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Purpose Of Outpatient Rehab

Although there are so many people suffering from substance abuse and addiction, only a small percentage of these people get the treatment and rehabilitation they require. Even among those who are fortunate enough to get into an appropriate rehabilitation program, there is still a need to choose - more specifically between outpatient and inpatient treatment.

Both of these rehabilitation program styles offer similar core elements of addiction treatment - including but not limited to detox, counseling and/or therapy, as well as aftercare services. However, they are different in the way they treat their clients.

In most cases, inpatient rehabilitation, which is also referred to as residential rehab involves the client leaving their home and moving into the treatment facility full-time so that they can focus on their recovery and shut out every distraction from the outside world. As such, it provides an immersive experience.

However, this also means that it requires a heavy financial and time commitment that most people - in spite of their needs and addiction - might not be able to make. In such situations, therefore, outpatient treatment is usually the only option open.

But what exactly is outpatient rehabilitation? What is the purpose of outpatient rehab? This guide will provide answers to these questions and any others you might have about this mode of treatment.

Understanding Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient rehab is designed for just about anyone with a substance abuse and addiction problem. In many cases, clients benefit significantly and eventually find that they thrive in their sobriety and abstinence.

However, outpatient rehab is mostly designed for people suffering from addiction but who lack the money and/or time to check into an inpatient or residential rehabilitation facility.

It also works well for those who need to continue working and/or taking care of other personal and professional responsibilities - such as single mothers who cannot stay away too long from their children.

That said, outpatient rehab refers to any treatment program for drug abuse/addiction and alcoholism where the patient attends to the schedule set by the rehabilitation facility during the day before returning home or checking into a sober living house in the evening. These programs are offered in a variety of settings, including addiction treatment centers, large homes, and hospital settings, among many others.

Duration Of Outpatient Rehab

The amount of time you spend at an outpatient rehabilitation facility will vary widely from one person to the other. It will mostly be based on the philosophy at the center as well as your specific needs and requirements.

However, as a recovering addict, you should expect to spend anywhere between 1 and 3 months undergoing outpatient care and treatment. If your case is more serious, you might have to spend close to a year - or even more at the facility.

However, long term outpatient rehab isn't quite as common as long term inpatient treatment. This is mostly because those in need of such extended treatment usually face a great risk of relapse if they choose to undergo rehabilitation while staying at home - since this might expose them to triggers and stresses that could plunge them back to their old addictive habits.

On Addiction

Almost everyone who spends time with an addict or is associated with one might be affected by their substance abuse - starting with the individual who is engaged in such abuse.

In most cases, alcohol and drug addiction causes a variety of physical, mental, and emotional problems. Additionally, abusing these intoxicating and mind-altering substances will usually result in familial, relationship, financial, productivity, and legal problems among many others.

Drugs and also affect close family members. This is because it is heartbreaking watching loves ones struggling with the adverse effects and consequences of such substance abuse. As such, if you have a loved one who is addicted, you might feel angry at, frustrated by, and helpless on account of the addict. As such, you need to start learning new behaviors - if only to set the right boundaries, stop enabling the addict, and intervene in the problem before it gets out of hand.

At the community level, addiction also tends to have a noticeable negative impact. This is because the addict might eventually put others in danger on account of their behavior and reduced inhibitions.

Therefore, seeing as how many people are affected by addiction, it is clear to understand the main purpose of outpatient rehab - to help addicts overcome their substance abuse and chemical dependence. This form of rehabilitation treatment is more effective for those with minor alcohol and drug addictions. It comes with the benefit of enabling them overcome their addiction as well as teaching them how to lead a healthier, chemical-free life.

Types Of Addictions Treated

Most outpatient rehab facilities treat a wide variety of conditions and addictions. These include but are not always limited to:

  • Alcoholism
  • Cocaine addiction
  • Crystal Meth addiction
  • Heroin addiction
  • Marijuana addiction
  • OxyContin addiction
  • Vicodin addiction

While enrolled in such a program, however, you might find that you have some of these ailments as well as others. In such a case, your treatment might prove to be more challenging.

How Outpatient Rehabilitation Works

In most cases, you will find that outpatient rehab takes place in centers that provide a wide range of rehabilitation and treatment services over several hours in the day. After that, you will be allowed to go back home and attend to your other responsibilities.

Most of these programs range from 30 days to a couple of years - also others might also involve you committing yourself to ongoing treatment over the rest of your life. This is particular true in the case of severe addiction that is recurrent in nature. However, outpatient rehab is generally recommended for new cases of substance abuse to moderate addiction.

That said, the facilities that provide these rehabilitation services and treatments are often broken up into 3 distinct categories - support groups, regular outpatient (or counseling), and intensive outpatient rehab. Each of these programs comes with its own unique advantages and costs but all of them will generally cover at least one of the main stages of the rehabilitation process.

In the outpatient setting, you will receive some rehabilitation services without necessarily having to live at the treatment center. In most cases, this is a convenient option for those who have families and jobs to keep up with - which might not allow them to check into an inpatient treatment facility. In such situations, outpatient rehab is the best option because it comes with more flexible schedules.

That said, both outpatient and inpatient rehab programs treat almost every form of substance abuse and addiction. They also use similar techniques in counseling and therapy - including Contingency Management and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Still, regardless of the drug you have been abusing, the treatment setting, or the location of outpatient rehab facility, the complete treatment program will generally be broken down into several key stages. You need to complete all these stages to ensure you have completely overcome your addiction - at least in the short term. As such, you should keep in mind that stopping at any of these stages will only raise your risk of relapsing back to your old habits.

Some outpatient rehab programs will offer all the stages of treatment in a single facility while others will only provide one or two of the stages before recommending that you check into another center for the remaining stages. Support groups, for instance, only focus on aftercare and might not offer you any other treatment and rehabilitation services.

Therefore, you need to choose a facility that provides all the services and programs you are going to require for full recovery and long term sobriety. However, you can still benefit from mixing and matching a variety of outpatient programs and gleaning the best features from each.

Types Of Outpatient Rehab Programs

In most cases, you will find that the average outpatient program has about 40 clients undergoing treatment at each facility. These programs also vary in terms of the services and level of care that they provide.

Whereas some of them will only cover one or two of the rehab stages, others will provide you with every single service you might need to find the full recovery you are looking for.

Except from support groups, however, all of these programs will provide you with intensive assessment and testing to determine the nature and extent of your substance abuse and addiction. They will also provide therapy and counseling services. The only difference between them is that the various types of behavioral therapy provided will depend on the facility you check into as well as the certifications its therapists possess.

That said, most of these outpatient rehab facilities will not provide medically assisted detox. Among the biggest differences between these programs lies in the provision of a variety of medical services. Therefore, you can be sure that the availability of such medications will mostly depend on the center you check into.

According to data from 2016, in fact, only about 12 percent of these centers provided medication assisted detox - which is a small percentage in comparison to the close to 30 percent of inpatient addiction treatment facilities that had medications for detox.

Although some of the institutions might still provide you with medications to help you deal with any adverse withdrawal symptoms you display, very few of them indeed will offer medications to aid with detox. Additionally, very few outpatient rehab centers directly provide any kind of medical assistance.

That said, the following are some of the general groups of outpatient rehabilitation facilities and programs:

a) Intensive Outpatient Rehab

Otherwise referred to as IOTs or intensive outpatient treatment programs, these are the most intensive of all of the options that are open to people suffering from substance use disorders, addiction, and co-occurring mental health disorders.

Most of them provide all of the stages of the addiction rehabilitation and treatment process. They also work hand in hand to ensure that the first few stages happen through therapy and counseling while the other stages focus on rehabilitation and aftercare, which might involve:

i) Early Recovery

At this stage, you will benefit from a wide variety of outpatient rehab activities, therapy, and counseling. In most cases, the goal of early recovery is to provide you with all the tools, tips, education, and lessons you need to learn how to handle any cravings you might experience as well as effectively deal with any residual effects of your substance abuse and addiction.

ii) Maintenance

At times, maintenance might be provided at lesser levels of care and rehabilitation, such as through a support group. That said, the main goal of maintenance is to help you solidify your abstinence as well as ensure you continue living a life of sobriety with healthier personal and professional relationships.

iii) Treatment Engagement

At this stage, your outpatient rehabilitation therapist will have built a relationship with you. As such, they will encourage you to stay in recovery and commit yourself to all the lessons you learned during your treatment.

The purpose of outpatient rehab through IOT, therefore, is to ensure that you receive all the therapy and counseling you require as well as many other extensive services to enforce your sobriety and abstinence from mind altering and intoxicating substances.

Other core services provided through IOT might include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Case management, which is designed to provide you with a variety of services related to addiction treatment - including social services like advocacy, assessment, monitoring, and planning
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Individual counseling, which is mostly provided at the very beginning of the program
  • Medication assisted detoxification and therapy
  • The full range of group therapy and counseling

In most cases, you will find that the availability of medications at an IOT program will mostly depend on the overall size of the center as well as whether or not they have doctors and other medical professionals providing the outpatient rehab services. Some of these programs are also certified for the treatment of opioid abuse and addiction, which means that they may be able to offer medication assisted therapy, which is sometimes deemed necessarily in cases of opiate abuse.

Some of these programs might also provide ambulatory detox services. This means that the center might have plans for individuals who are at great risk of suffering adverse withdrawal symptoms during detox and - as such - may require more extensive detox services from other programs like hospitals that have the necessary services.

You might also find that the IOT you attend provides standalone detox options solely designed to provide detox services and monitoring - without the other added and required steps of the addiction rehabilitation and treatment process.

As a client, you are typically encouraged to stay enrolled in the IOT program for a minimum of 90 days to ensure your full recovery. However, the duration of stay will vary from one client to the next. This means that you might find yourself spending anywhere between 30 days and several years. During this time, you may spend around 9 hours every week undergoing addiction treatment - but this might range from 6 to about 30 hours every week. It will all depend on your particular needs and preferences.

That said, IOT tends to cost must less in comparison to residential or inpatient treatment. However, it may cost more than any of the other outpatient rehab options available.

You will usually find that the great time commitment required of you as well as the extensive and thoroughness of the services provided make IOT one of the most expensive of all outpatient rehab programs.

b) Counseling (Regular Outpatient Rehab)

Counseling is another form of outpatient rehab treatment. It is designed in such a way that it will provide you with the therapy services you require. Otherwise known as regular outpatient rehab, this form of treatment mostly occurs in a center that could also provide a wide variety of other social services.

Today, most of the therapists who provide this from of care will be certified in their work. This means that they can assess you and your particular condition, teach you more about substance abuse and addiction, and provide you with group, individual, and family therapy and counseling during the detox stage as well as all through your treatment program.

The facility will also base the particular type of therapy applied on the individual background and training of the therapists you get to work with. Therefore, you might want to check with the facility to ensure that the only therapists you will encounter during your treatment sessions are those who have a history of helping other clients with substance abuse and addiction problems.

If your addiction is intense, you might also want to use regular outpatient rehab treatment for aftercare services even after you've completed more intensive treatment at an outpatient or an inpatient facility.

That said, counseling comes with a variety of programs designed to help you handle with difficulties and stresses in your daily life. These programs might also provide ancillary services to ensure that all your difficulties are well taken care of so that you can focus on your treatment. These services include, but are not always limited to:

  • Case management so that you can receive any other additional social service you need
  • Employment counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Setting up and booking medical appointments

However, the facility might not provide you with medications unless there is a doctor or another trained, certified, and licensed medical practitioner on staff at the center. As such, regular outpatient rehab rarely provides drugs and medications - if at all - of any kind. Still, the facility might have an understanding with other medical service providers in case you should ever require medical support during your recovery.

Additionally, regular outpatient rehab might cover every stage of the addiction treatment process. Other times, however, it may only be used in the form of an aftercare program for recovering addicts. It may also provide you with other treatment options.

In most cases, you should only check into one of these counseling programs if you have a mild addiction that regular outpatient rehab could help you overcome it easily without you ever needing to go for more intensive drug and alcohol abuse and addiction.

Similarly, most of the clients who attend counseling only have to do so for anywhere between 45 and 60 days while others might have to continue for several months or even years.

The duration of the program as well as the frequency of the counseling sessions will largely depend on your level of substance abuse and addiction and particular needs and preferences. For instance, you may be required to go for a single hour of counseling every week for several months or for 3 sessions every week - comprised of a combination of individual and group therapy.

On average, however, the duration for counseling will normally comprise 1 to 2 sessions every week for 45 to 60 days. At this point, however, the program might have become even less intensive because it will reduce the frequency of the counseling sessions or even move you to group therapy and other support groups so that you can benefit from addiction treatment aftercare services.

As such, counseling is among the most affordable of all addiction treatment options. Additionally, most of the costs might be covered by your insurance company as part of your individual treatment program/plan.

c) Support Groups

Last but not least, support groups will provide you with the ongoing aftercare support you recovery. Otherwise known as self-help or mutual help groups, these are the best forms of peer support settings and programs for people who are still in recovery and trying to overcome their abuse of and addiction to mind altering and intoxicating substances.

During the meetings of most support groups, the members present will get the opportunity to share their struggles and experiences. In the process, members will also provide encouragement to each other so that the entire group stays the course and finds the recovery they so yearn for.

Whereas most of these groups tend to be based on the spiritual, there are many other alternative and secular options that may be available to anyone who does not believe in the power of the spiritual in overcoming addiction.

According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) anywhere between 40 to 60% of the people to check into a treatment facility - whether on an outpatient rehab or otherwise - may relapse eventually. These numbers continue rising for people who fail to seek aftercare especially after their stint in a rehabilitation program. This is despite the fact that support groups are some of the most effective and affordable programs especially when you get to the stage where your addiction is highly progressive, you constantly face triggers, and have an increasing likelihood of relapsing.

In the same way, although most of the mutual help groups might not provide you with the traditional types of therapy and counseling, they are still therapeutic and you can benefit from them.

The support groups are also usually led former and recovering addictions in a space where everyone present is holds each other accountable and gets the opportunity to talk about their addiction, ongoing recovery, hardships, temptations, triggers, and just about anything else.

In the same way, support groups cannot technically be considered to form a part of group therapy - especially because they are not led by certified therapists. However, even though this is the case and they might not even provide medical assistance, most of them will still provide you with the valuable understanding, support, encouragement, and insight that many recovering addicts have been struggling to find from another venue.

Pros And Cons Of Outpatient Rehab

To better understand the purpose of outpatient rehab, it is imperative that you learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of every type of program that falls into this broad class of addiction treatment.

1. Intensive Outpatient Programs

In most cases, the best outpatient rehabilitation program will be based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to financial and time constraints (if any), your level of substance abuse and addiction, among many others. Consider the following pros and cons of these programs:


  • Has been proved to work - sometimes even as well as a residential treatment program
  • Offers additional services, like group therapy, connection to doctors, and case management
  • Provides more structure in comparison to the other outpatient rehab programs
  • You get to spend more hours receiving substance abuse therapy directly


  • Tends to cost more than the other outpatient rehab options
  • You need to commit to treatment in the long term; for best outcomes, 90 days of rehab or more might be required - time that you might not always be able to spare

2. Regular Outpatient/Counseling Programs


  • Is usually covered by many insurance companies for most of the costs of assessment and therapy
  • Provides many services, such as employment preparation, arranging and organizing doctor visits, and case management
  • Tends to cost less in comparison to intensive outpatient rehab


  • Some of these programs tend to lack certification for the provision of medication services and opioid treatment
  • The programs might be less intensive, which may make the counseling ineffective at treatment more intense forms of addiction

3. Support Groups


  • Participating in support groups over the long term might increase your chances of abstinence
  • Support groups provide accountability since everyone is part of a larger community
  • You get to build meaningful and productive relationships with other people who are also working towards the same goal of sobriety and abstinence as well as long term recovery


  • Since they are led by recovering addicts and not by certified therapists, they might be the best approach to addiction treatment and rehabilitation in cases of moderate to severe substance abuse and addiction
  • The groups tend to vary in approach, and you might not be entirely comfortable with the general culture and/or mix of some specific groups

Finding The Right Outpatient Rehab

Now that you understand the purpose of outpatient rehab and you have probably already determined the best type of program that is appropriate for your particular condition, you should learn how to find the right facility to go to for addiction help and treatment.

In most cases, the purpose of outpatient rehab treatment is to provide focus-based therapy so that you can be helped through your recovery until you get started on a life of sobriety.

Through counseling and therapy, you may even uncover all the underlying issues and problems that might have driven you to substance abuse in the first place. Eventually, you will also learn a variety of coping techniques you can use - including multidimensional family therapy, motivational interviewing, motivational incentives, and cognitive behavioral therapy - among many others.

The program might also provide access to skills training, education programs, mental health care, as well as many other highly specialized recovery methods to ensure you overcome your addiction.

While looking for the right facility, therefore, you need to understand the purpose of outpatient rehab and look out for the following:

  • Centers that offer comprehensive and evolving support all through the course of the outpatient rehab treatment program, including social and legal services support, family therapy, child care, mental health resources, family services, education, vocational services, medical services, and transportation, among others you might need
  • Centers that will meet your unique needs and requirements, as well as those that offer the right services in the exact settings you need based on your age, gender, culture, spiritual values, ethnicity, sexual orientation, work situation, family obligations, among many others
  • Programs that allow you to be part of support groups both during and after outpatient rehab, whether this is in the form of NA, AA, or group therapy meetings or even in the opportunity to stay in a sober living community
  • Programs that are long enough to ensure sustained recovery from substance abuse and addiction
  • Programs that provide evidence-based treatments that have been demonstrated to be effective over time; these treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy among others

Overall, understanding the purpose of outpatient rehab will not only compel and encourage you to seek treatment, it will also help you spend enough time at the facility you choose to ensure that you have built the strongest foundation for full time, long term recovery. In the process, you will reduce the risk of relapse and eventually find the sobriety you have been looking for.