Outpatient drug and alcohol programs enable those seeking treatment to continue to live at home and go to work while getting help from professionals through various forms of therapy.

Outpatient Rehab Programs For Substance Use Disorders

For those who have responsibilities, such as work or school, that they can’t get away from for an extended period of time, outpatient rehab is a great treatment option. Outpatient rehab programs offer flexible treatment and are ideal for those with a mild substance use disorder who also have a healthy home environment and support system.

What Is Outpatient Treatment? 

Outpatient alcohol or drug treatment is the most flexible way to receive help for a substance use disorder. Rather than living at a facility for an extended period of time, the patient is able to attend regular therapy sessions with a professional and/or attend group counseling with others recovering from addiction.

How often an individual will meet with a therapist or in a group setting will depend on his or her situation and level of addiction, but outpatient treatment typically requires the patient to attend sessions at least a few times a week.

One of the most common forms of outpatient treatment is behavioral therapy, which can consist of:

  • motivational interviewing (MI) and incentives
  • individual, group, and family therapy
  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • aversion therapy

Behavioral therapy focuses on helping the person overcome his or her addiction to drugs or alcohol while also encouraging an understanding of the addiction and how it came about in the first place. This form of therapy also provides people with the tools needed to cope with life and stressors in a healthy and effective way without resorting to drugs or alcohol.

Outpatient treatment is most appropriate for those who have a stable and supportive home environment and who do not have severe mental or physical issues. Individuals will likely spend an average of nine hours receiving outpatient treatment, so a healthy home and work life outside of therapy is key to lasting recovery.

Hours Spent In Outpatient Rehab

Because outpatient treatment is catered to each individual’s unique needs, the exact therapy and treatment a patient receives will vary from person to person. For those who require a more intensive form of therapy but are unable to attend an inpatient program, intensive outpatient treatment is an alternative option.

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)

Intensive outpatient drug and alcohol programs are very similar in the treatment methods offered by regular outpatient programs but require the patient to meet with a therapist or group more frequently.

While inpatient treatment is often suggested and most effective for those with a severe substance use disorder, intensive outpatient programs can provide a similar structure and level of care for those who are unable to attend inpatient care due to responsibilities or other life circumstances. Intensive outpatient treatment provides patients with ongoing and intensive therapy that can last longer than a routine stay at an inpatient treatment facility.

Intensive outpatient programs also give the individual the opportunity to begin to exercise the newly learned coping mechanisms in his or her daily life. This is different from inpatient treatment, where patients are removed from their regular activities and responsibilities for an extended period of time and are then reintroduced to daily life all at once.

An intensive outpatient program will often provide treatment for both mental and substance use disorders, usually through a combination of individual, group, and family therapies. Intensive care generally requires more than nine hours a week and sessions can be held at various times throughout the day.

Additionally, intensive outpatient programs can be used as a form of aftercare for those who have recently completed a successful stay at an inpatient rehab center. Individuals can live at home if their home environment is solid, or can live in a sober environment such as a halfway house, while receiving continued care through an intensive outpatient program.

Opioid Maintenance Clinics

For those addicted to opioids who need medical support in addition to outpatient treatment, maintenance clinics provide various medications to treat opioid addiction. Buprenorphine (Suboxone) and methadone are the most common medications offered at maintenance clinics and produce a similar effect in the brain as opioids, making it easier for a person to withdraw and reduce drug cravings.

Suboxone And Methadone In Outpatient Rehab

The goal of maintenance clinics is to gradually wean a person off opioids until the medication is no longer necessary. Patients will generally visit the clinic each day to receive their medication. The dose of medication provided will slowly be lowered and then stopped completely to enable the individual to begin a life free from any drugs.

Maintenance clinics are ideal for those struggling with severe or long-term opioid addiction and provide an effective means to withdrawing from this substance safely and comfortably. Because a patient must visit the clinic daily to receive medication, finding a clinic close to home is important to ensure continued care.

Benefits Of Outpatient Treatment For Drug Addiction 

Outpatient treatment can provide many benefits for those struggling with a substance use disorder. It offers greater flexibility when compared to inpatient programs, as the patient can continue to live at home and go to work or school while receiving treatment.

In addition to flexibility, other benefits of outpatient drug and alcohol treatment include:

  • a more affordable treatment option
  • a primary focus on the individual
  • treatment that is designed to fit the patient’s unique needs and situation
  • the ability to continue to work or go to school
  • the ability to continue living at home
  • the opportunity to practice newly learned behaviors in the home and work/school environment
  • the chance to work with a number of different therapists and professionals

Outpatient vs Inpatient Rehab

While outpatient treatment can provide numerous benefits for many people living with a substance use disorder, there can be difficulties that arise with this form of care.

Difficulties Of Outpatient Alcohol And Drug Programs 

One factor of outpatient treatment that can be a disadvantage for some people is that a reliable form of transportation is needed to get to and from the facility on a daily basis.

Additionally, because the individual is continuing to live at home, the risk of using drugs or alcohol exists. If the home environment is unstable or enabling, this can cause stress and lead to relapse. Having a strong, supportive home environment is imperative to maximizing the success of an outpatient program.

Also, outpatient drug and alcohol treatment by nature does not provide 24-hour care. Having 24-hour personal care is beneficial to many people with a substance use disorder, as addiction often requires around-the-clock attention to improve the chances of recovery. While outpatient programs may provide a successful means of recovery for many, inpatient treatment may be the best option for those with a more severe substance use disorder who need support throughout the day and night.

Outpatient Vs. Inpatient Drug And Alcohol Treatment

The type of treatment that will be most beneficial depends on the individual and his or her specific needs and condition. Outpatient programs offer longer-term treatment that is more flexible and allows the person to continue living at home, while inpatient treatment provides an intensive program in a residential setting for an extended period of time.

There is no one right form of treatment. Intensive outpatient programs provide many benefits and allow those who cannot leave behind responsibilities the chance to start a new life in recovery. If you are unsure which treatment type is best for you, contact us today.

Our specialists will work with you to determine which treatment program is ideal for your unique situations and needs, and we can even help you select a facility that’s right for you.


Center on Addiction — Guide To Finding Quality Addiction Treatment

National Institute on Drug Abuse — Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction

U.S. National Library of Medicine — Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient Programs: Assessing the Evidence