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An Explanation of Outpatient Rehab Programs and How They Work

While getting treated for alcoholism or substance abuse, you may worry you will have to neglect your responsibilities at home, work, or school. However, outpatient treatment programs may allow you to get the help and support you need on a part-time basis that fits into your schedule. An inpatient treatment program requires you to put your life on hold, but an outpatient program allows you to continue to do things without taking a leave of absence.

Let’s examine outpatient treatment programs to understand how they work and when they are considered the right choice.

What Is Outpatient Treatment Rehab? 

Patients in outpatient rehab programs live at home or in a sober living residence during the day and commute to the treatment facility for additional support and structure to address their addiction problems. Unlike inpatient treatment, outpatient rehab programs allow freedom of movement and have less restrictive time requirements.

Who Should Enroll in Outpatient Rehab? 

Finding the right drug and alcohol rehab center depends upon what kind of treatment you need. Outpatient drug and alcohol treatment is most suited to people who have:

  • A strong support system from family and friends
  • Mild or moderate symptoms of addiction
  • Minor risk of withdrawal with medical complications
  • Encouragement to attend the meetings regularly and stick to the treatment
  • Having transportation to attend meetings regularly

How Does Outpatient Treatment Work? 

Before the program starts, a person with addiction problems meets with a staff member of the facility to create a treatment plan. The plan includes the treatment goal to make therapy more effective. The rehab staff member will ask several questions about the patient’s addiction. Here are a few dimensions that are assessed during the intake process.

  1. Severe intoxicant and withdrawal potential: explore the person’s past and present experience of the substance use and withdrawal.
  2. Biomedical conditions and difficulties: study the person’s current health and medical history.
  3. Communication or mental health conditions and problems: look at the person’s thoughts, emotions, and mental health issues.
  4. Willingness to change: explore how eager and prepared the person is to change his or her behavior.
  5. Relapse potential and continuation of drug use: study the person’s unique relationship with relapse, his or her continual use of substances, and other problems.
  6. Recovery and living environment: explore the person’s living situation, and the people, places, and things that intermingle with it.

Once the treatment plan is established, you will receive information about the rules you are expected to follow for the duration of the program. Many outpatient rehabilitation programs, for example, involve regular drug testing to ensure that you are not taking drugs or drinking alcohol while receiving treatment. Anyone who enlists in outpatient treatment is expected to attend therapy sessions regularly.

Outpatient program treatment and requirements may vary for different individuals. Some patients may be required to attend the sessions a few hours a week or several hours a day. These programs may also offer medical care and prescribe medications.

Various Kinds of Treatment in Outpatient Rehab Programs

The type of treatment usually depends on the facility. Here are a few options that can help patients based on their needs.

  1. General Outpatient Program (GOP) – This program is the least intensive level of outpatient care, helping to prepare patients for a life in meaningful long-term recovery. It gives patients the tools they need to be sober at home and in their communities. General outpatient care continues for an undetermined time or until the therapist or family determines that GOP level of care is no longer required.
  2. Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) – This type of outpatient program is most suitable for people who want to recover from alcohol or drugs but still need time for work or to carry out other daily tasks. An intensive outpatient program requires multiple sessions for a few hours each week.
  3. Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) – This program is suited to patients who require an intensive level of treatment. Individuals can receive medical monitoring during the day and return home at night. The family and caregivers of the addicted person should be on board with the treatment and be able to provide a safe and supportive home environment.

Benefits of Outpatient Rehab Programs 

From mild to moderate symptoms of addiction, outpatient treatment programs are ideal. Compared to inpatient programs, they are more accessible and adaptable. Here are a few reasons to consider an outpatient treatment center.

  • Access to Family: in outpatient rehab programs, you can enlist family involvement and support in the journey of abstinence.
  • Cost Affordability: You can live at home and get treatment for your drug or alcohol problem, and you do not have to pay for the high cost of an inpatient facility.
  • Flexibility: Outpatient treatment can often accommodate your schedule. This is advantageous for those who cannot leave their job or family for an extended period.


An outpatient treatment program is the best option for people in an early stage of addiction, have obligations and commitments in the community they cannot break, or need an aftercare program after inpatient rehab. Do some study to identify how long the therapy will take on average and what it entails. If you cannot commit to what they offer, you may become overwhelmed and give up, which is the exact opposite of the aim you are attempting to achieve.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

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About the Author: Dr. Boris Vaisman, MD, is a Family Medicine Specialist in Woodland Hills, CA. He graduated from the Ross University School of Medicine in 2003. He is affiliated with West Hills Hospital & Medical Center and specializes in Emergency Medicine and Family Medicine. He has unique insight into mood and behavioral disorders. He also writes blog posts about mental health and addiction. He has contributed many resources and research to substance abuse treatment centers and outpatient treatment centers.

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The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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