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Recovery Centers: What is Outpatient Drug Treatment?

Recovery Centers: What is Outpatient Drug Treatment?

A person struggling with a mild substance abuse problem can turn to an outpatient drug treatment center for support. 

When most people hear the term “drug treatment center,” they may think of inpatient rehab centers where they must stay for an extended period. Many people are unfamiliar with outpatient treatment options. Still, it is essential for someone struggling with addiction or a loved one with substance abuse issues to understand their options. 


In today’s blog, we will delve into the ins and outs of outpatient treatment programs. 


Understanding the Function of Outpatient Drug Treatment

Outpatient treatment consists of three types of treatment programs in which a person visits a counselor or treatment center a few days a week. The most significant difference between outpatient and inpatient programs is that inpatient ones provide 24-hour care, which often includes housing, supervision, and access to medical care. 


On the other hand, outpatient programs can differ in intensity, ranging from one session a week to several ones a day, Monday through Friday. However, certain types of outpatient programs, such as partial hospitalization ones, offer similar services to inpatient programs. Moreover, outpatient programs can take place in various locations, including a counselor’s office, community mental health clinics, hospitals, or inpatient rehab programs with an emphasis on outpatient programs. 

Generally, these programs incorporate a combination of individual and group counseling. Other activities a person can participate in include: 

  • Relapse prevention training
  • Learning about substance abuse and its effects
  • Skills development in areas such as employment, socializing, hobbies, stress or anger management, time management, financial responsibility, and goal-setting
  • Self-help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous


Continue reading to learn about the three types of outpatient treatment programs. 

Three Types of Outpatient Drug Treatment Programs


  •  Day Programs

Outpatient day programs provide the highest level of care and structure as far as outpatient treatment goes. In a day program, a person can commit to meeting at least five days a week at an outpatient center for multiple hours a day. During the program, a person can participate in ongoing therapy, group therapy, biofeedback, and other relaxing therapies, such as music or art therapy.

Best of all, patients can return home at the end of each session, either to their families or a sober living home. However, it is important to note that these programs demand significant time commitment, meaning that some individuals will be unable to go to school or work until they finish the program. 


  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) can help individuals create a personalized treatment plan with well-defined, realistic milestones to help them keep track of their progress. Once a person begins to see progress with their goals, their time commitment to the program will decrease. This program is an excellent option for people who still need to work or go to school, but are serious about abstaining from alcohol or drugs. An IOP may require a person to attend multiple sessions a week so that they can participate in:

  • Counseling sessions
  • Group therapy
  • Relapse prevention education
  • Attend a 12-step program or similar recovery support group


  • Continuing Care

Continuing care groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous, are ongoing support resources that help individuals in recovery remain on their sobriety journey. A licensed therapist typically facilitates these groups, which meet weekly. Some groups may be gender or age-specific; meanwhile, others focus on certain aspects of recovery. 


Why Outpatient Drug Treatment Programs are Important

For people with mild to moderate substance addiction, outpatient treatment is usually their best option. These programs are generally more flexible and accessible than inpatient programs (which are better suited for people with late-stage addiction). 

The primary benefits of outpatient programs include:


  • Flexibility: Since outpatient programs can work around a person’s schedule, they are beneficial for people who feel like they cannot leave their job or family for an extended period.
  • Affordability: Since a person is able to live at home while receiving treatment, they do not have to worry about the costs of lodging at an inpatient facility, making outpatient programs more attractive to some. However, if a person needs intensive treatment, they can work with their rehab center to figure out the perfect payment option so that they can participate in an inpatient program. 
  • Unlimited family support: Some patients need their family’s unconditional love and support, especially in the first weeks of their sobriety journey. Fortunately, outpatient programs allow them to return to their loving family at the end of each session. However, if one decides to stay at an inpatient facility, their family can still visit them. 


Is an Outpatient Program Enough?

There is no exact answer to this question. As mentioned above, for people with mild to moderate addiction, an outpatient program may be just what they need. Unfortunately, for other individuals, these programs may not be sufficient to help them remain sober, but they can serve as a starting point to seeking additional, in-depth treatment. While completing an outpatient treatment program is certainly a milestone to celebrate, for some people, it is only the beginning of their journey. 

When a person finishes an outpatient treatment program, they may be exposed to a great deal of temptation and triggers that can make them relapse. Before a person completes their treatment program, however, they may be able to set up an aftercare plan with their therapist. These plans generally include the following components:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group counseling
  • 12-step or Non-12 step programs
  • Alumni programs

Conversely, some residents in inpatient care may be given the opportunity to step down to IOP or partial hospitalization. 

Ultimately, recovery is an ongoing process that combines a patient’s effort and the support of their loved ones. Although outpatient programs lay out the foundation, a person in recovery must continue to put in work once their program ends. Aftercare programs help build on the foundation of outpatient treatment, helping a person remain sober. A person can continue incorporating the skills they learned in their program while receiving feedback from a professional. 


Ardu Recovery Center Can Support You

If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, enrolling in an outpatient drug treatment program can break the cycle and provide support. If more intensive care is needed, inpatient treatment centers may be a more practical solution. Ardu Recovery Center offers inpatient and outpatient treatment options, and we specialize in neurocognitive recovery. 

Our goal is to treat the root causes and symptoms of addiction while maintaining a strong focus on each resident’s mental health. We are located in Provo, Utah. Reach out to us with any questions you may have.