outpatient drug rehab

Receiving treatment for drug or alcohol abuse is not always a straightforward solution. For many, it can be an overwhelming step that seems unclear at first. Addiction and alcoholism recovery are highly personal and unique journeys that require tailored solutions to ensure complete treatment. Each person has their own set of individual circumstances that led them to substance abuse, and the path to recovery is just as unique.

The reality is not everyone who suffers from substance abuse seeks out the treatment necessary for a stable, successful recovery. There are 23.5 million Americans with substance abuse problems. Of this total, only 2.6 million of these people received their treatment in a specialized rehab facility.

Despite a low percentage of people who suffer from addiction actually receiving the treatment required, there are plenty of forms of treatment available. Varying forms of treatment can even be combined together to create the most appropriate and personal form of rehabilitation for each patient.

With growing awareness and support for addiction and alcohol abuse recovery, there are now more opportunities for you to seek specialized help that works for you. One such form of treatment is called outpatient rehab, and it can be a successful option for people starting or continuing their recovery journey.

outpatient alcohol rehab

What is Outpatient Rehab?

Outpatient rehab is a form of addiction treatment that is becoming a more widely available and flexible solution. In 2013, over 1.7 million people in the United States chose outpatient rehab as their form of addiction treatment program. There are many reasons why those who suffer from substance abuse problems may opt for this form of treatment. The lowered expense and schedule accommodation make outpatient rehab an appealing choice for many who are taking their first steps to recovery.

Outpatient rehab is a broad form of addiction treatment whereby the person attends rehab sessions by traveling to a health facility. The person is then able to return home the same day. This differs from inpatient treatment, where the person stays at the facility for a pre-determined length of time and undergoes full-time treatment.

Outpatient rehab for substance abuse can take many forms. It is common for people to combine many different outpatient rehab options to create a treatment plan that addresses all their individual needs. Outpatient rehab treatments may change for some over time, while others may find one form that suits them and stick with it long-term.

Flexibility is often a deciding factor when outpatient rehab is selected, as it is appealing to those who are starting their recovery process. In the initial stages of treatment, clients and their families have limited knowledge of what to expect, and so the ability to attend sessions on a flexible basis helps everyone involved to adapt better. This mitigates the feeling of being too overwhelmed at first.

what is outpatient rehab

Alternatively, it is common that those who undergo outpatient rehab have already been through inpatient rehab. These people still continue to benefit from regular sessions while living their personal and family lives at home.

How Does Outpatient Rehab Work?

In outpatient therapy, there are typically a set number of hours, visits or sessions required per week. However, this will vary depending on you and your unique needs and circumstances:

how does outpatient rehab work

  • Some people choose to attend sessions every day, with some sessions taking place multiple times per day.
  • On the other hand, some choose to only attend sessions once per week, which can be the case as the health of the patient in question improves.
  • It is common for outpatient rehab sessions to be gradually scaled back over time as the treatments begin to produce positive results and frequent visits are no longer required.

Whatever the schedule, it is advised for a person being treated with outpatient rehab methods to work with a team of health care providers such as a therapist, a doctor and a nurse. A set schedule is usually recommended to keep you in a positive mindset and focused on your recovery goals.

In general, outpatient rehab treatment for addiction is more effective if you have strong support from friends and family as well as their employer. A locally available and accessible recovery support community is also an important consideration when choosing outpatient rehab for either drug or alcohol treatment. Because of the nature of outpatient treatment, you will generally need transportation to and from rehab. This means flexibility in your personal life will be necessary to ensure regular attendance.

If you are unable to leave your family, work or school for extended lengths of time, then outpatient rehab is often a treatment solution chosen out of convenience. It allows you to remain at home and potentially choose a treatment schedule that accommodates your personal commitments. Outpatient rehab can combine a variety of treatment approaches to work around your schedule while still maintaining a pre-set treatment program such as the 12 steps.

Outpatient vs. Inpatient Rehab

When choosing a drug or alcohol rehab program, it is important to weigh all your options. One of the major choices to make at the beginning of your path to recovery is to decide which form of rehabilitation is right for you. While outpatient rehab may be right for some, inpatient rehab will be appropriate for others. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may be advised to begin by comparing these two general treatment paths.

There are many reasons why recovering addicts choose outpatient rehab as their form of treatment. Here are some benefits of selecting an outpatient rehab program for substance abuse treatment:

  • Reduces expenses, as there is no cost of living incurred with treatment
  • Provides more freedom to accommodate personal schedules
  • Offers greater convenience for families who may become impacted when the patient leaves for extended periods of time
  • Alleviates stress of being away from home and absorbing large financial costs
  • Creates a sense of control, allowing you to feel in charge of your treatment

While outpatient rehab does offer tremendous benefits, including flexibility and convenience both personally and financially, there are other factors to consider that may impact the final decision. With outpatient rehab programs, the person doesn’t have access to a fully-invested setting. This means they won’t experience the benefits a full-time treatment atmosphere can provide through inpatient rehab.

Inpatient rehab is an intensive treatment program that generally requires a full-time and potentially long-term (up to 6 months) stay within a medical or health facility. Inpatient rehab programs provide a round-the-clock and fully personalized treatment plan. These full-time addiction treatment facilities are intended to remove you from your surroundings and place you into a safe, positive and healthy environment. The goal of this setting is to offer you the correct tools that are necessary to complete recovery.

Without full-time treatment, health care providers are often unable to perform full assessments and analyses at the most in-depth level possible. Typically in a full-time rehab environment, you will receive a well-rounded and routine treatment plan that includes physical activity and nutrition planning, as well as an emphasis on mental and spiritual wellbeing. Not to mention, inpatient treatment has medical staff available whenever support may be necessary.

Inpatient rehab can help you form bonds with other recovering addicts and alcoholics. This environment encourages fun and positivity, which may or may not be received at home. While outpatient treatment does provide opportunities for families to be greatly involved, inpatient treatment encourages periodic family visits. Family participation builds communication, understanding and empathy, and can be extremely rewarding for both you and your family members.

does outpatient rehab work

Does Outpatient Rehab Work for Women and Youths?

When considering the needs of female patients, inpatient rehab can be especially beneficial for women as a way to remain safe and secure during the period of recovery. An inpatient rehab environment may be more conducive to encouraging women to accept themselves and rebuild strength and independence without fear or threat of violence. Residing within a secured and supportive setting is vital to the recovery process and building self-esteem.

As for the 1.3 million youths ages 12 to 17 who require treatment for illicit drug or alcohol use, outpatient treatment is typically a more beneficial option to both the young person and their families. Young people will still have important school obligations they will need to meet, which will further lead to successful recovery. The more productive the young person can remain during treatment, the better equipped they will be to maintain their progress.

outpatient vs inpatient rehab

How Do You Find the Right Outpatient Rehab Program?

When choosing to pursue treatment for substance abuse, it is important to determine your needs based on the addiction. It is recommended to have a medical care provider involved at the beginning of recovery. They will likely determine whether or not outpatient rehab is even a suitable course of action. This determination generally occurs based on a unique set of needs, including severity of addiction and level of risk of self-harm.

If you are considering choosing outpatient rehab for your drug or alcohol treatment, there are few points you’ll want to consider before making your final decision.

  • Where is the outpatient treatment located?
  • How far will you have to travel to attend your sessions?
  • What are the exact forms of treatment offered?
  • Does the facility have experience with your form of addiction?
  • Does the treatment schedule align with yours and your family’s?
  • Is there a regular and routine schedule to follow?
  • Are the sessions well-rounded and do they align with the 12 step program?
  • What are the qualifications and experience levels of the health care providers?
  • What are the costs associated?

Forms of Outpatient Drug Rehab

There are many forms of outpatient treatment, all with their own set of benefits. The form of outpatient rehab you select will largely depend on your needs and what a health care provider has determined is appropriate for your condition.

Oftentimes private health insurance will not fully cover the cost of inpatient rehab as a primary choice for treatment. Private health insurance providers may ask you to pursue other forms of available treatment, such as outpatient treatment, before authorizing the coverage of inpatient treatment.

Intensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Programs

Intensive outpatient treatment offers frequent and regular sessions, such as daily 12-step meetings or meetings occurring at least three times per week. These meetings are typically 2-4 hours in length and take place after school or work. Intensive outpatient rehab sessions are:

  • Aimed at relapse prevention
  • Encourage adherence to the 12-step program

In intensive outpatient rehab programs, you will continue your education about addiction and benefit from a strong support network. There is also an emphasis on how to manage anxiety levels and encourage healthy lifestyle habits.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)

When a person undergoes partial hospitalization, it is because they require regular medical assessments and monitoring but can continue to reside at home full time in a stable environment. The person is required to attend sessions at the hospital on a regular basis. This usually occurs three or more times per week for 4-6 hours each time. This model of treatment is beneficial for acute conditions and is effective at keeping costs down.

Individualized Counseling and Therapy

Therapy and counseling are an important part of recovery. This is generally suggested as an ongoing form of treatment, potentially after inpatient treatment has been completed. After rehabilitation, there is typically a transition period where you will need to learn how to cope with cravings as well as reintegrate socially.


Counseling and therapy will also involve family sessions in addition to the individual treatment. With therapy and counseling, you are able to discuss your concerns and explore more ways to establish best practices for mental wellbeing.

Day Treatment

Day treatment is the most full time form of outpatient rehab available without receiving inpatient treatment. Day treatment is when you are expected to check in to the outpatient rehab facility and remain there all day. You will then return home at night.

Day treatment typically offers the highest level of outpatient rehabilitation, as there is more time spent in sessions. There may also be a greater variety of options available with day treatment, such as physical activity, nutrition and diet, mediation, yoga and more.

How Do You Know Whether You Need Inpatient or Outpatient Rehab?

Choosing between inpatient vs. outpatient rehab is a personal choice that needs to be made based on all the factors outlined here. The answer may not always be clear, especially if this is your first time seeking treatment. In this case, you’ll want to discuss the options with people you trust:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Employer
  • Medical community

You may also choose to reach out to others who have been in similar situations and who can advise from personal experience.

Outpatient alcohol rehab programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous groups are important. They essentially create a referral network that can help save many people who would otherwise continue to suffer from the disease of alcoholism. In fact, many Alcoholics Anonymous members have been referred to the program by another member. This indicates the clear support for the program and its ability to successfully deliver the 12-step recovery program.

Outpatient rehab may be recommended or offered as an appropriate treatment form to people who are in the early stages of substance abuse and haven’t yet been severely or extremely impacted by addiction. Extreme addiction cases will typically require a full-time commitment and devotion to treatment and medical monitoring through inpatient rehab. This is also an important means of relapse prevention and self-harm reduction.

You may still be uncertain which treatment format is right for you, even after pursuing a variety of outpatient rehab programs. In this case, it may be necessary to consult with your team of health care providers and counselors to determine if a period of inpatient treatment may be necessary when outpatient treatment proves to become a challenge to complete. A combination of the two forms of rehab may be ideal for certain people, depending on the severity of their conditions.

Choosing Your Addiction Recovery Program

The decision-making process can be overwhelming, and you and your family may not be clear on the expected outcomes of treatment. While statistics and findings on the actual success rates of the varying forms of treatment are hard to come by, it is clear to all involved in the mental health and addiction community that getting started on the right path to recovery at the beginning will drastically improve the ability to recover successfully.

Regardless of the selected treatment type, there are basic factors that will greatly influence the success of recovery. These factors include attendance of at least 90 days of treatment, participation in support groups or community meetings, family support and stable home environments, and how individualized the treatment plan is.

It’s important to understand recovery doesn’t end when the treatment program concludes. Recovery is a lifelong process that must evolve over time. Ideally, the recovery journey will include a variety of practices that will improve your life physically, mentally and spiritually.

does outpatient rehab work

Ultimately, the goal of any drug or alcohol addiction treatment should be to return you to a healthy, productive, socially active member of society. It should help you to become more fulfilled in your work life as well as in your interactions with friends, family and the community in general. Whichever treatment can help you achieve this in a steady and positive way is likely the correct treatment for you to pursue.

To help determine which program is right for you, view our list of top-ranked rehab centers.