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How does outpatient rehab work?

Dillon McClernon

Authored by Dillon McClernon

When entering a rehab program for drug or alcohol treatment, a person has a choice between an inpatient and outpatient rehab program. When addiction is severe and medically assisted detox is needed, inpatient treatment is always in a person’s best interest. But when addiction is not so severe or in other situations, outpatient treatment at Recovery Centers of America is a convenient and flexible way to get help with the fight against drug and alcohol addiction.

Successful addiction treatment will help the individual stop using drugs or drinking alcohol, maintain a drug-free lifestyle, and achieve a happy, healthy, meaningful life in recovery. Because addiction is a disease, most people are not able to simply stop using drugs for a few days and be cured. That’s not how addiction works. It will let you think you can stop when you want—but it will always pull you back in. People typically require long-term or repeated care to achieve a goal of continued abstinence and recovery in their lives.

Beginning outpatient rehab

People often wonder, how do outpatient rehab programs work? Well, treatment begins with an assessment. Using the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) Criteria, patients entering RCA are evaluated to see what types of alcohol and drug addiction services are needed. The ASAM Criteria is an indispensable resource that addiction medicine professionals rely on to provide a nomenclature for describing the continuum of addiction services. There are six dimensions to the assessment:

  • Dimension 1Acute intoxicant and withdrawal potential, which explore a person’s past and present experiences of substance use and withdrawal
  • Dimension 2Biomedical conditions and complications, study a person’s current health and health history
  • Dimension 3Emotional, behavioral, or cognitive conditions and complications, look at a person’s thoughts, emotions, and mental health issues
  • Dimension 4Readiness to change, which explores how eager and interested the person is to make a life change
  • Dimension 5Relapse, continued use, or continued problem potential, study a person’s unique relationship with relapse, continued use, or potential for problems
  • Dimension 6Recovery and Living Environment, explore a person’s recovery or living situation, and the people, places, and things they interact with

Considering all the information the six dimensions provide, RCA therapists determine the appropriate level of care a person will need to begin their recovery.

The six dimensions paint a full picture of all the issues being faced. By addressing all these issues instead of one or a few, there is a better chance for a successful recovery. With addiction there is rarely one single reason for substance use. The ASAM Criteria pays attention to the entirety of the reasons behind a person’s situation.

It’s at this point that RCA therapists and patients begin to work together to create an outpatient treatment plan that best suits them.     

Outpatient is really effective when someone is trying to balance their life but needs help. It can be a good way to support someone who needs treatment but is unsure how to get help and still maintain normalcy within their daily lives.”

Christina Snyder LPC, CAII, CCTP, former Regional Director of Outpatient Services

Different types of treatment in outpatient rehab

Depending on the facility, RCA offers three types of outpatient treatment of various levels of care to help you on your path to recovery. The ASAM criteria plays a large role in how each patient is matched with each program. RCA therapists will discuss a patient’s options with them and help determine which program will best suit their needs.

RCA’s Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)* is designed to transition patients from inpatient to outpatient treatment in a step-down approach. It’s used for our patients who need a more intensive level of treatment at a higher frequency. Patients engaged in PHP attend programming 5 hours per day, 5 times per week, for a total of approximately 25 hours per week.

RCA’s Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)** is used to step down from PHP, or for patients who are ready for a less intensive level of care than inpatient and PHP. These patients need a higher level of intervention than general outpatient groups and are committed to staying sober and staying in the recovery community. Patients in IOP attend sessions that are held 3 times a week for 3 hours a day.

RCA’s General Outpatient Program (GOP)*** is the least intensive level of outpatient care and helps to prepare patients for a life in long-term, meaningful recovery. It provides patients with enough support to stay sober at home and in their community outpatient sessions generally last 90 minutes per day and are held 1-3 times per week. General outpatient continues for an unspecified period of time, until it is determined by the Primary Therapist, the patient, and their families that the GOP level of support is no longer necessary. It is at this time that patients are ready to begin the next phase of recovery in their life.

As you can see, RCA’s three levels of outpatient programming can work together or separately. Treatment is tailored to each patient’s individual needs at the time.

Treatment programs can be utilized as a step-down approach, or sometimes even a step-up approach if patients and their therapist come to that conclusion. Either way, at RCA we have a treatment that will aid people with their recovery.

Therapy sessions during outpatient visits

An important part of all levels of outpatient treatment are the different types of therapy sessions patients attend. RCA offers individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy to help patients work through their substance use issues.

Individual Therapy sessions provide opprotunity for patients and their RCA therapists to explore the reasons behind addiction, looking at the past, present and future in a healthy, helpful, therapeutic setting. Patients will learn a lot about themselves and the therapy will help set them up for a successful recovery.

Group Therapy sessions help to show patients they’re not alone in their struggle with addiction and allows them to connect with peers struggling with many of the same issues. Group sessions give patients the opportunity to share and process their thoughts, behaviors, and experiences in a safe and trusting environment.  

Family Therapy sessions help patients reconnect and repair damage that may has been caused during alcohol and drug addiction. RCA strongly encourages families to join in the treatment and recovery process because it strengthens the foundation of a patient’s recovery and increases the likelihood for a longer lasting life in recovery.

12-Steps and outpatient treatment

As part of the outpatient treatment program, patients at RCA are often participate in the 12-step program. An outpatient 12-step program is a set of principles that helps people suffering from alcohol and addiction by providing individual action steps to lead them through recovery.

Many patients attend a 12 step fellowship such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and find solace and companionship among members. Above all, members of these groups emphasize self-admission of the problem they are recovering from.

These fellowships hold frequent daily meetings and are great form of support throughout recovery. Patients participate by attending meetings, finding a sponsor, and working the 12-steps with their sponsor—in addition to their outpatient treatment program.

Joining a fellowship such as AA or NA substantially increases a person’s likelihood of long-term success in recovery, achieving freedom from active addiction and/or alcoholism, helping others achieve sobriety, and cultivating a sober support network.

Outpatient mental health services

At RCA we know that often, patients suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction have other challenges which require specialized forms of therapy to address. Many times, mental health and alcohol and drug addiction go hand-in-hand, so we provide treatment for both. As part of our inpatient and outpatient services RCA also provides treatment for mental health and co-occurring disorders including the following (mental health and eating disorder treatment as a primary diagnosis is available at select RCA locations).

We specialize in treating a wide array of mental health conditions in a supportive, convenient virtual setting, including, but not limited to:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Trauma and PTSD
  • Personality disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Anger management
  • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders

Outpatient rehab treatment at Recovery Centers of America

As you’ve read, no single patient is the same and as a result no single treatment will be the same. But, at RCA—one thing is the same to us—we want to give you the best chance for a long, lasting recovery. That’s why we’ve created outpatient treatment programs and specialized services to meet the needs of each specific patient as they come to us. Are you or a loved one ready to make a change for the better and start on a path toward recovery? Call us now at 844-429-3795.

*PHP is referred to as Day Treatment in Massachusetts and is referred to as Partial Care Services (PCS) in New Jersey.

**Intensive outpatient is referred to as Day Treatment in Massachusetts.

***General outpatient Programs are commonly known as outpatient in Massachusetts.

Authored by

Dillon McClernon

Dillon McClernon

Dillon currently serves as the Senior Director of Sales and Marketing at RCA. After his tenure as Chief Communications Officer and senior advisor to RCA, he opted for a full-time position at RCA where he could build a new team linking sales and marketing to directly impact RCA’s mission of saving 1 million lives.


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