Standard outpatient programs are suited to individuals who have either just completed an inpatient program or are eager to continue regular therapy. It is also a step down from intensive outpatient programs (IOP) or partial hospitalization programs (PHP) and is ideal for people who are juggling other responsibilities such as work or school.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Treatment

If you’re unsure about whether you need inpatient or outpatient treatment, there are some key differences to bear in mind:


  • The client stays in the facility for an extended period
  • More expensive
  • 24-hour support is available (medical and emotional)
  • Program length is 30 days to 6 months
  • Best suited to individuals with severe addictions
  • No disruptions from external events or everyday life


  • The client stays at home and attends treatment during the day
  • More affordable
  • Emotional and social support are available
  • Program length is 3 to 12 months
  • Best suited to individuals with mild or moderate addictions
  • The client maintains regular day-to-day living and can see family/friends

Difference Between Inpatient, Outpatient, IOP, PHP

The primary difference between outpatient, intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, and inpatient is the degree of freedom to live at home and maintain a regular daily routine. More intensive therapies require more therapy hours, but standard outpatient may only take 4 to 6 hours per week. While inpatient provides 24-hour care and medical supervision, outpatient is ideal for clients who have mild or moderate addictions or who are tapering off more intensive therapy.

Outpatient programs can also take place in a variety of settings ranging from mental health clinics, community outreach centers, counselors’ offices, or in a rehab facility that offers a full spectrum of both inpatient and outpatient programs.

Outpatient Treatment Duration

Individuals typically report to a treatment center or clinic 1 or 2 hours per day several times per week. Therapy sessions are also usually 1 hour per week in standard outpatient treatment.

Outpatient Treatment Cost

Like all treatment programs, the cost can vary depending on whether the center provides basic or luxury amenities. However, most general outpatient programs cost between $5,000 and $10,000 for a 3-month program. Cost is also dependent on how often the patient visits the center and for how long.

What to Expect With Outpatient Treatment

couple holding hands treatment intake

Like intensive outpatient (IOP), outpatient treatment consists of a variety of programs and therapy options that you can have access to on certain days of the week. Treatment will usually be in the daytime, although some centers provide options for evening treatment as well.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Some inpatient facilities are also equipped to prescribe and administer medications for the treatment of specific addictions like opioids. They can also prescribe medications to help with some of the long-term withdrawal symptoms. Some of the more common medications include:

  • Methadone: helps reduce withdrawal symptoms and relieve cravings.
  • Buprenorphine: controls cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Naltrexone: blocks the effects of opioids and can discourage use.
  • Suboxone: is a combination of buprenorphine and naltrexone commonly used for opioid withdrawal and treatment.
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse): produces uncomfortable effects when someone drinks alcohol. This medication helps discourage future or continued use.
  • Antidepressants: these are sometimes used for patients who experience depression or anxiety following long-term substance abuse.

Types of Outpatient Treatment Therapy

Most outpatient programs provide a mixture of individual, group, and family counseling, as well as medication-led therapies.

Individual Therapy

Individual counseling can often include psychotherapy approaches such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT), and eye movement desensitization reprogramming (EMDR). These sessions are usually led by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or a trained addiction counselor. Advantages of individual therapy include:

  • Confidentiality
  • One-on-one attention from the therapist
  • More comprehensive and intense treatment compared to group therapy
  • The pace of therapy can be tailored to the client
  • Development of self-awareness
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Sessions can be arranged immediately (if needed)
  • Development of communication skills

Group Therapy

Group sessions are usually facilitated by an addiction specialist or counselor and can include topics such as the 12-Steps, coping skills, stress management, anger management, relapse prevention, and more. Some of the advantages of group therapy include:

  • Supportive environment
  • Development of interpersonal awareness
  • Increase in self-awareness
  • Fostering personal growth
  • Social skill development
  • Holding and learning accountability
  • Learning how to understand internal motivations

Family Therapy

While individual and group counseling focuses on a person’s thoughts, behaviors, and emotions, family therapy is designed to focus on relationships. In many cases, addiction and substance abuse become a family problem, affecting multiple relationships and dynamics within the unit.

Therefore, the goal of family therapy is to repair these relationships, educate everyone on the nature of addiction, and improve closeness. Some of the advantages of family therapy include:

  • Helps maintain motivation and engagement during treatment
  • Teaches the family about addiction and its effects on the family unit
  • Enables family members to voice their feelings and concerns
  • Provides a high level of support for the person undergoing treatment
  • Allows family members to develop skills and strategies to help their loved one
  • Improves family communication skills

Holistic Therapy

Holistic rehab facilities will also provide alternative therapies such as adventure therapy, equine (horse) therapy, art/music therapy, massage therapy, and meditation. The purpose of these therapies is to treat the whole person and not just the symptoms. Advantages of holistic therapy include:

  • Development of calmness and stress reduction
  • Spiritual connection
  • Emotional expression
  • Improving physical health
  • Increased self-esteem

Outpatient Therapy Programs

woman in psychotherapy session

Outpatient programs vary between centers, but they often involve a mixture of the following:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps individuals change negative cycles of thought and behavior into more positive ones, which has shown to be especially effective for addiction and mental health conditions. Clients receiving CBT often learn how to recognize “automatic thoughts” and dysfunctional thinking patterns, how to understand the behavior and motivation of others, and how to develop a greater sense of self-understanding and confidence. CBT also helps clients find solutions to triggers that might encourage drug use.

Dialectical-Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that focuses on mindfulness, how to live in the moment, cope with stress, and improve relationships. DBT also helps clients identify negative influences in their lives and learn how to develop healthy coping skills. This kind of therapy is useful for people who have substance addictions, especially those who have anxiety or mood disorders. DBT is also effective for PTSD and for people who exhibit self-destructive behaviors.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Other trauma-informed treatments such as EMDR are also effective. Consisting of 8 phases, EMDR is led by a therapist who guides an individual through a series of rapid eye movements to help redirect negative or traumatic memories.

This redirection helps the person form new connections or associations so that the memory is less emotionally distressing over time. This therapy is therefore useful for individuals with mood disorders as it helps them overcome the emotional suffering associated with traumatic events.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a type of collaborative therapy between a therapist and the client. During these sessions, the client and therapist work together to define sources of motivation and achieve self-defined goals. MI is known for its positive, client-centered approach and has shown to be effective in treating addiction and mood disorders.

Matrix Model

The Matrix Model is another form of therapy that has shown to be effective in treating various forms of substance abuse. This 16-week approach is comprehensive and consists of a mixture of behavioral therapy, individual counseling, 12-Step support, family education, drug testing, and encouraging non-drug-related activities. Through guided therapy, patients learn about issues connected to addiction and relapse. These sessions are designed to promote self-esteem and self-worth while the patient and therapist work together to reinforce positive behavioral changes.

Experiential Therapies

Experiential therapy is a guided therapeutic technique that uses creative tools and activities like arts and crafts, music, role-playing, acting, props, guided imagery, or other forms of recreation. The purpose of these activities is to re-enact or re-experience emotional situations from a person’s past or current relationship. This is a healthy and safe way to express and identify difficult emotions and learn to foster a healthier sense of responsibility and self-esteem.

Outpatient Support Groups

support group holding hands

Many outpatient programs also provide a variety of support groups. Some of the main ones are:

12-Step Groups

12-Step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are some of the oldest and most successful forms of support groups for addiction. IOPs that work with 12-step groups will often incorporate this into a patient’s treatment program and encourage attendance at these meetings outside treatment as well. In these sessions, patients learn about the 12-Step principles and where to locate ones in their community.

Skills-Development Groups

Skills development is designed to help clients learn new behaviors in a safe setting. These include topics like coping skills, anger management, stress management, communication, conflict resolution, relationships, and more.

Psychoeducational Groups

Psychoeducational groups also provide safe emotional support while allowing clients to learn about addiction, dependence, and the consequence of substance abuse. These groups also focus on problem-solving skills and targeting unhealthy belief systems.

Relapse Prevention Groups

As the name implies, relapse prevention groups are designed to help develop techniques that will prevent future relapses. This consists of identifying triggers and high-risk situations, as well as how to both avoid and manage them.

Family Groups

Family forms an integral part of rehab therapy. These groups focus on communication between family members and the ways they can support each other. Participants also learn about the effects of addiction and how to deal with it within the family effectively.

How to Find an Outpatient Treatment Center

Finding the best outpatient center requires that you do a bit of due diligence. If you’re unsure about how to start the process, there are a few things to consider while you’re doing your research:


Ask a doctor, counselor, or medical professional for recommendations. They may have a list of trusted centers that you can explore.

Treatment and Care

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggests that you should be aware of the following when searching for a center:

  • Accessibility: you shouldn’t have to wait a long time to enter treatment.
  • Personalized: care should be personalized and tailored to each person’s needs. Avoid programs that offer a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Empirically based: treatment should be evidence-based. It’s also good to choose centers that offer a mix of medical treatment and alternative therapies.
  • Social support: centers should provide a strong support system such as recovery groups, peer support, and aftercare.

Dual Diagnosis

If you are struggling with a co-occurring mental health condition like depression or anxiety, its’ a good idea to look for facilities that offer dual diagnosis. These facilities are often staffed with psychiatrists or clinical therapists that can diagnose and treat co-occurring mental health conditions. Dual diagnosis also allows clients to address their underlying conditions alongside withdrawal from substances.

Accreditations and Licenses

While you’re doing your research, it’s good to look out for a facility that’s accredited by the likes of CARF, the Joint Commission, or SAMHSA. An accreditation guarantees that they meet or exceed standards of care.

Staff Credentials and Multi-Disciplinarity

Many top-notch facilities are staffed with a mix of medical directors, clinicians, licensed counselors, psychiatrists, nutritionists, and holistic therapists. As addiction is a multi-faceted condition, a multi-disciplinary staff ensures that you’re able to get well-rounded care.


You’ll want to get a sense of the environment of the place before you commit. This includes the level and type of accommodation, and whether they provide any extras for recreation and outdoor activities.

Levels of Care

Centers that offer a continuum of care are also fantastic options. These facilities tend to provide the whole spectrum of detox, inpatient, outpatient, and aftercare.

Insurance and Cost

Most inpatient facilities will allow private insurance coverage. However, it’s a good idea to check their website for this information as they may only take coverage from some types of insurance. In some cases, they also allow Medicaid.

Outpatient Treatment Resources

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, you are not alone. Treatment and support are readily available. Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment.

You can also find a list of treatment centers near you on our website to help get you on the path to recovery.

Medical Disclaimer

At, we are dedicated to helping people recover from problematic substance use and associated mental health disorders. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, you are not alone. Information on treatment and support options is readily available through the National Helpline of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-4357. To further assist you along the path to recovery, the treatment center locator on our website allows you to easily find rehabilitation programs and services in your local area.

We provide our readers with factual, evidence-based content concerning the causes and nature of addiction, as well as available treatment options. However, this informative content is intended for educational purposes only. It is by no means a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. With regard to any addiction-related health concerns, you should always seek the guidance of a qualified, registered physician who is licensed to practice medicine in your particular jurisdiction.

You should never avoid or delay seeking professional health care advice or services based on information obtained from our website. Our authors, editors, medical reviewers, website developers, and parent company do not assume any liability, obligation, or responsibility for any loss, damage, or adverse consequences alleged to have happened directly or indirectly as a result of the material presented on