How to Get the Most out of Outpatient Treatment

Guest article by Jake Moreno

Addiction recovery treatment programs are divided into two groups: inpatient and outpatient. The fundamental difference between them is that inpatient care involves residing in a rehab center for the extent of their treatment and outpatient care involves staying at home and attending treatment during the day. Inpatient rehab has a higher success rate and provides more support, but it is also more expensive and disruptive to daily life. Outpatient care has a lower success rate and offers less support, but it is much more affordable and does not interfere much with a person’s normal routine.

When it comes to addiction recovery, the more you center your life around getting well, the better.

Inpatient and outpatient care both serve different but equally important roles in the journey to recovery. The goal of both programs is to help people overcome their addictions and live healthy, happy lives. Though they both are good programs, outpatient care does tend to be less effective than inpatient care, mostly due to the fact that inpatient care allows addicts to be immersed in the recovery process, whereas outpatient care consists only of a few meetings each week. However, when done the right way, it can still serve as an integral tool for overcoming addiction.

Like almost everything else in life, a person will get as much from their outpatient program as he or she puts into it. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” definitely applies to the recovery journey. If you or a loved one is participating in or planning to participate in an outpatient addiction recovery program, here’s what you need to know to make the most of it.

Prepare yourself for it. Before starting an outpatient program, there are a few things it would be wise to do. Usually, outpatient treatment programs are recommended for people who:

  • Have already completed a residential or partial hospitalization program.
  • Have developed good coping skills and are making steady progress.
  • Have shown that they are able and willing to participate in an outpatient treatment program.
  • Have a solid support system of friends, family and community members to rely on.

If you haven’t completed all four of those steps, it is a good idea to complete them before attending an outpatient treatment program.

Remember why you are there. When you go to your meetings, do so with the goal of leaving the meeting as a different person than you were before. You are there to recover from an addiction, and the only way to break your old habit is to replace it with new habits. This means that you will need to think, speak and act differently than you have been. Think of every meeting as an opportunity to learn new things, make new habits and recommit to changing your behavior as necessary to break your addiction.

Keep an open mind. A change of behavior requires a change of mind. If you approach your outpatient treatment with a closed mind and are unwilling to listen to the advice and counsel given to you, it will serve little purpose. Conversely, if you enter every meeting with an open mind and are willing to see yourself, your challenges and your journey to recovery from another point of view, you are giving yourself an opportunity to make the real, lasting changes in your life that are necessary to overcome addiction.

Get involved. Do as much as you can to involve yourself in every meeting. Ask questions, listen intently, talk with the other group members. All present members are always encouraged to participate because in doing so, they are able to practice being honest with themselves and others, get personalized feedback and advice, and help everybody else feel more comfortable and included. Sharing your struggles, thoughts, questions, concerns, and successes can be scary and intimidating, but it will help!

Like almost everything else in life, a person will get as much from their outpatient program as he or she puts into it.

Be patient. Overcoming addiction is not an easy or fast process. Be patient, and understand that you will have good days and bad days. Realize that relapsing does not mean you are starting back at square one. All of the work you have done is never wasted, and you are stronger because of it. Understand that addiction is, by nature, very difficult to overcome. Allow yourself the time to recover, one day at a time.

Attend a twelve-step program as well. When it comes to addiction recovery, the more you center your life around getting well, the better. Attending an Alcoholics Anonymous or another 12-step program in addition to your outpatient treatment will help you immerse yourself in the recovery process.

• • •

Jake Moreno is a professional writer from Salt Lake City, Utah. He loves his job and views writing as an opportunity to learn new things, explore new ideas, and share those ideas with others. When he’s not writing, he spends most of his time singing, songwriting, making and selling art, and spending time outdoors.

• • •

For a related post, see “Carrie Fisher and Recovery: Learning to Embrace Your Dark Side” I invite you to sign up for my blog by clicking “Follow Getting High on Recovery.” When you enter your email, you will get free access to the blog. I do not send spam or share your email with anyone.

What I ask in return is that you comment on articles that connect with you and please share my work. And please take a moment to vote for my page on Psych Central’s list of mental health blogs.

Geek Therapy: Getting High with Geek Therapy

In the new year, I will be offering Geek Therapy using popular culture and superheroes. My specialties include addiction and mental health recovery, parent-teen relationships, emotions and communication skill-building, family counseling, trauma support and spirituality in counseling. If you would like to experiment with Geek Therapy and how it can benefit you, contact me at

Keep it Real

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s