What is Outpatient Rehab?

What is Outpatient Rehab?

Substance use disorders affect each person differently and a variety of treatment options are available to meet these different needs.1 As one progresses through substance abuse treatment, they’ll experience different types of treatment types. One of these treatment types is outpatient rehab.

While one may experience both outpatient and detox, they two are quite different. The purpose of detox is to let the body rid itself of any substances and ensure the safety of the individual during withdrawal.1, 2 Outpatient rehab is focused on treating the addiction by teaching people a variety of skills, including coping with stressors and triggers, relapse prevention, communication, problem-solving, and stress management.1, 3 Outpatient rehab also usually occurs later on in the recovery process, after detox and inpatient treatment is complete.

While outpatient treatment can be an effective treatment method for many people, it is not a replacement for detox.1  If you stop drinking or using substances and begin to experience withdrawal symptoms, detox is the best option to start with before seeking outpatient treatment. This allows you to receive treatment for withdrawal first.

Who is Outpatient Rehab For?

Outpatient treatment can be especially helpful for certain types of people struggling with substance use disorders. These include:

  • People who have completed higher levels of care, such as inpatient treatment.5  Outpatient services offer a step-down level of care that allows people to transition back into their home environment and usual routine while still receiving treatment and support as they adjust.
  • People who have substance use disorders that aren’t severe enough to require inpatient treatment, but who still require treatment and support to stay sober after detox.5  This also applies to people who may not be able to take the time to spend away from home, such as single parents or those with jobs that they can’t take time away from.
  • People who have recently relapsed or are concerned about relapsing, especially after completing treatment recently.
  • Loved ones of people with substance use disorders, as they can also benefit from outpatient treatment. Many programs offer family counseling sessions and support groups. This can provide valuable information on how they can best help a loved one dealing with a substance use disorder.

Benefits of Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment has an array of benefits. One of the first questions people may ask when considering treatment is how much does outpatient rehab cost? Luckily, outpatient rehab is relatively affordable, as one is not paying for room, board, and around-the-clock supervision.1, 5

Flexibility is another benefit of outpatient treatment. Groups and individual sessions can be scheduled at times that are convenient for those in attendance.4 This means that treatment can be provided at various times, such as in the morning, afternoon, evening, or even on weekends in some cases.

The flexibility offered in scheduling allows patients to participate in their daily routine with limited or no interruption while still receiving effective treatment for a substance use disorder. This means that they can attend school or work and manage responsibilities at home while in treatment. This can also ease the transition process, as it helps patients learn to manage stressors at home, school, and work by allowing them to use the skills they learn in treatment.

Finally, outpatient treatment generally lasts longer than any other type of treatment.5 Studies have shown that spending a minimum of 90 days in treatment has a positive impact on sobriety, and longer periods of treatment are associated with better outcomes.1  Attending longer periods of outpatient treatment can lead to long-term sobriety.1 There are no set lengths for outpatient treatment. Generally, the length will vary depending on what an individual needs.

Types of Outpatient Treatment

There are three types of outpatient treatment available to meet the diverse needs of patients:

  • Intensive outpatient programs (IOP).
  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) or rehab day programs.
  • Traditional outpatient programs.

While these three treatment types fall under the umbrella term “outpatient,” they differ greatly in their intensity and methodology. It’s important to speak with a medical profession to determine which outpatient treatment type is right for you.

What is Intensive Outpatient & Partial Hospitalization?

An intensive outpatient program, or an IOP for short, is the most involved form of outpatient treatment and is a step-down from inpatient care.5 Treatment is provided in a clinic or office setting and consists of an average of 10 to 12 hours of group and individual counseling over 3 to 4 weekly sessions.3, 4, 5

Partial hospitalization programs, also known as PHPs or rehab day programs, are a more intensive type IOP for people with co-occurring substance use disorders and mental illness.4, 5  These programs offer at least 20 hours of weekly therapy in 5 to 7 weekly sessions and offer an alternative to inpatient care.4, 5 These programs provide a bridge to step down to traditional outpatient care as participants progress through treatment.3, 5

Traditional Outpatient: Continuing Care

Traditional outpatient treatment is similar to an IOP but less rigorous.3, 4  Group and individual sessions are offered in an office or facility setting, although sessions take up less than 9 hours weekly.3, 4 Treatment aims to help patients strengthen the skills that they have learned in higher levels of care and allows them to practice these skills in real-world situations.

How Do I Know If Outpatient is Right For Me?

It can be a very personal decision to decide whether outpatient treatment is right for you. Consulting with your physician or a medical professional is a good idea before making any treatment decisions. They can assess the severity of your substance use disorder and help determine the right direction for your treatment. Here are some things that may indicate that outpatient treatment could be a good choice for you:

  • You have already gone through detox or have stopped using substances.
  • You have already attended inpatient treatment.
  • You aren’t in crisis.

Are You Looking For Help Finding Treatment?

Finding an effective treatment facility isn’t as easy as searching online for a “30-day rehab program near me.” If you’re looking for assistance in finding a quality treatment provider, American Addiction Centers has you covered. We are one of the foremost providers of substance use disorder treatment in the United States. Our facilities offer a full spectrum of care, including detox, inpatient, and all levels of outpatient treatment. Rather than simply focusing on the addiction, American Addiction Centers treats each patient as an individual and care addresses mental health, physical health, and any other issues that may occur along with addiction. With facilities across the country, there is always a local option that is available for you.

Still Not Sure What’s Best For You?

At American Addiction Centers, we strive to help people who are struggling with substance use disorders find treatment, even if it isn’t at one of our facilities. We operate a free, confidential helpline that is available 24/7 and our staff is available to answer your questions whenever you’re ready. You can reach us at 1-888-935-1318. We’re ready to help. 

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (3rd edition).
  2. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2006). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series 45, DHHS Publication No. (SMA) 06-4131. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Treatment approaches for drug addiction.
  4. American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2019). What are the ASAM levels of care?
  5. McCarty, D., Braude, L., Lyman, D.R., Dougherty, R.H., Daniels, A.S., Ghose, S.S., & Delphin-Rittmon, M.E. (2014). Substance abuse intensive outpatient programs: Assessing the evidence. Psychiatric Services, 65(6), 718-726.