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What is Outpatient Alcohol Treatment?

Donn Saylor
Donn Saylor

Outpatient alcohol treatment is a nonresidential rehabilitation program for those with drinking problems. While many alcoholics find inpatient treatment an ideal way to immerse themselves in a round-the-clock therapeutic environment, it is not always an option for everyone wishing to get sober. Outpatient alcohol treatments permit patients to stay in their own homes but attend rehabilitation classes and programs during the day and often into the early evening hours.

Entering an intensive inpatient program is not for everyone. Jobs, family, and other obligations may necessitate an alcoholic find alternative means to receive treatment. Outpatient treatment can work in tandem with an individual's schedule to ensure that he or she can meet other obligations while dealing with an addiction to alcohol.

Doctor taking notes
Doctor taking notes

An outpatient alcohol treatment program usually takes place in a hospital or other medical setting; they may also convene in sober living houses or in community centers. Patients generally arrive in the morning and begin the day with a group "check-in" process. During this phase, patients sit together and discuss what has happened since last time they met, feelings or cravings that emerged, and any issues they may be having either relating to treatment or to the outside world.

Throughout the day, those in outpatient alcohol treatment programs will take part in a series of group therapy sessions. These sessions are led by seasoned professionals in the field, usually licensed drug and alcohol counselors. The day may be broken up into a variety of different types of groups. Examples might include sessions on developing coping skills, dealing with cravings, finding and maintaining a support system, and confronting traumatic issues from the past. During the day, a patient might also see a psychotherapist or other counselor in a one-on-one session to address issues privately.

In most outpatient treatments, the program meets every day for a specific period of time, though certain types of programs may only meet on designated days for a predetermined period. During the course of the day, the patients will get to know one another well and learn to trust one another and the process they are undertaking together. They traditionally take breaks and have meals as a community.

The late afternoon or early evening hours of outpatient alcohol treatment often entail the patients attending an off-site Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting or other type of alcohol support group. This helps the members of the group meet and network with other sober people. It also provides a change of scenery that can be welcome after an intensive day of group sessions.

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