According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s (ASAM) continuum of addiction treatment, levels one and two consist of outpatient drug rehabilitation programs.
Outpatient rehab programs may help people with addiction who have already completed an inpatient rehab program, or who are in the continuing care phase of recovery.
At each level of outpatient care, you can access addiction treatment services to meet your individual needs.
How Does Outpatient Treatment For Addiction Work?
Outpatient treatment programs allow you to live your life with as little interruption as possible. People frequently continue to work and spend time with family and friends throughout treatment.
You may go through an initial evaluation process and receive a suggested treatment plan, but the types of treatment you engage with are largely up to you.
Outpatient Counseling Services
Outpatient counseling is one of the most common forms of outpatient treatment. Depending on your preferences, you may engage in group or individual sessions.
Individual counseling usually involves a form of talk therapy. This is a forum where you are free to discuss the challenges you’re facing and the ways they relate to addiction.
Substance abuse can cause you to act in ways you later regret, which may significantly damage your most important relationships.
Many outpatient programs offer couples and family therapy to help address that harm and create a path forward while you undergo additional addiction treatment.
Group therapy sessions and support groups can be a useful tool for people who feel isolated by their addiction.
In the setting provided by programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, you can share your experiences and listen to others who are going through similar moments in their lives.
For many people, these groups provide a sense of community and solidarity that can help bolster efforts to lead a sober life.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Dual diagnosis treatment is a specialized kind of individual therapy that is reserved for people who have co-occurring disorders.
Mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia commonly occur alongside substance use disorders, and they require targeted treatment.
Behavioral health programs and other dual diagnosis treatment tools are used to address both conditions simultaneously for better long-term outcomes.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is usually available through outpatient programs that work alongside clinics with the appropriate accreditations.
MAT is typically used to assist people who are addicted to alcohol or opiates. Depending on the type of medication, it may block the high, minimize withdrawal symptoms, and reduce cravings.
Methadone is an oral opioid that is administered to people who want to avoid the more serious side effects of drug use.
The drug is administered daily to block the high associated with opioid use and to reduce withdrawal and cravings. It provides safe access, not independence from opioid addiction.
While some may choose to use methadone maintenance as a long-term treatment, others combine methadone maintenance with other addiction treatments to eventually achieve recovery.
Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. It is technically an opioid, but it does not produce the high associated with other opiates.
Suboxone therapy can be useful during detox, as it reduces the risk of serious withdrawal symptoms and helps to make cravings more manageable.
Naltrexone is used to treat alcohol addiction as well as opioid addiction. In both cases, this medication actively blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of illicit drugs.
By removing the feeling of reward in the brain associated with drug and alcohol use, naltrexone treatment can break down chemical dependency.
It also makes it easier for some people to work through drug and alcohol treatment.
Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
Most low-intensity outpatient programs only meet for a couple of hours per week, but that isn’t necessarily enough for some people.
If you would like the flexibility of an outpatient program but feel that you need more frequent access to care, intensive outpatient treatment may be the right fit for you.
IOPs typically meet a few times per week for a couple of hours at a time. Treatment plans are more structured to meet your needs.
Day treatment is the next step up from an IOP on the ASAM’s continuum of care.
These addiction recovery programs usually provide four to six hours of treatment three or four days per week.
It is not always possible to continue working while enrolled in day treatment, but you will still have the ability to rest in the comfort of your own home each day.
Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)
The most intense outpatient addiction treatment program is partial hospitalization. A PHP usually consists of almost daily treatment for a majority of the day in a clinical setting.
The advantage of a PHP is that you will not be isolated from family and friends when you aren’t actively in treatment. It’s a great option for those with a strong support system at home.
Are Harm Reduction Programs A Form Of Outpatient Treatment?
Harm reduction programs do not provide outpatient treatment with the express intention of encouraging sobriety.
These programs exist primarily to make substance use safer until you’re ready to pursue treatment on your own.
To this end, harm reduction programs provide overdose reversal education, fentanyl testing strips, STI prevention and testing, as well as sterile injection and smoking kits.
Aftercare Services And Relapse Prevention
More than half of all people who go through addiction treatment will relapse at some point in their lives. Most of those cases occur in the first 90 days of sobriety.
Aftercare and relapse prevention programs are outpatient services that many rehab centers offer to provide continued support and reduce the rate of relapse.
While the nature of these services may vary depending on your location and program, there are several approaches that are commonly used.
Aftercare Counseling Services
Outpatient counseling services can provide a necessary outlet for someone in recovery. By helping you deal with emotional stress, your therapist can help reduce the risk of relapse.
Stress is one of the most common reasons that people relapse. If you are having a hard time finding gainful employment, that stress could make it more difficult to resist cravings.
To prevent that from happening, some rehab programs offer vocational classes and life-skills training to help you find work and housing.
Isolation is another major factor in relapse. Aftercare services often offer opportunities for community involvement to provide a healthy outlet and a social network.
FAQs For Outpatient Addiction Treatment
If you’re wondering whether an outpatient treatment option is the right fit for your substance use disorder, consider answers to the following frequently asked questions.
Why Should You Choose Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment?
Outpatient substance abuse treatment is an effective option for people who have stable housing and a strong support system at home.
While your ability to work and take part in daily activities may be somewhat impaired by outpatient treatment, it does allow you to maintain a daily connection with your family at home.
Is Outpatient Addiction Treatment As Effective As Inpatient Treatment?
Outpatient treatment can be just as effective as inpatient substance abuse treatment under the right circumstances.
An outpatient treatment center may not necessarily be the best choice for someone experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms or a serious co-occurring health issue.
A referral from your physician or an assessment with your rehab program of choice can help you to make an informed decision based on your personal medical history.
How Long Will I Need To Be In Outpatient Treatment?
Outpatient treatment is more likely to be long-term, because addiction is a chronic condition that requires ongoing treatment.
While you may gradually decrease the intensity of your care, you may find it necessary to attend a support group or other form of casual outpatient care whenever you feel you may relapse.
How Much Does An Outpatient Rehab Program Cost?
The cost of outpatient addiction treatment varies dramatically depending on the intensity of the program.
While a structured IOP costs between $3,000 and $10,000 per month without Medicaid or private insurance, there are many outpatient options available for free or at little to no cost on a short-term basis.
Find Substance Use Treatment Today
If you or a loved one needs treatment for a substance use disorder, call our helpline to learn more about outpatient treatment programs that may be right for you.
Published on October 5, 2022
Free Rehab Centers aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) — About the ASAM Criteria
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction: Drug Facts
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)