Alcohol Outpatient Treatment is not a Full Immersion Strategy

Alcohol Outpatient Treatment is not a Full Immersion Strategy


Does alcohol outpatient treatment really work?  Are there any advantages over inpatient treatment?  Are most people who go to outpatient for alcoholism successful in staying sober?

I do not have a bunch of data and statistics here for you but I do have my own subjective opinions based on 2 things: one is my own experience, and the other is that I have worked in a treatment center for several years and I see real results and outcomes for hundreds of alcoholics over a period of time.

Based on my own experience, outpatient treatment does not work as well as inpatient. This is based on the idea that I went to counseling and therapy on an outpatient basis before I was really ready to stop using drugs and alcohol, and obviously it did not work for me.  Now this is not a very fair assessment, because you sort of have to surrender to the disease before any sort of treatment is going to help you.  So to be fair, if I had gone to inpatient rehab at that point, it would not have worked.  I just wasn’t ready.

The 3-finger head
Creative Commons License photo credit: Unlisted Sightings

Later on I went an inpatient rehab, a total of 3 times, and eventually I ended up living in long term treatment for 20 months.  Now this is quite an extreme opposite from outpatient, in which you are not that fully immersed in a recovery solution.  So my basic bias here is that, for me, success in recovery took a lot of overwhelming force.  I had to take extreme action in order to get clean.  For me, this meant living in rehab for almost 2 years.  Outpatient treatment for alcoholism would not even come close to helping me with my problem.  I needed so much more.  That was my experience.

Now the other part of the equation is in watching others in recovery, and seeing them go through treatment. Now when people are successful, or if they relapse, I do not necessarily find out about that.  But what I do see in the rehab where I work is I see people come back.  Constantly, people who relapse come back for more treatment, over and over again.  It is really astounding the amount of repeat business.  And I can definitely see a trend with this: the more intensive the treatment is (long term and inpatient being more intensive than outpatient), the better the overall results.  People who do not immerse themselves fully into recovery tend to keep coming back for more treatment (indicating that they did not stay sober).

Outpatient treatment is not a full immersion strategy.  You are just getting a small amount of therapy for a few hours each day.  Even if you have to go for a full 8 hour day, this is still the same level of immersion that you got going to high school.  There is still plenty of “life” outside of rehab, in this case.  Too much in my opinion.

The numbers seem to speak for themselves.  Inpatient treatment just works better.

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