours each week. In contrast to inpatient treatment, outpatient programmes can sometimes last for months or even up to a year. This is because the programme is spread out rather than condensed into a short time frame.

The Good and Bad

There are pros and cons to outpatient treatment, as there are with most things. Below are a few examples:

Pros

  • Outpatient treatment does not require overnight stays
  • It is less expensive than inpatient treatment
  • It allows patients to recover in the real world
  • It allows patients to continue with their work and home life

Cons

  • It can be hard for some people to give outpatient their full attention while dealing with day to day distractions
  • It is risky for those who are close to relapse
  • Patients have less time with counsellors and therapists

Who is Outpatient Treatment Suitable For

There is no doubt that those with the most severe addiction issues should be attending a residential programme, but there are some people for whom outpatient treatment is ideal. For example, those who have been suffering from addiction for a short period will find it easier to recover in an outpatient programme.

Outpatient treatment is also ideal for those who need to be at home during recovery because of family commitments or work issues. Also, those with stable home environments where there is a lot of support may find outpatient treatment to be the most suitable option, especially if the cost of residential treatment is an important factor.

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