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What is Outpatient Rehab?

Determining the most appropriate method to deal with a substance abuse disorder can be a daunting proposition. Outpatient rehab is one tool and it can be used under a variety of circumstances. Some people may enter an outpatient program after spending time at an inpatient facility. This helps them become more equipped to implement the tools they learned during inpatient. On the other hand, others may prefer to directly enter into an outpatient program or to attend outpatient therapy along with medically assisted treatment.

People who need help frequently delay the necessary treatment. Reasons they do this may be because they can’t be away from their family or work for extended time periods. Oftentimes, taking time away from day-to-day life just isn’t practical. Outpatient rehab may be a more realistic option for someone with a substance abuse issue who doesn’t have the ability to take the time to enter an inpatient program.

Outpatient Rehab

The Benefits of Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient rehab allows patients the opportunity to stay in their normal living environment while providing a structured therapy regime consisting of peer engagement. Progression through an outpatient program can be evaluated by professionals regularly. They’ll ensure the proper amount of progress is being made in sobriety. In addition, outpatient programs commonly give random drug tests. They do this to increase accountability and determine how a patient progresses into sobriety.

While inpatient rehab is intensive, outpatient rehabs are part-time programs allowing the person in recovery to work their job and live at home during the day. One main difference between inpatient and outpatient treatment is that inpatient programs offer a safe environment. In other words, they isolate patients struggling with substance abuse disorder from potential triggers that could adversely affect their recovery. Patients in outpatient are largely on their own. They are in their own homes and are frequently still in the environment in which they were using. Participants must maintain their motivation to maintain sobriety, which is more difficult than being at an inpatient facility.

With that being said, outpatient programs do assist participants in developing a support system through official support groups, as well as in group therapy sessions. For example, outpatient programs commonly house regular 12-Step meetings to provide support. Outpatient participants have the ability to form a solid support system of peers in therapy sessions and sponsors from 12-Step programs if they are willing to commit to building this network. Therefore, outpatient therapy can be an attractive option for some people.

Levels and Types of Outpatient Rehab

On the whole, there are several styles of outpatient treatment. The most intense is called a “PHP” or “Partial Hospitalization Program.” This usually involves 24 or more hours a week of group and individual therapy. After that is an “IOP,” or “Intensive Outpatient Program.” While it includes the word “intensive,” it’s not as intensive as inpatient treatment. It can vary but usually includes half days of treatment for 3 to 5 days a week. The next level is “OP,” for “Outpatient Program.” This step down from IOP is when you only attend treatment 1 or 2 half days a week.

Overall, outpatient treatment programs can last for as much as 10 to 12 weeks as recovering addicts move through the different types of program. This “step-down” approach helps people slowly adjust to their clean and sober life. Some people may even continue to attend an “aftercare program” which would be a once a week group meeting of alumni of the treatment facility (or something similarly). Usually outpatient rehab at a treatment facility involves only one or two groups. The people in the group can change based on half vs full day or by the day of the week.

SAMHSA’s Four Dimensions

Above all, community is what’s most important on the road to recovery. In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) there are four major dimensions that support recovery:

Health—overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) or symptoms and making informed, healthy choices that support physical and emotional well-being.

Home—having a stable and safe place to live.

Purpose—conducting meaningful daily activities and having the independence, income, and resources to participate in society.

Community—having relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.


Inpatient Rehab VS. Outpatient Rehab


  1. Participant stays at facility
  2. Statistically more successful 
  3. More costly
  4. Disrupts life routine
  5. Around the clock support
  6. Last between 28 days to six months
  7. Designed for serious addiction treatment
  8. Removes the distractions of daily life


  1. Participant stays at home and goes to treatment multiple times a week
  2. Statistically less successful
  3. Less costly
  4. Keeps a person’s daily routine
  5. Participant more responsible for developing their support system
  6. Lasts anywhere from a few months to over a year
  7. Designed for less severe or mild addiction
  8. Eight to twelve hours of treatment each week
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