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For people suffering from substance abuse, one of the key considerations for seeking help is outpatient drug rehab. But what is it exactly?

At the simplest level, outpatient drug rehab means you don’t live at the center. Instead, you attend sessions, which could be individual, group, or a combination of the two.

A key is to understand one’s own behavior. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) notes: “People who abuse substances often feel that their lives are out of control. Maintaining control becomes harder and harder the longer they have been abusing substances. People do desperate things to continue to appear normal. These desperate behaviors are called addictive behaviors—behaviors related to substance use. Sometimes these addictive behaviors occur only when people are using or moving toward using. Recognize when you begin to engage in these behaviors. That’s when you know to start fighting extra hard to move away from relapse.”

Outpatient Drug Rehab: Goal

But the goal of outpatient drug rehab is to help you get your life together without leaving it. We teach you how to achieve and maintain long-term sobriety through essential coping skills, while still giving you enough time to take care of your responsibilities at home.

Indeed, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation notes: “Outpatient treatment for substance abuse can be an ideal option if you have the motivation to get sober but can’t take leave from work, disrupt school attendance or step away from other responsibilities in order to stay at an inpatient rehab center. But the most effective treatment—whether a residential program or outpatient drug rehab—really depends on the severity of your substance abuse and whether you’re also experiencing related medical or mental health complications.”

“Recovery is a lifelong process.”

U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Intensive outpatient drug rehab often includes group therapy. SAMHSA recommends: “The more work you put into group therapy, the more benefit you will receive from it. Part of the work you should be doing is reading and thinking about the handouts. But there are other things you can do to make sure you benefit fully from group therapy.” The list includes:

  • Attend every group session.
  • Arrive for group sessions on time or a little early.
  • Listen carefully and respectfully to the counselor and the other clients.
  • Be supportive of other clients. If you disagree with someone, be polite when you speak to him or her. Do not attack people personally.
  • Do not talk about other clients’ personal information outside group. Clients must be able to trust one another if they are to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts.
  • Think about what you read and about what the counselor and other clients say.
  • Ask questions when you do not understand something.
  • Participate in group discussions.
  • Do not dominate the conversation. Allow time for other clients to participate.
  • Be honest.
  • After the session is over, think about what you learned and try to apply it to your recovery.
  • Work on the homework assignments that the counselor gives you. (The homework assignments are usually an activity. These are different from the handouts that you work on during the session.)

Of course, the effort to make sure outpatient drug rehab works continues even after the program ends.

SAMHSA adds: “Recovery is a lifelong process. You can stop drug and alcohol use and begin a new lifestyle during the first 4 months of treat- ment. Developing an awareness of what anchors your recovery is an important part of that process. But this is only the beginning of your recovery. As you move forward with your recovery after treatment, you will need a lot of support. And you may need different kinds of support than you did during treatment.”