Outpatient Drug Rehab: Treatments, Cost, & How to Choose

If you or a loved one is dealing with a drug or alcohol addiction, locating the right rehab program can seem overwhelming. A few different types of outpatient drug rehab programs offer effective treatment at a lower cost and greater scheduling flexibility.

What is Outpatient Drug Rehab?

Unlike inpatient rehab programs where you would reside at the facility full-time, outpatient treatment includes commuting to the facility while living at home. This allows you to continue to attend work or school while receiving services.

Various types of outpatient drug rehab programs exist, and the one most suited to you or your loved one depends on several factors.

Types of Outpatient Drug Rehab

Each type of outpatient drug rehab program caters to different needs and levels of addiction severity.

Partial Hospitalization Programs

A partial hospitalization program (PHP) is an appropriate level of treatment if you have a higher severity of addiction but do not need round-the-clock care. PHP treatment involves receiving services four to eight hours per day and can occur in hospitals or mental health clinics.

PHPs provide a wide variety of services, such as different forms of therapy, psychoeducation, medication management, and case management. Case management can help link you to other services you may need, like vocational rehab or financial aid.

PHPs are also often used as step-down programs from inpatient rehab to help you transition from 24-hour care to living back at home.

Intensive Outpatient Programs

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP), like PHPs, provide a variety of services and are more suitable if you have a strong social support network and live in a drug- or alcohol-free environment. You can also enter IOP treatment as a step-down from PHP to help transition from more intensive to less intensive care.

The number of hours of treatment in IOP is less than that of PHP. You would receive treatment for a few hours at a time, a few days per week. Also, IOP programs are often offered at various times in the week—during the day or evening, before or after school, and on weekends—to help meet your scheduling needs.

Outpatient Counseling

Outpatient counseling or therapy typically happens once or twice per week in a therapist’s office. This level of outpatient treatment is appropriate if you have a mild alcohol or drug addiction or as a step-down treatment from more intensive care. As step-down care, outpatient therapy helps to maintain the progress made in IOP, PHP, or inpatient treatment and helps prevent relapse. If you are dealing with a mild substance use disorder (SUD), outpatient counseling can help develop coping skills to reduce use and prevent the addiction from worsening.


Remote or Virtual Outpatient Drug Rehab

Telehealth has become more common for treating various conditions, including SUDs. This type of outpatient treatment involves meeting with a provider by phone or video instead of going to their office.

Telehealth comes with various benefits, such as:

  • Avoiding a long commute
  • Treatment sessions from the comfort of your own home
  • Increased privacy
  • Shorter wait times for appointments

In addition, providers can manage medication treatment—like for alcohol or opioid addiction—via telehealth, and you can retrieve your prescriptions at your local pharmacy.

Another benefit of outpatient drug rehab programs is that they provide evidence-based therapy, similar to inpatient treatment.

Types of Therapies Used in Outpatient Drug Rehab

Providers use various therapeutic approaches in addiction treatment in all types of outpatient settings. Research has found these therapies to be effective in reducing substance use or problems associated with misuse.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a commonly used therapy approach for various conditions, including SUDs. It involves helping you explore how your thoughts, feelings, and actions are related to each other. You identify unhelpful thought patterns that can contribute to drug use and learn more helpful patterns that can help facilitate healthier behaviors.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) helps you to work through conflicting feelings you might have about substance use. It is common to feel compelled to use while also recognizing its negative effects. MET helps you to continually weigh the costs versus benefits of drug use to help you get closer to readiness to change your use.

Contingency Management

Contingency management (CM) is a therapeutic approach that provides you with rewards for achieving specific goals in addiction treatment. Research on this therapy strategy has found it is very effective for maintaining abstinence. Providers give financial rewards or vouchers that can be exchanged for retail items when you remain abstinent from use. This is typically determined by drug screens.

Addiction treatment providers often integrate more than one therapy strategy throughout treatment, which can also be used in various therapy modalities.

Therapy Modalities

A few different modes of therapy are available in outpatient counseling, IOPs, or PHPs. These include:

  • Individual: Individual therapy involves meeting with a therapist one-on-one. It allows you to discuss issues privately or prepare to address them with loved ones.
  • Couples: Couples therapy can help you and your partner work through concerns related to your or your loved one’s substance use. The therapist helps you to understand how addiction affects each of you, develop a stronger connection, and enhance your communication with each other.
  • Family: Similar to couples therapy, family therapy brings family members together to help everyone strengthen their understanding of addiction. It shows how addiction affects their loved ones and aims to strengthen the family unit as a whole.
  • Group: Group therapy involves meeting with others who also deal with an SUD, and one or two therapists facilitate the discussion. This therapy setting can be especially helpful in feeling less alone in dealing with addiction and in strengthening interpersonal skills.

It is typical for individual, group, family, and couples therapy to occur in parallel as a way to address the SUD’s impact on you and your relationships with others.

Is Outpatient Drug Rehab Effective?

Yes, outpatient drug rehab is effective. In fact, research has found IOPs to be as effective as inpatient or residential rehab programs.

Outpatient programs can vary in terms of their processes and the services they offer. That is why it can be helpful to identify what factors are important to you as you consider different programs.

Factors to Consider in Outpatient Drug Rehab Programs

It can be invaluable to consider logistical factors, attributes of the outpatient treatment programs, and your needs to decide on the best outpatient program for you. Examples of questions to ask as you consider a rehab program are:

  • Is there a waitlist, and if so, how long is it?
  • Can they provide interim services?
  • What insurance plans does the treatment center accept?
  • Is the agency state-accredited? Is the staff licensed professionals who are trained to treat SUDs?
  • Does the agency have a multidisciplinary team to handle various aspects of treatment, including medication and case management?
  • What evidence-based therapy and treatment modalities are available?

Reach Out Today

It is never too late to seek help. Please call 800-908-4823 (Who Answers?) to explore your treatment options. You can also search directly for addiction treatment centers near you.


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  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2023, August 31). Tele-treatment for substance use disorders.
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2024, February 29). Why use telehealth?
  5. Mark, T.L., Treiman, K., Padwa, H., Henretty, K., Tzeng, J. & Gilbert, M. (2022). Addiction treatment and telehealth: Review of efficacy and provider insights during the COVID-19 pandemic. Psychiatric Services, 73(5), 484-491.
  6. Zilverstand, A., Paravaz, M.A., Moeller, S.J. & Goldstein, R.Z. (2016). Chapter 13 – Cognitive interventions for addiction medicine: Understanding the underlying neurobiological mechanisms. Progress in Brain Research, 224, 285-304.
  7. Kumar, S., Srivastava, M., Srivastava, M., Yadav, J.S. & Prakash, S. (2021, January). Effect of motivational enhancement therapy (MET) on the self efficacy of individuals of alcohol dependence. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 10(1), 367-372.
  8. Davis, D.R., Kurti, A.N., Skelly, J.M., Redner, R., White, T.J. & Higgins, S.T. (2016, November). A review of the literature on contingency management in the treatment of substance use disorders, 2009–2014. Preventative Medicine, 92, 36-46.
  9. McGovern, M.P. & Carroll, K.M. (2003, December). Evidence-based practices for substance use disorders. The Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 26(4), 991-1010.

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