Can an Intensive Outpatient Program Help You to Recover from Addiction or...

Can an Intensive Outpatient Program Help You to Recover from Addiction or Alcoholism?


Many people wonder if an intensive outpatient program can help them to recover from drug addiction or alcoholism.

My personal answer to that is a definite “maybe” and possibly even take a stand on the issue and lean a bit towards “probably not.”

Why would I be so negative about professional recovery services?  Why would discourage people from seeking professional help?  Let’s take a closer look and see what is really going on.

* First of all, I definitely encourage treatment, at almost any level, in almost any capacity. Given a choice between treatment and no treatment, I push people to choose treatment.  How can I not?  I got clean and sober by attending a treatment center myself, and I now work full time in a drug rehab center that tries to help dozens of addicts and alcoholics every single day.  So, I am pro-treatment, and think that everyone else should be too.

* Second, because I am pro-treatment, I strongly believe in the idea that more treatment is better than less treatment.  I believe that longer stays in rehab are more effective than shorter stays.  I believe that more intensive therapies are more effective than less intensive therapies.  I basically believe that more is better when it comes to rehab.  This is probably due to the fact that I finally stayed clean and sober after living in long term treatment for 20 months.  Less did not work for me.  More did.  And I see this pattern happen over and over again.

* Third, I strongly believe in the idea that your environment is one of your biggest triggers in early recovery. No, you cannot run away from yourself.  However, most addicts and alcoholics become products of their environments over time.  They have drugs and alcohol in their lives.  They have friends who use drugs and alcohol.  Some of them even have close family members who still use.  Again, working full time in a drug rehab center, I see evidence of this theme over and over again.  People who leave rehab and walk right back into “the lion’s den” don’t always fare so well.  Environment matters.  No, it is not the only factor.  No, your environment does not necessarily make or break your recovery.  But it is a factor, and for most people in recovery, environment is a major factor.

Outpatient programs fail to address the environment problem.  Because you go home after you attend the program each day, you are not getting a break from your using environment.  The same environment in which you used drugs and alcohol in is the same one you have to use during your treatment.  This is a terrible solution in my opinion and I see it fail for people over and over again.

Statistically, inpatient rehab programs produce better success rates than their outpatient counterparts.  Heed this statistic and you increase your chances of staying clean and sober.

So although it might sound like an anti-treatment message, I am actually very much in favor of more treatment, and that is the exact reason that I do not necessarily recommend outpatient rehab programs.  They are not intensive enough and they do not remove the recovering addict or alcoholic from their environment.  There are better solutions out there and those include inpatient rehab, as well as long term treatment.  Many people who are willing to do outpatient balk at the idea of staying overnight in a facility.  Ultimately, these people will eventually come around once their disease gets bad enough and they realize that they really need the help.

If outpatient works for you, that is great.  If not, you might step up to more intensive therapies.  Good luck.