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What is Depression / Mental Illness

A lot of people equate depression with feeling sad, but depression is much more than that. Depression is a mental illness. One of the characteristics is feeling depressed or sad, but it also involves other symptoms. Among the symptoms of this mental illness are:

  • Loneliness even when part of a group
  • Lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia or inability to get out of bed
  • Changes in eating habits ranging from not eating to overeating
  • Feeling hopeless, guilty, worthless, empty or helpless
  • Irritability or anger
  • Chronic aches or cramps with no medical cause
  • Restlessness
  • Thoughts or attempts at suicide

While most people have down days when they may experience one or more of these symptoms, the American Psychiatric Association suggests that a depression diagnosis should be limited to individuals who have experienced one or more of the symptoms continuously for at least two weeks.

This condition is considered an affect or mood disorder. It shares characteristics with several other mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder. While some depressive episodes last a few days or weeks, some people suffer from chronically depressed feelings over the course of their entire lives.

Types of Depression

Not everyone suffers from the same version of this illness. Harvard Medical School identifies four types of depressed states that are common to both men and women and two that are specific to women:

Major depression

is a state of overwhelming dark mood that is all-encompassing. People suffering from this type lose interest in activities they once enjoyed and may have a hard time functioning on a daily basis. They are at great risk of suicide.

A persistent depressive disorder

is also known as dysthymia. This type of disorder lasts for at least two years and resembles major depression, but the person does not experience the symptoms as acutely. They are still able to function on a daily basis although they may not find much joy in life.

Bipolar disorder

is also known as manic-depressive disease. People suffering from bipolar disorder face periods of extreme highs followed by extreme lows. This pattern cycles. They may experience extreme periods of high energy, grandiose ideas, and unreasonably high self-esteem before spiraling into deeply depressed episodes when they may not have the energy to get out of bed and lack the self-confidence to handle even simple tasks.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD

is typically seen during the shorter days of fall and winter. With shorter days comes less sunlight. Sunlight has been found to interact with the body’s chemistry to elevate a person’s mood. Without that sunlight, some people may suffer a short-term version of this disorder.

Perinatal depression

also known as postpartum depression, relates to both major and minor depressive episodes revolving around pregnancy or the birth of a child. These episodes may last for as long as 12 months after the birth of a child.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD

is a type of depression many women experience from shortly prior to ovulation until menstruation starts. It is a severe version of premenstrual syndrome or PMS.

Causes of Depressive Episodes

As with many mental illnesses, more than one factor can be attributed to causing depressive episodes. Some people inherit a predisposition for this illness while others suffer from a hormone imbalance as seen with perinatal depression or PMDD. Others suffer from a brain chemistry imbalance that affects how well the neurotransmitters work in mood stabilization. Biological differences in the brain also account for depressed emotions.

While people may be predisposed to this illness, there are often triggering events. Some common triggers include:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Job loss
  • Obesity
  • Divorce or relationship breakup
  • Overwhelming debt
  • Fear of letting others down or of what other people will think
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Abuse, violence or neglect
  • Relocating
  • Medical diagnosis
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Changes in diet or sleep habits
  • Isolation
  • Increased stress in day-to-day life

Adverse Health Behaviors

Left untreated, depression can lead to other unhealthy behaviors. For example:


May give someone suffering from this mental illness temporary relief from the symptoms at the cost of their physical health. Experts have determined that the nicotine in cigarettes stimulates brain receptors. This stimulation enhances mood and decreases depressed feelings.

Lack of physical activity

Can be an indicator of this mental illness. When a person feels tired all the time or lacks drive or interest in activities, it is not unusual for physical activity to lapse, which can lead to obesity. On the other hand, increased physical activity is a great mood enhancer and can help someone who is depressed overcome their mental illness.

Alcohol and drug consumption

Are frequent self-medication techniques for persons suffering from this condition as they try to escape the negative feelings that overshadow their lives. They do not take into consideration that prolonged drug and alcohol use can be detrimental to their physical health, and in some cases, alcohol and drugs actually increase the negative symptoms.

Sleep deprivation

Is often the result of this condition. Lack of sleep can affect the overall health of an individual and increases the likelihood for such problems as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Prevention Is Key

While most experts agree that this mental illness cannot be prevented, steps can be taken to lessen the effects:

  • Develop good tactics to deal with stress, such as yoga and meditation.
  • Build self-esteem.
  • Enjoy plenty of sunshine.
  • Stay organized and create a detailed routine.
  • Get ample sleep, a healthy diet, and regular exercise.
  • Recognize the signs for depression and get help before they become debilitating.
  • Enjoy less social media time and more face-to-face time with friends and family.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption and recreational drug use.
  • Remain true to a treatment plan by attending all therapy appointments and taking medication even when feeling good.
  • Connect with other people who can provide support, such as friends, family or a mental illness support group.
  • Avoid making major decisions during a depressive episode.
  • Practice thinking positively.
  • Avoid toxic people or situations.

Family and Friends

This mental illness also affects family and friends. They are stuck on the outside, seeing their loved ones suffering and their personalities changing. Children may feel neglected when their parents cannot get out of bed. Spouses may experience frustration when they must take up the responsibilities of the depressed spouse. Parents may be at a loss to understand why their straight-A student is now failing.

First and foremost, remember that depression is a mental illness. It is real and is as important to receive treatment as high blood pressure, diabetes or a broken limb. Your loved one is not lazy or faking it to get out of work. They need your help and support.

Additional steps that can be taken include the following:

    • Learn as much as you can about the condition and how to treat it, which may include psychotherapy and medication.
    • Avoid trying to cure the illness alone. Just like you would go to a doctor if you had a physical illness, you need to depend on a qualified doctor or therapists to diagnose the mental illness and create a treatment plan.
    • Create a low-stress environment. Avoid pressuring them back into a routine they may not be ready for. Take steps to help create a new routine. For example, set up reminders on their phone for when to take their medication or to pay bills. Help them organize their home so that they can find things.
    • Ask your loved one how you can help. This is especially important if they already have a diagnosis and know what to expect from depressive episodes. They may need something as simple as someone to help them clean up or put groceries in the refrigerator. They may need someone to talk to about what is worrying them. They may just need to know they are loved.
    • Create a support network both to help you as a caregiver and to help your loved one. Think of this disorder as a boulder you are trying to roll uphill. Alone, the task is almost impossible, but with a support network’s help, the job becomes easier.
    • Listen without judgment, and be aware they are not necessarily asking you to fix anything. Of course, if it is something easy and necessary to their life, like cooking a meal or cleaning their apartment, then help. But often, your loved one just needs to know they are being heard while they work out the thought processes that are clogging their head.
    • Take threats of harm seriously. Suicide is a very real and final side effect of depression. If your loved one is threatening suicide, avoid leaving them alone. Removed all sharp objects, weapons, and medication from the home, and call a suicide hotline or mental health professional for crisis intervention. You can also call 911.
    • Use positive enforcement to help build your loved one’s self-esteem and to keep them on a treatment plan.
    • Make it easy on your loved one to stay on a treatment plan. You may want to offer to go with them to therapy sessions or pick up prescriptions for them.
    • Take care of yourself. When you board an airplane, as part of the emergency procedures, you are told to put on your oxygen mask before helping others. The same is true when caring for someone with this illness. Remember to eat. Take personal time to unwind and refocus. Get plenty of sleep and be cognizant of what you can and cannot do. If you burn out or fall into your own depressed state, you will be unable to help your loved one.

Remember that the only person you can control is yourself. No matter how much you want to protect your loved one, you cannot hold yourself accountable for their actions. You have probably heard the adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” The same holds true with trying to force someone with a mental illness to abide by a treatment plan. You can offer them help. You can take them to a therapist and pay for their medication, but you cannot force them to take the steps to get better. If the situation is dire, you may need to seek professional or legal help to prevent them from harming themselves or others.

Many people who have experienced depression describe it as being down a deep, dark well where there is no way out. Fortunately, there are ways out. With therapy, medication, and self-care, you can curb the effects of this illness and lead a normal life. You have taken the first step by learning more about mental illness and prevention. Now is the time go further and put what you have learned into practice.

What to do When a Loved One comes home from rehab

Rehab is just the first stage of the journey an individual must travel to return to a normal life in recovery. When loved ones return from a treatment center, friends and family may be unsure about what kind of support to provide and when they should step back to allow individuals to manage the situation on their own.

Treatment has provided these individuals with a number of strategies and tools to manage their emotions and cravings, and they should be allowed to utilize these tools for their everyday needs. Addiction experts recommend a number of actions you can take to help your loved one navigate the post-treatment period after coming home.

Good Planning Can Support Successful Outcomes

The post-treatment period is a sensitive time not only for addicts but also for everyone around them. Friends and family may have experienced lying, theft and a variety of other negative behaviors that they must try to put aside in the interests of making a new start.

The recovering individual has a big job to do that includes learning to cope with everyday frustrations and failures without the crutch of the substance. You can help the individual develop a workable plan for daily life. This could include a list of daily responsibilities and a schedule for attending meetings or counseling sessions, but it should also include a period of free time for reflection and personal enjoyment. These activities should always be based on reasonable expectations for the individual at their current state of ability.

The structure of a daily schedule can provide stability and encourage positive use of time. Of course, individuals should be directly involved in creating a workable schedule for themselves. Adolescents who have completed treatment may require a bit more supervision in developing goals and understanding consequences.

Resolve to Avoid Nagging

Everyone knows that nagging can have a countereffect. Being constantly nagged can arouse feelings of resentment and resistance, which can have the opposite effect you would want in an individual trying to rebuild a productive life. Moms, in particular, often find themselves constantly reminding their adult children in recovery to do certain things and perform beneficial tasks. However, you should resist this impulse whenever possible.

The recovering addict is working on developing inner controls and positive habits. This effort can be undermined by the constant nagging of loved ones. Step back and allow the person to develop these skills gradually while you praise their positive actions.

Leave Old Issues in the Past

Friends and family can provide support for the recovering individual by avoiding any mention of issues that may have occurred during the period of addiction. There may be a number of problems that existed previous to the substance use and may have even contributed to it. However, stabilizing their behavior and actions in normal life should be the main task being handled by the individual in recovery.

After they have some mastery of coping strategies in the present, a look back into previous problems can begin. Loved ones can help prevent recovering addicts from falling into old patterns by encouraging them to implement their treatment strategies while moving toward the future with a more hopeful, positive outlook.

Avoid Mentioning How Addiction Has Hurt the Family and Others

The behaviors associated with substance use and addiction often cause severe damage to relationships and can lead to social embarrassment for family members and friends. If the addiction has gone on for a period of time, the number of these occasions may be significant and may even be in quite recent memory. However, it’s helpful to not mention how much family members or friends have been affected by these events.

Chances are that the recovering individual remembers these incidents very clearly and is dealing with the resulting shame and distress. If you avoid emphasizing this aspect of the past, you can help your loved one stabilize during the initial recovery period. If old resentments continue to affect the relationship, counseling as a group can be a good option. Studies show that family therapy can be a helpful measure for dealing with the lingering resentment and trust issues that have been caused by addiction.

Resist the Urge to Make Decisions for Him or Her

Family members often have to resist the urge to manage the recovering addict in the same way that they have had to do in the past. This is important because this type of behavior takes responsibility out of the hands of the individual who really needs the practical experience of making daily decisions and applying the techniques that will help maintain sobriety.

Family and friends can be available to act as a sounding board and support, but they should avoid imposing their own views on how the individual should progress. These decisions need to be done at the individual’s own pace and in a manner that is comfortable for him or her.

Don’t Clean Up the Consequences of Mistakes

Developing a successful strategy for maintaining sobriety can be an up-and-down process. Everyone’s life is different, and each person must learn to manage a variety of emotions and circumstances that arise daily. Mistakes will be made by the recovering addict. These mistakes may include not attending meetings, not taking medication, taking on a stressful job too quickly or fraternizing with people from the past.

Your task is to allow these mistakes to happen without running in to “fix” the situation in some way. Let recovering individuals experience the consequences of their actions and determine the remedy on their own terms. Of course, you can be on hand to listen and be the sounding board for ideas.

Don’t Take On Responsibility for Bad Decisions

When the inevitable mistakes occur, parents, siblings and close friends often want to rush in to help restore the situation for the person in recovery. Although this may make them feel better, it can be a mistake for the addicted person. Taking responsibility for one’s actions is one of the most essential concepts of addiction treatment.

If the person has crashed the car, lost a job or failed to maintain a relationship, those closest to him should get out of the way and allow the recovering individual the space to take responsibility for the problem. Although the situation may seem like a step backward, it presents an important opportunity for addicts to learn how to manage their lives effectively.

In some cases, the setback may be a relapse into substance use. Relapses are common during recovery and are not a sign that treatment has failed. In fact, it is often an impetus to learn more effective skills for recovery. In this case, you should support decisions that are made and encourage the person to do whatever is necessary to repair the situation.

Begin to Rebuild Trust

The process of rebuilding trust in a relationship can be a tenuous one. Particularly in cases when the addiction has gone on for years, there may have been many breaches of trust that leave resentment, disappointment and even fear about being hurt again. These feelings are normal and should be acknowledged and admitted.

All parties should be aware that the rebuilding of trust can only occur over a period of time. When needed, group or individual counseling can help manage these emotions. Providing an honest and encouraging environment helps re-establish these bonds, and it can be a particularly important part of the recovery process for the individual.

Look for Opportunities to Praise and Encourage

The period after treatment can be one that provokes tension and anxiety for all involved. Maintaining realistic expectations can help alleviate the stress so that everyone can feel more comfortable during the initial steps of rebuilding a normal life. If you make a point of looking for positive actions, you will have opportunities to give praise to the individual.

You can also take note of daily actions that advance their recovery strategy and use them to encourage the individual to continue these efforts. If you stay alert to anything positive in the person’s daily life, you can use these incidents to encourage and praise.

Don’t Follow Him or Her Around

Parents, siblings and close friends may feel compelled to stay close to the recovering addict to prevent them from spending time with bad companions and ensure that he or she does not fall into past bad habits. However, the freedom to make one’s own decisions and exercise one’s own inner controls is a fundamental learning task for those in recovery. The process may include testing limits and performing actions in certain ways that seem unusual to the non-addicted person.

Allow loved ones in recovery the space to test their new sobriety in non-threatening ways. This allows them to become more confident in their own actions and decisions. The development of this confidence is an important feature of a successful recovery.

Avoid Intrusions on Privacy

After the negative behaviors involved with addiction, suspicion can be strong in family members and friends. However, it’s important to avoid checking up on the addict by looking at their cellphone texts or listening in on conversations. Intrusions on privacy can only lead to misunderstandings and stress in the relationship. Trust must be re-established organically, and this means respecting the privacy of the individual as you would any other person.

Make Positive New Memories

Families and friends can often heal the emotional breaches that develop from addiction by creating new positive memories that help reinforce bonds with the individual who is recovering. Simple activities such as having a pizza-and-a-movie night, walking through the woods together or cooking a favorite meal can cement relationships and bring a feeling of normalcy that everyone can value. Even painting a room, doing a crossword puzzle or waxing the car together can be a moment of solidarity and stability.

When awkward moments occur, learn to laugh them off with a joke or just change the subject. Keeping the occasion positive and comfortable should be the main goal. The joy in life comes from small moments that are shared and appreciated, so creating them for your loved one in recovery can be both helpful and enjoyable for everyone involved.

By providing emotional support and encouragement during the many difficulties of rebuilding a normal life after addiction, family and friends can be a critical factor for success in the post-treatment period. However, it is essentially the task of the individual to do the daily work of maintaining sobriety using the skills they have learned in rehab to navigate the process. Providing a positive and honest environment in which the person can use these new skills can help them sustain a successful recovery over the long term.

What happens to your body when you stop drinking alcohol

The capacity of alcohol to affect the human body is significant, and there are many cases where individuals with alcohol use disorders have ended up severely ill or even dead from drinking. Many people might be surprised, however, to learn that their bodies can actually bounce back fairly quickly once they stop drinking. While the early stages of recovery can be a rough ride, particularly for people who have formed chemical dependencies, getting well is very possible. From cognitive issues to one’s ability to sleep, improvements in well-being set in faster than you might guess.

The Effects of Alcohol

Before looking at what happens once a person chooses to stop drinking, it’s important to understand what the starting point in the treatment and recovery process is. To accomplish this, you should consider what the effects of alcohol consumption, especially sustained drinking over many years, can be. Alcohol has a documented history of causing many terrifying medical conditions, including:

  • Impairments in thinking, risk-assessment skills and physical coordination
  • Organ failure
  • Chemical dependency
  • Fluctuations in body chemistry, particularly metabolization
  • Brain shrinkage
  • Psychosis

As is the case with many substances that lead to addiction patterns, alcohol also has a strong influence on how dopamine is released in the human body. Dopamine is a neuroreceptor that plays an essential role in how the human brain constructs its sense of reward from different activities. When operating in a healthy manner, this reward system encourages humans to eat, hydrate and have sex.

Dopamine also encourages us to try things we found pleasurable again, and that’s where it can play an insidious role in the cycle of addiction. When a person goes into the alcohol detox process, the loss of the dopamine release can give rise to cravings for whatever triggered it. In this case, when people stop drinking, they can develop a strong urge to start drinking again. This addictive cycle also can be reinforced by drinking-related activities, such as dancing and socializing at the bar. Consequently, people often end up feeling empty and unrewarded when they begin the treatment process.

When You Stop Drinking: The First Hour

About an hour after you stop drinking, your body will respond by initiating its built-in alcohol detox system. The liver goes to work trying to filter out what it perceives to be a poison from your bloodstream. At the same time, the pancreas will start generating insulin, a process that leads to carb cravings even though the body may not be biologically hungry.

If you come from a genetic group that’s prone to the alcohol flush reaction, you’ll begin to see indications of the reaction during the first hour. These can include:

  • Inflammation of membranes inside the nose
  • A reddening of the skin
  • Increased symptoms for people with asthma

While we think of alcohol as making people tired, it actually serves as a sleep disrupter. The perception of drowsiness from alcohol consumption derives from the depressing effects it has on the nervous system. In point of fact, alcohol can be downright lethal during this period as cardiac and respiratory functions can become dangerously depressed.

The Next Two Days

At about the 12-hour mark following the end of a drinking session, you’ll begin to experience the effects of a hangover, especially if you did not make much effort to hydrate during your drinking episode and right after. Your body will ride up and down through shifts in glycemic levels, so you should definitely make an effort to have water nearby to mitigate the effects of a hangover.

It will take about 48 hours for your body to fully complete its alcohol detox effort. Some sense of grogginess may stick with you during this period.

One sign that someone may have an alcohol dependency problem will emerge about 10 hours after they’ve had their last drink. They may experience a combination of nausea, retching and sweating. If you go through this process, it will peak by 30 hours from when you stop drinking, and it should largely subside within 50 hours. Those suffering from severe mental problems arising from an alcohol use disorder may experience visual or auditory hallucinations that last as long as six days.

72 Hours Later

If you don’t have a chemical dependency on alcohol, this is the point at which your body will begin to feel significantly better. Carb cravings should now subside, and you’ll likely feel physical and mental energy returning.

For people who have developed long-term substance use disorders, this is where an alcohol detox can get downright scary. Around 72 hours since the last drink, an individual may develop delirium tremens, what are frequently called the DTs. This can lead to greater confusion rather than the improved mental function a non-addict might experience. At this point, a host of withdrawal symptoms can occur, including:

  • Seizures
  • Convulsions
  • Delusions
  • Ketoacidosis
  • Hyperpyrexia

In extreme instances, a person may even undergo full cardiac or respiratory failure. This can result in death. Not surprisingly, there is a high risk of hospitalization under these circumstances.

If you’re worried that your alcohol detox efforts might lead to withdrawal symptoms, you can discuss your desire to stop drinking with a qualified professional. If necessary, you can be given drugs to encourage the process. However, it’s wise to be aware that one of the most common drugs prescribed, benzodiazepine, has its own withdrawal risks; it has been documented to have serious interactions with other medications, especially antidepressants.

One Week

At this stage, if you’re not exhibiting withdrawal symptoms, your body should begin to show significant indications of bouncing back. Thanks to the fact that you’ll be sleeping better, you should notice a great deal more physical and mental energy. Alcohol also has negative effects on the skin, and these will begin to clear up once a person has quit drinking for more than a week. If you’re worried about dry skin, rosacea or dandruff, it’s very possible that cutting alcohol out of your diet may lead to a marked improvement in your appearance.

One Month

By the time it has been a month since your last drink, internal organs in your body will begin to exhibit signs of recovery. Liver fat levels should drop by about 15 percent, leading to a visible reduction in belly fat and an improvement in your body’s capacity to filter out toxic materials, including alcohol. You’ll also continue to notice improvements in the appearance of your skin.

One Year

The reduction of belly fat levels will continue for the whole year after you stop drinking, and you may lose more than 10 pounds during the process. Internal organs will also continue their recovery process.

It’s believed that the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the medulla are all adversely affected by alcohol consumption, and they should all bounce back during this period. There’s some evidence that the adverse effects on them may play a role in the increased cancer risks that are associated with heavy drinking. Consequently, if you can stop drinking for one year, you’ll face a lowered chance of developing several types of cancers, especially ones associated with the digestive tracts, such as oral, colon and rectal cancers.

Beginning the Recovery Process

One of the trickiest aspects of a recovery effort is that the ability of some people to quit cold turkey is high while others will struggle to kick a drinking habit. Amazingly, about 60 to 80 percent of people who appear to have serious substance use disorders during their teens and 20s will just quit having problems because they get too old to indulge in dangerous drinking behaviors by the time they hit their 30s. On the downside, the remaining 20 to 40 percent of the population who won’t be able to casually stop drinking or just age out of it are much more likely to require assistance from professionals within a structured treatment program.

A study of what leads to this split among people who show signs of addiction indicated that the susceptibility of an individual to addiction is roughly 60 percent genetic. On the flip side, the ability to kick a habit appeared to be 54 percent genetic. There will be those who never get addicted, and there will be those who never have trouble quitting cold turkey. Also, there will be drinkers who can easily develop substance use disorders and may struggle mightily to stop.

In light of the potentially lethal effects of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, it’s advised that anyone who is worried that they might face a difficult climb when they attempt to stop drinking should look into recovery program options. Proximity to where you live is important, but finding a program that fits your needs is more important. If you’re dealing with a complex set of potential interactions, such as drinking alcohol along with using drugs, you may need to enter a program that’s focused on dual-diagnosis cases. This is particularly important because only a professional can make a determination about whether someone might need treatment with drugs in order to stop drinking.

It may be necessary to take a closer look at mental health concerns as well. For example, research has shown that there’s a genetic propensity for individuals with anxiety disorders to self-medicate by consuming alcohol. Many mental health treatments call for antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications to be prescribed, and there are possibly complex interactions that can occur in those who are being treated for alcohol withdrawal issues. An experienced professional can help you sort out how you might want to move forward with treatment under those circumstances.

You should also try to build up a social support unit. If there’s someone in your family or a close friend you trust to assist you with things like getting to counseling sessions, you should recruit them as an ally in your recovery process. Due to the strong linkage between alcohol and social activities, you may also want to curtail relationships that tend to lead to drinking sessions. For example, rather than meeting friends at a bar and deciding not to order a drink, you could choose to only meet in public places where no alcohol is served.

Given enough time, your body can begin to heal itself once you stop drinking. The recovery process, however, is one that can take months or even years. By far, the most important thing is to keep your focus on trying to get better. Even if you stumble and have a drink, you’ll want to remember what your goal is rather than dwelling on a slip-up. With a commitment to health and wellness, recovery is absolutely possible.

What is Outpatient Rehab

What is outpatient rehabOne of the most difficult challenges a person can face is overcoming addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, you may be looking into the different options available for addiction treatment. Every person is unique, so the circumstances surrounding their substance abuse should be considered when selecting a treatment program.

Since the needs of one individual in addiction recovery are distinct from the needs of another individual, you need to be aware of different treatment approaches before enrolling in an addiction recovery program. The most common types of treatment programs are supervised detoxification, long-term and short-term residential treatment, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programs and other outpatient services like individual counseling or group therapy sessions. Depending on the severity of your substance abuse and related health conditions, the most effective type of treatment program might be an outpatient program for alcohol and drug treatment.

Outpatient Treatment Program Basics

Outpatient rehab is a non-residential addiction recovery program. Because clients can live at home during treatment, this type of program is perfect for someone who is motivated to get sober but cannot take the time off from work, school or other responsibilities to attend inpatient treatment.

Although outpatient programs give clients more freedom during treatment, these programs can be just as intensive as inpatient treatment as they often require daily sessions with an addiction specialist. The number of hours of attendance required each day and the number of days per week will vary depending on the needs of the individual during each stage of recovery.

The first three months of treatment is the time period in which people in recovery are most likely to relapse. Thus, most outpatient rehab programs last between 30 to 90 days. However, the exact duration of treatment is determined by a client’s unique situation, challenges, and needs.

Elements of Effective Outpatient Treatment

To offer an individual the best possible support for overcoming their addiction to drugs or alcohol, an outpatient rehab program will offer therapy options utilizing evidence-based treatment modalities. Standard outpatient rehab programs include individual counseling sessions, group counseling and therapy, psychoeducational programming, pharmacotherapy and medication management, routine monitoring of illicit drug and alcohol consumption, case management, 24-hour crisis coverage, community-based support groups, medical treatment, psychiatric examinations and psychotherapy for clients with a co-occurring mental health disorders and vocational training and employment services.

Depending on the recovery goals of the client, they may want to explore adjunctive therapies, including acupuncture, art and music therapy, biofeedback therapy for stress reduction, meditation, and other holistic approaches and nutritional guidance. For some, therapeutic recreational events can be a valuable part of treatment because it helps individuals find substance-free activities to replace former substance use.

Both standard treatments and adjunctive therapies may be scheduled on a weekly or even daily basis depending on the needs of the individual.

Dual Diagnosis and Outpatient Treatment

According to SAMHSA’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there were approximately 7.9 million adults who had co-occurring disorders in 2014. Thus, an important outpatient service to consider is whether a facility offers psychotherapy options for co-occurring mental health disorders. It is estimated that roughly half of people who struggle with addiction are also dealing with a co-occurring mental health disorder. If an individual who is managing both an issue with substance abuse and a co-occurring disorder wants the best possible chance at overcoming addiction, they need a program that includes dual diagnosis support. This type of program will treat both disorders to prevent future relapse in an attempt to self-medicate uncomfortable psychiatric symptoms.

The Ideal Candidate for an Outpatient Treatment Program

When you envision drug rehab, you probably imagine an inpatient program like you see on television or in the movies where you spend an extended period of time away from your daily obligations to treat your addiction in a setting similar to a hospital. While some people need to attend an inpatient program, it may not be a viable or effective model for your personal recovery journey. For some individuals, an outpatient program is an ideal option, offering the flexibility they need to achieve their recovery goals without forgoing their work and personal responsibilities.

What is most convenient for you shouldn’t be the only factor you consider when deciding what type of treatment program to attend. Instead, the most important factors to consider are the severity of your substance abuse and whether you have other related medical issues or psychiatric disorders.

As a spectrum disorder, addiction to alcohol or drugs can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. This means that people have different needs as they work toward sobriety depending on the classification of their symptoms. If a person only has mild or moderate substance abuse symptoms and is seriously committed to the process of recovery, an outpatient program might work best. The very nature of an outpatient drug rehab program involves being allowed to leave the treatment facility on a regular basis, and for this reason, outpatient treatment requires individuals to demonstrate a commitment to managing their own recovery without around-the-clock care.

Those who are dealing with severe substance abuse symptoms may not be suitable candidates for outpatient treatment programs. Because of the high risk of returning to substance abuse, a program that takes place on an inpatient basis may be the best option available. When a person has completed a more intense program, or they have been determined to be stable by the professional conducting supervision during the individual’s detoxification process, an outpatient program may present the best option.

Types of Outpatient Rehab

Depending on your individual circumstances and treatment needs, one type of outpatient drug rehab program may better serve your needs than another. The three most common types of outpatient rehab are intensive outpatient treatment programs, day treatment or partial hospitalization and continuing care groups.


Intensive outpatient programs may be offered during the day or evening to accommodate busy schedules. Those who take part in an intensive outpatient treatment program participate in more frequent meetings at the outset of the program. As time goes by and the person reaches their recovery goals, they will need to attend fewer meetings per week.

Day Treatment or Partial Hospitalization:

A more comprehensive form of outpatient treatment is known as day treatment or partial hospitalization. When a person participates in a day treatment program, they typically spend between five to seven days per week attending scheduled treatment for addiction recovery, but they can leave the premises of the facility during the evenings and any days off. In some instances, a person will begin in the day treatment program and progress to an intensive outpatient program as their needs for addiction recovery treatment evolve.

Continuing Care:

Continuing care groups are also known as aftercare groups. These group counseling sessions typically meet once per week and are facilitated by a licensed professional. Clients can only take part in these groups after successfully completing an inpatient or outpatient treatment program.

Benefits of Outpatient Treatment

For those who are candidates for outpatient substance abuse treatment, there are a number of benefits to this type of program, including the freedom afforded by a program that does not require individuals to reside at the rehab facility during treatment. This aspect of outpatient care is invaluable to individuals who have personal or professional obligations that must be maintained during the addiction recovery process.

One benefit of an outpatient program is that you don’t have to forgo your commitments during treatment. This allows you to continue to financially support your family and take care of your children or spouse without hiring a full-time caregiver. Additionally, by not taking days off from work, it is less likely that your boss or co-workers will discover that you have a problem.

Another benefit is that the cost of attending an outpatient rehab program is significantly cheaper than an inpatient rehab program. If you cannot afford inpatient treatment, then this may be the best option for you.

What Outpatient Treatment Cannot Accomplish

An outpatient addiction treatment program cannot offer supervised detoxification services. When a person stops using a substance to which their body has become accustomed, it is possible that the sudden cessation of use will cause symptoms of withdrawal. During the process of supervised detoxification, these symptoms can present a number of challenges and, in some circumstances, may prove to be very dangerous or even life-threatening.

An inpatient facility that offers a supervised detox program can provide a person who is going through this uncomfortable yet essential stage of recovery with the confidence that accompanies 24/7 supervision by a team of experienced professionals. In some instances, the best course of action is to enroll in a short-term detox program at a hospital before taking part in an outpatient program. The treatment professionals at the outpatient program will advise you on whether supervised detox is necessary considering your circumstances. Because addiction affects each individual in a unique way, it is best to consult with a medical professional to determine what path to recovery will prove most effective for your personal situation.

Goals of Outpatient Rehab

When an individual participates in an outpatient treatment program, our aim is to equip them with the tools they’ll need to sustain their recovery for as long as possible. By providing each person with the techniques, information, and education they need to face the challenges that lay ahead, we want to do everything we can to make sure our clients are in the best possible position to maintain their recovery after completing the outpatient program. Recovery from addiction is an ongoing journey, and our goal is to offer you the guidance necessary to succeed.

What Participation in an Outpatient Program Looks Like

A person who enrolls in an outpatient addiction recovery program will be provided with a schedule for treatment. The precise nature of this schedule for treatment will depend on the needs of the individual seeking recovery support. For some people, it may be necessary to attend all day sessions several times per week. However, other individuals may only require a couple hours of on-site treatment per week. The frequency and services included in each personalized plan for outpatient treatment will vary, but the common element will be the requirement that the individual is able to commit to attendance for the treatment schedule they agree upon with their counselor.

The specific treatment strategies that will be included in your customized schedule for outpatient addiction recovery will be contingent on your personal needs. Some of the strategies for treatment that may be utilized include participation in 12-step style programs, education about addiction, therapy on an individual and group basis, treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders, advocacy for issues of a legal nature and continuing aftercare support, including help avoiding the temptation of returning to substance abuse.

When to Consider an Outpatient Rehab Program

Addiction recovery is a deeply personal process that will require different things from each person. If you think that an outpatient treatment program might be your best option for recovery from substance abuse, you should consider the options that are available to you. Living with the burden of addiction is not a viable option in the long run. When you are ready to build toward a more sustainable way of life, an outpatient drug rehab program might provide you with a chance to maintain your obligations while working to overcome addiction.

Blog Coming Soon

Thank you for all the support over the last few months. We are working on getting our writing team together, and will be releasing the blog in the near future. Please continue to help support us as we strive to provide the best information possible for those seeking inpatient treatment information. – Team