Outpatient rehab allows people to live at home and meet with various professionals for therapy and treatment.

Outpatient Rehab for Substance Use Disorders

An outpatient drug rehab is a good option for people who want to continue work or school during treatment. A person will have to travel daily, or a few times a week, to receive treatment. Outpatient treatment is flexible and may be effective for people suffering from mild addiction with a strong support system at home.

What Is Outpatient Rehab?

Outpatient drug and alcohol rehab is the least restrictive form of addiction treatment. Treatment is delivered in a variety of settings, including doctor’s offices, addiction clinics, or counseling centers.


People receiving outpatient treatment will likely meet with a behavioral counselor or addiction specialist on a regular basis. However, how often a person meets for therapy or treatment will depend on the individual, their needs, and level of addiction.

Most outpatient addiction rehab programs will consist of individual therapy, group therapy, or both. Behavioral therapy aims to change a person’s thinking and attitudes towards drugs, and will likely be the primary focus of outpatient care.

Examples of behavioral therapy offered during outpatient treatment include:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • motivational incentives
  • motivational interviewing
  • multidimensional family therapy

All therapies will encourage stopping the use of all substances, while also utilizing specific methods to understand their addiction. Behavioral therapy can help a person learn to cope with potential life stressors that may lead to further drug use.

Outpatient rehab programs are best for people who don’t have serious mental or physical health problems, have a good support system and stable home environment, and don’t put themselves or others at risk when they use drugs. They will likely spend fewer than 9 hours a week receiving treatment and will continue to live at home and travel to treatment.

By tailoring to the specific needs of each individual, outpatient therapy will likely vary from person to person. But, for people who may benefit from more meetings with therapists and counselors, and want an alternative to inpatient treatment, there are other more intensive outpatient treatment programs.

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs)

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are similar to other forms of outpatient care, but with one major difference: the person will meet with therapists and receive care more frequently.

While inpatient drug rehab is better suited for people suffering from severe addiction and other physical/mental impairments, IOPs are just as effective, if not more so. With an IOP, a person is likely to receive treatment for extended periods of time, sometimes lasting longer than routine stays at inpatient rehab.

IOPs are also effective for people because a person remains in their home environment. While living at home and functioning in daily life, a person may exercise newly learned behaviors from therapy.

When outpatient treatment is intensive, a person could receive treatment for other health or mental conditions. They will receive counseling and therapy for more than 9 hours each week, likely featuring a combination of group and individual therapy.

Intensive outpatient treatment is best for people who can get by with regular outpatient services but need more contact with therapists and counselors. IOPs are also effective as continued care, once a person is removed from 24-hour assistance at inpatient rehab. People in IOPs should have a stable home environment so further therapy is not jeopardized by the temptation to use drugs or alcohol.

An additional form of outpatient treatment are maintenance clinics, which offer unique services for those suffering from substance use disorder.

Opioid Maintenance Clinics

Maintenance clinics are outpatient services taking place in specially licensed clinics that provide various medications to treat opioid addiction. Buprenorphine and methadone are the medications likely offered at these clinics, and some may specialize in one or the other.

People travel to the clinics on a daily basis to receive methadone or buprenorphine to help reduce drug cravings. Over time, visits aim to be less frequent and dosage is likely reduced. The goal of these clinics is to wean a person off opioid dependence while avoiding symptoms of withdrawal.

Some clinics may also offer therapy, but services are likely infrequent. People attending methadone or buprenorphine maintenance clinics should seek therapy to further themselves in the recovery process.

Maintenance clinics are best for people struggling with long-term addiction to opioids. They must live close enough to the clinic so they can travel daily to receive medication. While services are likely to vary from place to place, there are some benefits of outpatient addiction rehab.

Benefits Of Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient treatment is a more flexible option than other forms of residential addiction treatment. Benefits of outpatient rehab include:

  • affordability
  • can last for long periods of time
  • can work or go to school
  • flexibility
  • individual focus
  • live at home
  • practice new behavior in a home environment
  • variety of therapies and professionals

Because of the flexibility of services, outpatient treatment may be a good option for some. However, there are certain difficulties and risks that come with outpatient care.

Difficulties Of Outpatient Drug Rehab

One major difficulty of outpatient rehab is a person will need consistent transportation to travel to and from therapy and may need to drive or take public transit on a daily basis.


A person also risks further using drugs or alcohol. Because they continue to live at home, they may become easily stressed out, potentially leading to more drugs or alcohol. If home life is unstable, the chances of relapse increase. If they do not have a strong support system at home or nearby, then remaining sober during therapy may prove difficult.

Addiction is a disease that requires constant care and attention. Having 24-hour professional support and care may improve a person’s chances for recovery. While intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are effective, outpatient services may still be unreachable when they need it the most.

Inpatient rehab, compared to outpatient rehab, limits all distractions and stressors commonly found in the outside world. There are pros and cons to each type of rehab.

Outpatient VS Inpatient Rehab

Choosing between outpatient and inpatient rehab is a tough choice, and the best option depends on the individual. Outpatient settings may provide treatment for longer periods of time, but inpatient rehab provides a stable environment for healing and growth.

Inpatient rehab can be expensive and take a person away from home, work, or school. While this is effective for people suffering from addiction, many people cannot afford to be away for so long.

Outpatient rehab is a good option but requires people to travel to receive therapy. Having access to around the clock, 24-hour medical care is not something offered by outpatient addiction rehab. With inpatient care, a person will not have to travel, additionally gaining access to medications, support staff, and a variety of therapies 24/7.

But, there is no right treatment for everyone, and IOPs are comparable in effectiveness to inpatient residential care. Living at home, and engaging in a diversity of therapy settings, can allow a person to practice their new behaviors within their community and environment, and learn to adjust as needed.

Call now to learn if outpatient or inpatient rehab is better for you or yours.



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