Article at a Glance:
- Outpatient alcohol rehab is suitable for patients who have a supportive living environment and are stable enough to live at home while undergoing treatment.
- Patients in outpatient alcohol rehab typically participate in individual and group counseling. Some programs may also provide medications.
- Completing an outpatient alcohol rehab program requires a thorough assessment and a willingness to learn and set boundaries.
Table of Contents
The Benefits of Outpatient Alcohol Rehab
When choosing an alcohol treatment program, some people opt for an inpatient setting because it allows them to live in a more controlled environment. However, others prefer outpatient alcohol rehab, which lets them live at home and continue to work and care for their family.
Outpatient care allows you to recover from alcohol addiction without having to “press pause” on your life like you would for inpatient treatment. It also tends to be more affordable, as there are no costs associated with staying in a facility and paying for food, housing and other amenities. However, it’s important to understand that outpatient care may not be effective for people in certain circumstances.
Who Is Outpatient Alcohol Rehab For?
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) recommends outpatient rehab for people whose addictions are less severe. Patients in outpatient rehab should have a supportive home environment, and they should be stable enough to continue living at home and participating in life within the community.
Outpatient alcohol rehab typically involves individual and group counseling that teaches patients how to cope with stressors without turning to alcohol use. People with more severe addictions will likely require inpatient care before they can successfully participate in outpatient rehab.
Outpatient alcohol rehab is not appropriate for patients who live in an environment that makes recovery difficult. For example, if you are living with a partner who also abuses alcohol but is not ready to stop, outpatient care is probably not suitable. In addition, if you have significant medical or mental health needs and do not yet have the skills to avoid relapse while living at home, it may be more appropriate to begin recovery in an inpatient setting.
When Should Someone Consider Outpatient Alcohol Rehab?
Some people may drink moderately or only on special occasions, which does not constitute an alcohol addiction. Others may find that they are unable to stop drinking, even when it causes serious consequences in their lives. When a person loses control over drinking and begins to show signs of an alcohol use disorder — the clinical term for alcohol addiction or alcoholism — it is time to consider outpatient alcohol rehab.
Alcohol use disorder symptoms include:
- Continuing to drink, even when it causes or worsens a health problem
- Drinking despite problems in relationships or difficulty fulfilling duties at work or home
- Drinking in dangerous situations, such as driving while under the influence of alcohol
- Drinking larger quantities of alcohol than intended
- Giving up other activities in favor of alcohol use
Types of Outpatient Alcohol Rehab Programs
There are several types of alcohol rehab programs available, and each can vary in the services they provide. For instance, some programs may involve individual counseling services, while others may focus on group interventions. Many programs offer a combination of individual and group counseling.
Some rehab programs may provide medications as part of alcoholism treatment. Medications like naltrexone, acamprosate and disulfiram can help people to stop drinking (See: Medication-Assisted Treatment). Outpatient alcohol rehab may offer medications in combination with counseling.
Mutual support groups are another form of outpatient alcohol rehab. In many cases, mutual support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous are free to attend.
At-Home Detox vs. Medically Assisted Detox
Another thing to consider is the detox process; some people choose to detox at home, while others participate in a medically assisted detox program, also called medical detox. When people stop drinking after developing an alcohol addiction, they are likely to experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms like tremors, headache and upset stomach. In cases of severe alcohol withdrawal, a person may experience hallucinations or a potentially fatal condition called delirium tremens.
Patients who experience mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms can often complete detox at home. Conversely, those who experience more severe symptoms like seizures or delirium tremens should be treated in a medically assisted detox program. This helps them avoid life-threatening consequences related to alcohol withdrawal.
Medical detox provides around-the-clock observation and support from medical professionals. Doctors working in an alcohol detox facility will often prescribe benzodiazepines to treat severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes, a patient may begin with a medical detox and then transition to outpatient alcohol rehab when they become medically stable.
4 Things To Expect From Outpatient Alcohol Rehab
There is no one-size-fits-all way to recover from alcohol addiction. Each person’s addiction and needs are different, so treatment plans, program intensity and time frames can vary widely.
Though each treatment plan is different, there are certain things that can be expected when participating in an outpatient rehabilitation program. The following sections will give you an idea of what to prepare for when entering outpatient treatment.
- 1. Be ready for an intake assessment.
Prepare to be asked many personal questions about your alcohol use. For example, you may be asked about how often you drink or how recently you had your last drink. It may feel uncomfortable to be asked such things by a complete stranger, but your answers help ensure you’re placed in a program that best fits your needs. In addition, you will likely have to undergo a physical exam and drug testing.
- 2. Prepare to talk about your emotions and underlying psychological conditions.
An important part of rehabilitation involves working to get to the root cause of an addiction. Often, those who struggle with addiction have co-occurring mental health concerns like depression and anxiety. In order to treat addiction, a person must also confront and treat their emotions and mental state.
Discussing such personal topics may be difficult and uncomfortable at first. With time, however, it will become more normal. It may even open your eyes to why you developed an alcohol addiction in the first place.
- 3. Be willing to learn.
Many rehabs are educational and provide scientific information on addiction and its causes. In outpatient rehab, you will likely learn about the disease of addiction and the factors that put you at risk of alcohol abuse. Self-examination isn’t always easy, but it is a necessary part of recovery.
- 4. Know that you’ll need to have boundaries.
For some, it can be harder to stay sober when taking part in an outpatient treatment program. This is because there is less supervision and more freedom, which can mean more room for relapse. It is important to examine your situation and your state of mind in order to decide if outpatient rehab is the right choice for you.
Outpatient Programming at The Recovery Village
If outpatient alcohol rehab sounds like it might be the best choice for you, The Recovery Village is here to help. We have rehab centers located in various states around the country, and we also offer teletherapy services so you can complete outpatient alcohol rehab from home. Contact us today to learn more about an outpatient program that can work well for your needs.
- Medication Innovation Accelerator Program. “Overview of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Care Clinical Guidelines: A Resource for States Developing SUD Delivery System Reforms.” April 2017. Accessed September 4, 2021.
- Muncie, Herbert Jr.; et al. “Outpatient Management of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome.” American Family Physician, 2013. Accessed September 3, 2021.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder.” April 2021. Accessed September 4, 2021.
- Medical Disclaimer
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.