Outpatient Substance Abuse Counseling


outpatient counselingWhen a man gets a new job, he may quickly update his Facebook status, call his closest friends and perhaps even schedule a celebration dinner with his girlfriend. It’s a momentous occasion, and while the man might need help in order to succeed in his career and hammer out all of the details he’ll need to attend to in order to swap workplaces, he’s quick to shout his good news from the rooftops, so everyone knows what has happened. If this same man developed an addiction, however, he might not be so open about his situation. While he certainly needs help and his life certainly needs revision, he might hide his change away from those who could help. It’s unfortunate, but it’s something addicted people have done for decades. Thankfully, that might be changing.

As more people understand how addiction treatment works, and as more people feel comfortable discussing their issues with the people around them, more people are getting the help they need. For example, the Cumberland Times-News reports that the number of Maryland residents receiving outpatient care for addiction through state-funded programs increased from 63,834 in 2009 to a projected 84,429 in 2012. Increases like this demonstrate that people are asking for help, and that’s really worth celebrating.

There are a variety of different formats people can use in order to heal, but outpatient substance abuse counseling might be just right for some people who have avoided treatment in the past. Outpatient substance abuse counseling provides real help, as this article will outline, and it’s work worth starting right now.

What Treatment Entails

Outpatient substance abuse counseling programs are designed to help people who have addictions and who choose to continue living at home while they heal. Some counseling is provided within intensive day programs, in which the person enters the treatment facility each day and obtains counseling on a regular basis throughout the day, but other counseling programs provide care for only a few hours each week. The severity of the addiction and the person’s history with addiction treatment programs dictate how long the person should spend in treatment each week.

Substance abuse counseling attempts to help people identify:

  • How their lives have changed due to addiction
  • How their lives might be different without the specter of substance abuse
  • What thoughts and habits might keep an addiction in play
  • Changes in behavior that might help to maintain sobriety
  • The warning signs of a relapse

There are a variety of different therapy types that can be used to address an addiction issue, but typically, counselors use a goal-based approach. Instead of discussing the person’s past and working through all of the person’s childhood trauma in years of therapy, the therapist uses a very specific approach that’s designed to help the person hone in on the addiction and deal with everything surrounding that addiction. It’s a quicker, targeted approach and it can bring about big benefits.

outpatient therapyIndividual vs. Group Counseling

Since the goal of counseling is to help people understand addiction and change behavior, addicted people often need the same kinds of treatments from the same therapist. They all have the same problem and need the same lesson, so even though their lives might be very different, they have very important things in common. Working in group therapy allows addicted people to share stories and learn from one another, and the counselor can help multiple people at the same time.

Group therapy also allows people to practice their skills within the therapy session. People with anger problems, for example, might find other therapy participants to be exasperating and they might use their newfound anger-management skills to keep their tempers under control, rather than exploding with rage.

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Similarly, people with addictions due to poor communication skills might learn how to express their opinions and their thoughts in group sessions, rather than suppressing their behaviors and opinions with drugs and alcohol. With benefits like this in play, it’s no surprise that group therapy is associated with a robust recovery from addiction. For example, in a study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, researchers found that a longer time spent in group therapy, versus time spent in individual therapy, was associated with more improvement. Studies like this demonstrate just how important outpatient group therapy really can be.

Individual therapy often does play a role in addiction care, however, as some people have private concerns that are really best handled in one-on-one sessions. People with low levels of motivation to recover, for example, might need therapy sessions in which they answer a series of very personal questions, all circling around how their addictions have changed their lives. This Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) is often helpful in pushing people to a new level of awareness, but it’s most effective when it’s performed on an individual basis. Therapists work hard to provide the right kind of care in the right setting, and this might mean blending both inpatient and outpatient care, as dictated by the person’s needs.

Help for Multiple Issues

outpatient substance abuseAddictions can sometimes develop alongside a mental illness, as some people turn to drugs and alcohol in order to help mask their symptoms and make life a little easier to bear. In addition, addictions can also alter brain chemistry in deep and profound ways, and this damage can also manifest as mental illness. Sometimes, people who have Dual Diagnoses like this can heal in outpatient programs, as they may lean on their families and learn important lessons in their therapy sessions, but some people with multiple issues need more intensive help than outpatient counseling can provide. A study of the issue in the American Journal of Psychiatry indicated that people with personality disorders tended to drop out of treatment early; however, the severity of the mental illness didn’t affect how long people stayed enrolled in care. Studies like this seem to indicate that mental illness can be a factor in healing, but some people can do well in outpatient counseling programs. It’s really an individual issue.

Outpatient counseling programs may assist clients by linking them to other community programs that can help to ease pain and increase compliance with sobriety. These programs might be helpful for people with mental illnesses as well as addictions, but they might also be helpful for people who don’t have mental illnesses at all. Life stresses and chaos can put pressure on people in a variety of ways, and addictions can spring from this kind of ongoing stress.

Community programs can ease this pressure by assisting with:

  • Financial planning
  • Health care
  • Public transportation
  • Vocational training
  • Meals
  • Housing
  • Legal troubles
  • Recreational activities

Some outpatient counselors require their clients to link with these programs and provide proof of their participation, indicating just how valuable this kind of assistance might be in the fight against an addiction issue. Clients and therapists might discuss the benefits of these programs in their therapy sessions, and clients might also be encouraged to think of other areas in which they need assistance, so life can continue to improve and substance abuse issues might seem to fade into the distance.

young woman outpatientFinding the Right Setting

Motivation is key when it comes to outpatient substance abuse counseling, as people who really want to get better and who think they have the means to do so are more likely to improve when compared to people who don’t feel so compelled to work hard. Low levels of motivation translate into early dropout from care, and leaving the program could mean returning to destructive habits. Motivation can come from within, but sometimes, finding the right setting for care can help people to see the benefits of treatment, and the right setting could keep people coming back for more care. For example, a study in the journal Clinical Psychology Review found that people tended to stay enrolled in addiction care more frequently when the facilities used provided “friendly, comfortable environments.” For these people, just feeling welcomed and relaxed provided outside pressure that kept them learning and healing.

Reducing barriers to care can also help people feel compelled to participate. Sometimes, finding a program that’s specifically developed to cater to a specific type of addicted person helps families to access this level of motivation. For example, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that an estimated 1,427,000 children live with single mothers who are addicted to substances. For these women, childcare is a vital concern, as they don’t have spouses to lean on when they have addiction appointments they must attend. Finding a treatment program that provides childcare could be vital, as programs like this eliminate the excuse these women might use in order to stay away from the care they need. As this barrier drops, so might their resistance to healing.

Outpatient programs might advertise their services online, allowing families to look through photographs and read mission statements in order to make an informed choice. Outpatient counselors might also place their biographies online, so families can read descriptions of educational backgrounds and treatment philosophies in order to find the right fit. When the research is done, the family might have a good idea of just where to go and what to do to help the person they love.

If you’re ready to get started on a search like this, please call us. We can outline how Foundations Recovery Network outpatient counseling programs work, and we can help make the right match for the person you love.

Further Reading About Outpatient Substance Abuse Counseling