Most psychiatrists and behavioral health professionals agree that addiction is a complex disorder caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors. It can also vary in intensity; The DSM-5 defines addiction as a spectrum disorder that can be categorized as “mild,” “moderate,” or “severe.” Many other mental health disorders, like depression and anxiety, can be described in much the same way. Because there can be so much variation in the causes and severity of an individual’s disorder, there are varying levels of treatment to meet patients’ differing needs.
Generally speaking, behavioral health and addiction treatment programs can be described as inpatient, outpatient, or intensive outpatient (IOP). The biggest differences among each of the three are in the complexity and severity of the conditions they treat, the length of the programs, and the patients’ living arrangements.
What Level of Treatment Do I Need?
Before you make a decision about treatment, it’s important that you are fully assessed by a qualified professional—a therapist, addiction counselor, psychiatrist, or maybe even one of our Intake specialists. They can give you feedback and help you decide what might be best for you. It is crucial that you make your decision based on what you truly need to be able to reach and maintain recovery. Entering a treatment program that does not match the level of severity you’re experiencing in your illness can put you at a greater risk for relapse and a greater risk of serious harm. Addiction and mental illnesses can be deadly diseases.
What is Inpatient Treatment?
Inpatient treatment programs, also sometimes called residential treatment programs, aim to treat the most severe and complex addictions and disorders. They are full-time programs that are usually anywhere from 28 days to 6 months long. They provide patients with a controlled environment in which they can begin untangling the web of physical, emotional, and interpersonal havoc that their out-of-control conditions have wrought.
In an inpatient treatment facility, patients have no access to drugs or alcohol; so, the chances of them relapsing while they are in treatment are extremely low. They live at the treatment center—away from work, friends, and family— so that they can focus exclusively on working through their emotional trauma and behavioral and on developing new coping skills to help them succeed in their recovery.
A good inpatient treatment center will also offer 24-hour access to medical care. (The Meadows’ programs, for example, are certified by the Joint Commission, due to their commitment to excellence in providing medical services.) They also will have experienced well-qualified and credentialed psychologists, counselors, and psychiatrists available to assess patients, develop individualized treatment programs for them, and meet with patients individually and in group settings.
It is also ideal for inpatient programs to have a family component, to extend the healing process to throughout the patient’s family and help them learn how to build a stronger support system for one another. The Meadows has a Family Week, for example, where family members are invited to join the patient on campus and work with them through group and individual counseling sessions.
What is Outpatient Treatment?
Outpatient treatment programs are part-time programs usually requiring 4 – 10 hours per week of meetings including individual and group therapy that focus on the development of real-world coping skills for maintaining sobriety. Outpatient programs typically last for three to six months.
Patients who are in an outpatient program can continue to work, attend school, and even live at home; though, sometimes it is recommended that patients stay in transitional, sober living housing where they can get additional support from their peers in recovery and get away from any undue influences enabling their addictions. Meetings and counseling sessions at an outpatient center are typically held at night or in the early morning so that people can continue on with regular daily schedules.
Outpatient treatment is not the right choice for everyone. Addiction professionals typically do not recommend outpatient treatment to those who face a high level of danger from their particular disorders. Outpatient treatment can, however, be a good option for someone with a mild addiction, or for someone “stepping down” from inpatient treatment. Many people in recovery choose to transition from inpatient rehab to an intensive outpatient or outpatient program so that they can practice applying the skills they learned in inpatient treatment to the real-world while still getting the extra support and guidance they need.
What Is the Difference between Outpatient and Intensive Outpatient?
Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) fall somewhere between inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment. The main difference between an outpatient program and an intensive outpatient program is the amount of time spent in treatment and related activities each week. Many IOPs require at least 12 hours per week, sometimes more. The Meadows IOP, for example, requires three hours of group therapy per day, four days per week; an individual therapy session each week, and an hour long psychiatry session each week.
IOPs are great for people who need a higher level of care than a non-intensive outpatient program can provide, but whose conditions aren’t quite severe enough to require an inpatient program. They are also great for those who are transitioning from an inpatient program and into full independent living.
Both inpatient and outpatient programs offer services such as individual counseling sessions, therapeutic groups, 12 step meetings and family therapy. A good IOP will also offer a number of additional support services, like weekly individual meetings with psychiatrists, small groups lead by experienced and well-trained therapists, expressive arts, yoga, and more.
Get The Help You Need
Addiction, depression, anxiety and other behavioral health disorders are often described as chronic illnesses; Recovery from them is a continual process. It is not unusual for a person on the severe end of the spectrum to need to complete both an inpatient and an outpatient program. It is also not unusual for a person on the “mild” to “moderate” to scale to need only an outpatient program.
The most important thing is to be honest with yourself about what your needs are. It can be difficult to leave your friends, family, or job behind for a month or more to enter inpatient treatment or to move into sober living housing for an IOP. But, as hard as making that change can be, living with an addiction or disorder if often even harder, both on you and on the people you love. Make sure you get the kind of treatment you need and deserve.
The Meadows has four different inpatient programs in Wickenburg, Arizona helping people overcome drug and alcohol addiction, sex addiction, eating disorders and many other mood disorders and personality disorders. The Meadows also has an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) in the beautiful McDowell mountains of Scottsdale, Arizona, that is perfect for those transitioning from inpatient treatment or entering recovery for the first time.
If you need help but aren’t sure where to start, please call one of our Intake coordinators today. They can help you determine which program may be right for you. 800-244-4949.