Outpatient Substance Abuse Programs: A Comprehensive Guide

Outpatient Substance Abuse Programs: A Comprehensive Guide

The first step to recovery is identifying that there is a problem. It can be difficult to know whether or not your relationship with drugs or alcohol has gotten out of control. One resource to help identify these issues is the DSM. Psychiatrists and psychologists use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to define the symptoms and treatments for mental illness. 

In 2013, experts added substance abuse disorder to the manual. While physicians have been dealing with addiction and its associated health concerns for many years, its inclusion in the manual helps mental health professionals create comprehensive treatment strategies.

Talking to your doctor about treatment for substance abuse can be difficult. Still, it is essential if you hope to get the help you deserve.

Many levels of care are available for mental health and substance abuse treatment. In this article, we will discuss the outpatient program to see how it may be the right fit for you or a loved one.

What Classifies as Substance Abuse?

According to the DSM, substance abuse happens when people repeatedly take drugs or alcohol despite the adverse physical, psychological, and social effects. It is a condition of the mind as much as the body. Utilizing the proper medical support will give you the best chance of recovery. To create the most effective treatment plan, your doctor will use the criteria in the DSM to diagnose whether you suffer from Substance Abuse Disorder.

There are 11 criteria, or symptoms, related to substance abuse:

  1. Taking higher doses of a drug than what your doctor prescribes.
  2. The inability to stop taking drugs or alcohol on your own.
  3. Experiencing intense cravings for drugs and alcohol.
  4. Needing more drugs or alcohol to get the desired effect.
  5. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop or cut back.
  6. Wasting time seeking out substances or recovering from hangovers.
  7. Ignoring your professional or familial obligations.
  8. Using drugs and alcohol, even if it damages interpersonal relationships.
  9. Choosing drugs and alcohol over other interests and hobbies.
  10. Engaging in risky behavior when under the influence.
  11. Choosing substance use over your physical and mental health.

If you have at least two of these symptoms, your doctor can diagnose you with substance abuse disorder. Many people realize that they identify with many, if not all, of the criteria. Again, you must identify a problem to treat it, and with diagnosis comes hope.

With your diagnosis, your healthcare team can now structure a treatment plan. This plan may include any level of care, including inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment.

The Difference Between Outpatient and Inpatient Substance Abuse Treatment

Understandably, the thought of substance abuse treatment is scary. Treatment options can be confusing, especially when choosing between inpatient and outpatient treatment options. Below you will learn all you need to know to make the right choice for your recovery.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient substance abuse treatment may start with hospitalization. A medical setting is necessary for people with severe physical conditions related to substance abuse. Additionally, there are certain drugs, including alcohol, that require professional support during detox and withdrawal.

Once patients are healthy enough to leave the hospital, they will enter the inpatient rehabilitation facility. Inpatient rehab typically requires a 30-90 day stay in a residential facility dedicated solely to their recovery.

Inpatient rehab is not suitable for everyone. Some patients don’t need or can’t afford that level of treatment. Others are not able to leave their family or work responsibilities for that long. If that is the case, outpatient treatment may be the best option.
It’s always best to talk to your doctor about what level of care is best for you.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient substance abuse treatment is similar to inpatient treatment, but you will not be housed at the facility. In outpatient, you will spend time each day being educated in recovery during classes and attending therapy sessions. However, you can still work and be with your family when outpatient services are complete for the day.

Many addiction specialists recommend outpatient treatment for those at low risk for relapse. Your doctor will decide if you qualify for outpatient treatment based on your history of substance abuse.
Many people will enroll in outpatient treatment for continued care after completing the inpatient program. The goal is to regain your physical health and learn the coping skills you need for long-term sobriety.

A standard outpatient treatment plan will require 12 to 14 hours a week at the facility. Typically an outpatient schedule includes three to four visits to the facility a week. Most people find it easy to add these appointments to their existing routines.

What Happens in Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment?

Many people are interested in outpatient substance abuse treatment but don’t understand what they will spend their time doing. Let’s look at some elements of an outpatient treatment plan.

Visits with a Psychiatrist or Addiction Medical Doctor

Substance abuse disorder is a disease that requires medical care. Outpatient treatment includes visits with a physician. They will decide what type of medical treatment is right for you.

The use of medication may be a part of your treatment and is helpful with cravings and withdrawal symptoms. The physician will monitor your health and vital signs to ensure your body is healing properly from the substance abuse. When you enroll in outpatient services at Sunshine Care Center, we will match you with a doctor specializing in substance abuse to support your recovery journey.

Therapy Sessions

Working with a psychologist or addiction counselor is vital to addiction treatment. These professionals will help you discover the root problems that precipitate your disease. They will help you learn to manage your addiction symptoms going forward.

Your therapist is like a personal guide. Their education and professional experience qualify them to answer your question thoroughly and help you learn to problem-solve struggles in your life. Many people in recovery consider their therapist to be the most crucial member of their healthcare team.

12-Step Meetings

12-step meetings or other peer-based counseling are critical to recovery. These meetings can follow the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. SMART recovery and other types of peer counseling follow different rules and directions. The purpose of these meetings is to help you learn more about our disease and how to manage it.

The 12 steps will help you understand how your addiction has affected you and the people around you. It will give you a way to change those behaviors in the future.

Spending time with other people in recovery is a vital aspect of outpatient treatment and the long-term maintenance of your disease. When you talk to other people who share your struggles, it reduces isolation and shame. People with years of sobriety have a lot of wisdom to offer those new to the process.

Other Therapies

Depending on your personalized treatment plan, the outpatient substance abuse program may include other forms of therapy. These therapies may be non-tradition, geared towards a specific group of people, or well-established therapeutic modalities. Read on to learn about your options.

EMDR Therapy

EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. This therapy allows people to access traumatic memories, process and reprogram them safely. Many who suffer from substance use disorders also have PTSD. EMDR is clinically proven to help heal trauma associated with PTSD.

During EMDR therapy, your clinician will ask you to remember traumatic events while moving your eyes back and forth. This eye movement is connected to the vagus nerve and helps to reprogram the parasympathetic nervous system. Essentially, with PTSD, the nervous system interprets threats, actual or not, in a dysregulated way. The anxiety, flashbacks, and hyper-vigilance associated with PTSD is a coping mechanism the body created to keep itself safe. With eye movements and light tapping on various body parts, your brain forms new thought patterns associated with trauma.

Some patients only need a few sessions of EMDR to receive benefits. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine if EMDR should be included in your recovery plan.

Addiction Therapy for Veterans

Active duty and military veterans with substance abuse disorder often need specialized care. Military experiences, including combat, require specialized care.

There are many therapists specifically trained to work with our honored service members. Often, they are veterans themselves. Their experience allows them to understand the nuances of PTSD and addiction concerning military professionals.

Outpatient substance abuse treatment offers group counseling for veterans. Connecting with others who have gone through similar experiences is invaluable on the road to recovery.

Music Therapy

Music has an important place in our lives. Music can make us feel happy, sad, or reflective. Music can trigger memories, which helps to process and heal trauma.

Music therapy is a modality that adds to the work between a patient and their psychologist and psychiatrist. A music therapist will use songs, instruments, and dancing to help patients relax, talk about painful subjects, and help develop coping techniques.

Music therapy is beneficial in group settings as well. People bond over music, which can encourage peers to open up freely with one another. Music therapy can be a powerful tool on the road to recovery.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, is a therapeutic technique using speech and language to aid recovery. A therapist will focus on language’s role in your internal and external dialogue. This focus can increase mindfulness and peace.

DBT sessions have similar qualities to meditation. The sessions will help you relax and focus on your relationship with your feelings. The therapist may use storytelling and other techniques to spark awareness of your emotions. Once you can identify your feelings, you can learn to manage them.

Dialectical behavioral therapy benefits outpatient substance abuse treatment because of its flexibility and effectiveness. Sessions can take place in person or via phone and video calls. Taking part in DBT is an easy way to work with your therapist when you are at work or engaged in other activities and need support.

Learn More About Outpatient Substance Abuse and Other Treatment Options

Participating in an outpatient substance abuse program is a big step in your recovery. Asking for help is rarely easy, but at Sunshine Care Centers, we are here to help you with as much ease and comfort as possible. Our compassionate addiction specialists are here to support you every step of the way. Whether it is a mental health concern or addiction, we pride ourselves on creating treatment plans specifically suited to your lifestyle and goals for recovery.

 Don’t wait to receive the help you deserve. 

Speak to a specialist at Sunshine Care Centers by calling 883-597-CARE or message us today! 


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