Outpatient Alcoholism Treatment
vs.
Inpatient Alcohol Treatment Center



Outpatient Alcoholism Treatment
Who should choose this option, what does it involve and does is it work?



Deciding that enough is enough and that your drinking has got to stop is a difficult enough step to take in itself.

However, there is another decision you need to make, and that is whether to attend a residential alcohol treatment center or whether to try outpatient alcoholism treatment.

This page has been written to give you the information needed to choose the path that is best for you, when it comes to treating your alcohol dependency.



What Does Inpatient Treatment Involve?

Inpatient treatment is when you attend a center specifically catering to those with alcoholism and/or other addictions. You can expect to stay at an inpatient alcohol treatment center for at least four weeks, the regimen will include:

  • An initial medical evaluation which will determine your state of health, identify any health problems that your alcoholism may have caused and an assessment of the severity of your alcoholism. Appropriate medication may also be prescribed.
  • A psychiatric evaluation to determine if you have any signs of mental illness such as depression. If you do then this will also have to be treated (dual-diagnosis).
  • Alcoholism Detox
  • Group therapy
  • One-to-one therapy with a counselor.
  • An introduction to support groups (usually 12-step) that will be available to you after your treatment.
  • Engaging in the everyday running of the treatment center. Some, but not all, treatment center get their patients/clients to do the cooking, cleaning. clothes washing etc. in the facility. This is a form of life-skills therapy; many alcoholics have never had (or not for a long time) a 'normal' daily routine, that others take for granted.
  • Other holistic treatments/therapies. Depending on the treatment center there may well be meditation, art therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, yoga, taichi and so on.
  • An aftercare plan including a relapse prevention plan identifying alcohol relapse triggers and how to cope with them.
  • Confrontational therapy with family members, colleagues, friends and others impacted by your drinking.
  • A final medical/psychiatric evaluation.
As you can probably imagine such a treatment regimen is not cheap and can run to 5 figures. The expense of inpatient alcohol treatment centers is one of the reasons why some choose outpatient alcoholism treatment. There are others too...


Why Choose Outpatient Alcoholism Treatment

There are a number of reasons why you might not want to attend inpatient treatment:

  • As pointed out above, it is expensive. If you don't have health insurance, you are not covered by your existing health insurance or that of your employer then an inpatient alcohol treatment center is just not an option.
  • You don't have to take extended leave from your work.
  • Your family/friends can help and give you support (if you have not alienated them with your drinking).
  • Your alcohol dependency may not be that severe i.e. you are only in the first stage of alcoholism, or displaying the first signs of alcoholism.
  • You may not want others to know about your addiction, attending a treatment center means your condition may become public knowledge.
  • There may not be an alcoholism treatment center in your locality. If there is it may not be to your liking e.g. adhere to the 12-step method, which many find incompatible with their beliefs.


If you or someone close to you wants help and advice on quitting drinking in an outpatient setting, then take a look at the following pages:



What Does Outpatient Alcoholism Treatment Involve?

You can attend treatment centers on an outpatient basis. This usually means attending for a number of hours each week. Many of the therapies etc. you partake in would be much the same as those on the inpatient program.

However, outpatient alcoholism treatment at a center, although cheaper than inpatient treatment is still expensive, and that is why 85% of alcoholics never seek professional treatment, either never attempting to quit alcohol or going it alone.

If you choose to quit drinking without being affiliated to a treatment center, then either you or your family need to make a plan as to what you need to do to get well. You can also enlist the help of your physician/doctor for advice. This last step is essential when it comes to detoxing from alcohol.





Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be very dangerous, fatal even, so a medical assessment must be made before it is attempted.

A physician will be able to assess your level of alcohol dependency and will be able to prescribe the necessary medication to lessen the symptoms. He or she may also recommend that you go to an inpatient alcohol treatment center becuase of the severity of your dependency; ultimately, though, it is up to you.


The following could be part of an outpatient alcoholism treatment plan; the more you undertake the more likely that your self-treatment will be successful:

  • Alcoholism Detox (under medical supervision).
  • Attendance at support groups: This can be a 12-step group or an alternative such as SMART.
  • Counseling: Many recovering alcoholics find it helpful to explore the reasons for their drinking and other issues.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy This is a type of therapy that focuses on changing the way you think, making it more positive. Negative thinking creates negative behavior and uncomfortable emotions; triggers for a return to drinking.
  • Family/Relationship counseling: Your drinking affected not just you, but all those who know and love you. This kind of therapy helps get anger and resentments out into the open and, hopefully, leads to resolution.
  • Medication: There are drugs specifically used in the treatment of alcoholism. Naltrexone is prescribed to reduce the cravings for alcohol you get in the initial stages of alcoholism recovery. Disulfiram (or Antabuse) is a deterrent drug; drinking alcohol while on this medication causes a number of very unpleasant side effects.


Who Shouldn't Undergo Outpatient Treatment?

There are instances when outpatient alcoholism treatment is not advisable. Some scenarios are listed below:

  • Those who have already tried outpatient alcoholism treatment unsuccessfully, should seriously consider going into a treatment center. Every alcohol relapse you have, makes it harder to quit drinking the next time and the withdrawals will be worse.
  • Those who are living in a 'toxic environment'. If you live in a dysfunctional household e.g. with an alcoholic, then outpatient treatment is not an option unless you can move somewhere else.
  • Those whose alcoholism is advanced would be well-advised to seek inpatient alcoholism treatment. Advanced alcoholism means severe alcohol withdrawals and health issues including psychiatric problems. These are all best dealt with in an inpatient scenario.
  • Those with dual-diagnosis. Dual diagnosis is when an alcoholic also has mental health issues most commonly depression. As alcohol may well be responsible for the mental health problem, it is essential that both conditions are treated either in a treatment center or psychiatric hospital.


Which Is More Successful, Outpatient or Inpatient?

Impossible to say, really. Statistics and recovery rates form alcoholism are notoriously difficult to collate. This is because success is difficult to define. Is it when somebody stays away from alcohol for the rest of their lives (the goal of alcoholism treatment using the abstention method)? If it is, then it is impossible to verify.

I know of a treatment center that claims to have an 80% success rate in treating alcoholism, sounds impressive?

Look further into their marketing brochure and you will see that this figure is for those who attended the center, remained sober for a year and could be contacted after this year. So 80% of those contacted were still sober (or so they claimed).

What about those who couldn't be reached? They couldn't be contacted, I imagine, because they had relapsed.

You can't rely on figures when it comes to alcoholism treatment and success rates, do what you think is best, and what is possible, for you.





If you found this page helpful, then the following may be of interest to you:



Return From Outpatient Alcoholism Treatment To Alcohol Addiction Recovery 

Return From Outpatient Alcoholism Treatment To Alcoholism Help Homepage


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Deborah Morrow, M.S. Addiction Psychology, is the director of treatment programs for The Alcoholism Guide website. In her practice Deborah provides on-line coaching and support for those dependent on alcohol or who require other services such as relapse prevention or court mandated services. (Read More)






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