Outpatient drug treatment is very similar to attending a residential treatment program, only the person would go home at night instead of staying there at the clinic. The main benefit of outpatient treatment is that it is cheaper than residential programs, and also it is a bit more convenient for people who might not be able to commit to a residential stay.
In theory, this sounds like a great idea. In reality, outpatient does not work out so well, in my opinion. Here’s why:
1) Outpatient drug therapy is a bit like going to high school instead of going to college. That might be a strange analogy but I think it works. The people in high school are forced to be there. The people in college are choosing to be there. In rehab, this is not necessarily the case, but you pretty much get the same vibe. The people who are there for outpatient therapy are watching the clock, focusing on when they get to go home that night. The addicts who are there for residential treatment are in it for the long haul, and they know they are not going home until next Tuesday. So they are not watching the clock, etc. It is just a different level of immersion, based on the intensity of treatment. Outpatient is more like a surface-level band-aid, and inpatient treatment is a more intensive solution.
2) Outpatient drug rehab is surface level recovery. It is about learning. It is set up like school. On the other hand, residential treatment is more about living recovery. It is set up to show you how to live a sober life, instead of just lecturing you constantly. This becomes even more true when you compare outpatient treatment to long term rehab. Living in recovery is always going to be a better education than simply hearing lectures and attending group therapy (which is all you will get at outpatient).
3) Outpatient rehab is dangerous – because you go home each night. It is not protected. Residential treatment protects the clients because they are in a controlled environment where they are not tempted to relapse. This is a huge part of recovery, especially early recovery.
4) Outpatient rehab is still expensive – considering what you get, you are still paying for too much, therapists, counselors, a building to do it in, etc. For just a bit more you can afford inpatient treatment, and get all the added benefits of doing so.
The bottom line too is that recent reports from the government show that only about 35% of addicts and alcoholics actually complete outpatient treatment, while the rest either move on or drop out. Not a very encouraging statistic to say the least….