What Are Outpatient Treatment Programs?

What Are Outpatient Treatment Programs?

For people considering drug detox and recovery treatments, they have two general choices: outpatient and inpatient treatment programs. The choice will depend on the needs of the patient and the severity of the addiction. Outpatient programs specifically provide treatment services that cause only minimal disruption of the patient’s regular life.

What Is An Outpatient Treatment Program?

An outpatient treatment program sets up a schedule of counseling and therapy sessions for a patient’s recovery on a part-time basis. Some of these sessions follow a rigid schedule and the patient must attend every session, often with a group of other patients. Other sessions operate as appointments that are adapted to the patient’s circumstances. This program allows the patient to continue with his or her life and fulfill responsibilities of work and family, while also receiving the treatment needed to cope with substance abuse. These counseling sessions usually take a total of 10 to 12 hours per week, with the complete program lasting from 60 to 90 days.

An outpatient treatment program takes place in a variety of places or through varying methods, such as:

  • Hospitals
  • Mental health hospitals or clinics
  • Health departments
  • Therapist offices

What Is An Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program?

A variation of outpatient treatment exists, which is known as the intensive outpatient treatment program (IOP). This offshoot of the program resembles the treatments of the inpatient treatment programs more closely than typical outpatient treatment. Reserved for people with more severe addictions, IOPs consists of more sessions and therapy per week, usually between 6 to 30 hours a week. These programs often cost more than other outpatient treatments. The key difference between an IOP and an inpatient treatment program is that the IOP allows the patient to go home and continue his or her normal routine.

Elements Of Outpatient Treatment Programs

Most outpatient treatment programs have content that differs per the specific treatment facility and the patient’s condition and needs. However, most outpatient treatment programs contain some similar elements.

Diagnosis And Detox

After obtaining a physician’s recommendation, the patient begins admission and receives an evaluation to determine the specific programs and treatments that will suit them best. This diagnosis process considers the patient’s history, including other mental or medical disorders that may relate to the substance addiction.

During the evaluation, a specialist identifies the substances in the person’s system, which leads to the detox process. Detox involves the removal of the addictive substance’s toxins from the person’s system, usually involving medically assisted treatment. This process lasts between 5 to 10 days and prepares the patient for the rest of the program’s services. Detox is potentially dangerous and can be fatal without proper medical and emotional support.

Behavioral Therapy

This therapy aims to help the patient control the behavior that led to the addiction in the first place, as well as to control behavior without the substance. Behavioral therapy helps the patient cope and communicate with others to function within society and repair old relationships or establish healthier new ones. These therapies are available for both individuals and groups.


Outpatient treatment programs generally include education programs that teach patients about drugs, addiction, and recovery. By having this knowledge, the patient is better able to avoid relapses and can help others at the same time.


The therapists provide these sessions to help the patient understand their present emotions, and to explore some of the feelings they may have contributed to the addiction. There are options for individual, group, and family counseling.

Group Support

The support of peers is important for patients who may feel alone or misunderstood when it comes to their addiction. Constant meetings allow for consistent support and understanding between patients, and may assist in coping with other processes, such as detox.

Continued Medication

A patient may need the careful use of medication even after the detox process to cope with withdrawal symptoms, behavioral issues, and drug cravings. Keeping the physical urges under control helps patients focus on the rest of the treatments.

Holistic Treatments

Recovery treatment programs focus not only on helping the patient overcome the need for drugs, but also encouraging general well-being, which may deal with the addiction’s root cause. Some holistic programs include nutritional planning, fitness programs, and acupuncture. These services are usually more associated with IOTs and inpatient treatment programs than typical outpatient treatment programs.

Crisis Management

The service of 24-hour crisis management usually takes place in inpatient treatment programs, since the patient has direct access to any of the services throughout their stay. Some IOT programs, however, also include this feature for a patient who can go through an emergency at any time.

Benefits Of Outpatient Treatment Programs

An outpatient treatment program provides a set of specific benefits compared to inpatient treatment. In addition to the inherent benefits of treatment programs, outpatient treatment programs offer specific benefits such as:

  • Treatment for patients with more stable conditions
  • Flexibility to manage with other aspects of life
  • Greater access to the patient’s family and friends
  • Ease of a patient’s integration with his or her regular life
  • Lower costs compared to inpatient treatment programs

Intensive outpatient treatment programs are more expensive than their traditional counterparts, but also combine the benefits of inpatient treatment programs with the freedom and control of the outpatient programs.

Outpatient Vs Inpatient Programs

The contrasting approaches of outpatient and inpatient treatments are sometimes the subject of debate. Some people see inpatient treatment programs as more effective, since they remove the patient from potential addiction triggers and have more intense programs that allow the patient to recover completely. They see outpatient programs as too risky because some patients can easily fall back into addiction through any life change or circumstance. An inpatient facility provides a buffer from that element.

On the other hand, outpatient programs encourage the patient to seek resources and assistance in their home environment. This is more significant for full recovery. These programs also allow the patient to have a greater support network in the form of friends and family. If their conditions are less severe, they save on the costs associated with inpatient treatment.

The decision between outpatient and inpatient programs ultimately rests with the patient’s needs and the addiction. It can also be influenced by the recommendation of an addiction specialist or physician who can suggest either treatment. These treatment options are not mutually exclusive, as many people from inpatient treatment programs use outpatient treatment to transition to their regular lives.

Arizona Outpatient Treatment at Continuum Recovery Center

Outpatient programs offer specialized, detailed treatments with minimal interference with the patient’s regular life. Continuum Recovery Center in Phoenix, Arizona offers an intensive outpatient treatment program that focuses on healing not just the person’s body from the impact of addiction and withdrawal, but all the emotional and behavioral aspects. If you believe you are ready to experience the advantages of an outpatient program, contact us today.

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