Outpatient Programs for Addiction Treatment: What Are They and How Do They Work?

Outpatient Programs are a great source of ease and relief for drug addicts who don’t want to stay in medical facilities for most of their day. It works more like a part-time addiction recovery plan. In general, outpatient programs are more common and preferred than inpatient programs due to heavy medical expenses. In addition, several patients don’t go for residential treatment options as they are afraid of a lack of privacy and support from family members.

The outpatient treatment effectively cures patients with mild to moderate addiction to opioids and alcohol. It starts with a detox that lasts for a few days only. Once the patient’s body gets cleared away from toxins, other phases, including counseling and therapy sessions, are started.

Outpatient programs are suitable for those patients who

  • Need to perform their family responsibilities and fulfill their commitments
  • Cannot afford to disrupt their work schedule
  • Require extra support for early addiction recovery
  • Willing to engage in therapies and other phases of the program
  • Are struggling to prevent relapse
  • Look for affordable and insurance-covered drug recovery programs
  • Are in no need for 24 hours surveillance

Some patients also opt for outpatient programs due to their flexibility. They use it as a step-down approach from medically assisted detox or other inpatient rehab services. Patients receive outpatient treatment usually for less than 15 hours a week.

Different Types of Treatment in Outpatient Rehab

Different outpatient treatments are available to treat the drug addiction of patients. Doctors assess the needs of the patients and recommend treatment methods accordingly. The ASAM criteria also play an integral role in deciding the nature of programs for each patient.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

The partial hospitalization program (PHP) is a step-down approach from inpatient treatment to outpatient. Patients after completion of inpatient rehab still face difficulty to resume normal life and thus opt for PHP to gradually transition towards a complete stable life. Patients receive treatment for 5 hours per day and five times per week during this treatment. It is an intensive care program with high frequency.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

The partial hospitalization program follows an intensive outpatient program(IOP). Patients who undergo this program are willing to take less intensive care than inpatient and PHP. IOPs are bridges between inpatient care and comprehensive outpatient programs such as sober living. Patients under IOPs engage in sessions that continue for 3 hours and are held three times per week.

General Outpatient Program (GOP)

General outpatient program (GOP) offers the least intensive level care to patients. It helps them adopt stable and meaningful recovery and prepare for a drug-free life in the long term. During this treatment, patients gain enough strength and motivation to stay sober at home and in the community.

These outpatient sessions generally continue for 90 minutes per day for 1-3 times per week. The overall duration of the GOP is unspecified. The therapists, patients, and their families decide the length of the GOP program when it is no longer required. At this time, patients are willing and prepared to start the next phase of drug recovery.

These outpatient programs can work in collaboration or separately, depending on the needs of the patients.  

Therapy Sessions During Outpatient Visits

A significant aspect of all the levels of the outpatient treatment programs provides a combination of different therapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, to recover the patients. In addition, other therapies depend on the nature of the involvement of the patients. These therapies include individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy to cope with addiction.

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy sessions explore the underlying reasons behind addiction. These sessions allow therapists to discuss and look at the patients’ past, present, and future lives in a cooperative and therapeutic setting. During this therapy, patients understand their needs and learn about them. At this level, patients also feel free to share their dark side and highly personal experiences due to lack of intrusion by others.

Group Therapy

Some patients recover better and stay on the path of recovery when they engage in group settings. In this way, they realize that they are not alone in their recovery journey and feel connected with peers. Group sessions encourage patients to share and discuss their feelings, thoughts, behavioral challenges, and experiences in a trusted and safe environment. It works as a community of struggling drug addicts ready to transition towards better health and lifestyle change. Patients feel more motivated and determined to avoid relapse.

Family Therapy

Family sessions work best for patients with a supporting family and teenagers. They face drug addiction and other substance abuse issues and need support from their parents. Research shows evidence that family support can play an integral role in accelerating the recovery process and chances of relapse. Many people hesitate to start drug recovery treatments due to fear of family and friends. So when they realize their family and friends stand by their side, they feel more confident and empowered to continue the treatment. Drug addiction centers also encourage families to join the patients during recovery.

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Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medically assisted treatment is a more essential component of outpatient treatment than an inpatient treatment plan. When patients run out of time to attend therapies and other counseling sessions, they rely on MAT to get control of their recovery phase and avoid relapses.

Outpatient programs also use medications the same as inpatient treatment, such as suboxone and buprenorphine. Some patients also need medicines to cope with co-occurring mental health issues such as anxiety, trauma, and depression.  

12-Steps and Outpatient Treatment

Sometimes patients participate in the 12-step program as part of the outpatient recovery plan.

Some famous 12 step fellowships are Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), considered the most effective platforms to seek companionship and solace among members.

Patients attend daily meetings of these fellowships and get support throughout the recovery journey. By joining a fellowship such as AA or NA, patients have substantially high chances of long-term recovery and freedom from active drug addiction and alcoholism.


Drug addiction is a constant threat to the physical and mental health of the addicts. It is always better to intervene and seek medical support to be free from drugs and other harmful substances.

Michael Caine

Michael Caine is the Owner of Amir Articles and also the founder of ANO Digital (Most Powerful Online Content Creator Company), from the USA, studied MBA in 2012, love to play games and write content in different categories.