Outpatient Treatment

Weekly addiction counseling and therapy at an outpatient level.

What is Outpatient Treatment?

Outpatient treatment sometimes referred to as OP, is an addiction program service setting that doesn’t require the patient to check into the facility. It is also considered a step down from Intensive Outpatient treatment. This level of care involves all aspects of Intensive Outpatient, with the difference being frequency and duration.

Why Choose Outpatient Treatment?

Outpatient treatment allows patients to continue to maintain a regular commitment to family, work, or school. It is a safe, less intensive option that allows patients to continue to receive treatment for an extended period of time.

Outpatient Program Details:

  • 1 to 2 days per week, 3 hours per day
  • Evening and day schedules
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Case management
  • Aftercare clubs (select locations)

Outpatient Program Specific Groups:

  • Psychoeducational
  • Didactic Lectures
  • Process
  • Specialized and Culturally Specific
  • Mutual Self-Help Programming
  • Skills Training
  • Expressive Therapy (Yoga, Taichi, Art, Music, Comedy)
  • Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Community Support
  • Experiential
  • Nutritional Counseling, and other Wellness Initiates
  • Recreational Programing.

The Pros of Outpatient Programs (OP)

Outpatient programs have a great track record of helping people learn to manage their addictions. And these programs come with some benefits inpatient programs can’t provide. When compared to an inpatient service setting, an outpatient program offers:

  • Cost savings
  • Flexibility
  • Interaction with family and friends


You’ll pay less per day while still getting treatment for your addiction. When you’re not in the treatment center, you can still participate in other aspects of your life. This is particularly appealing for those who have family members they care for, or a job they can’t leave for a period of time. Since you’ll still live at home, you’ll be able to receive support from your family and friends. This can often strengthen relationships that may have been strained by addiction.

Outpatient programs come with many benefits, but it might not be right for everyone. Let’s dig a little deeper and explain how these programs work and who might benefit from them.

What Is Outpatient Treatment?

An outpatient treatment program lets you live at home or in a sober living environment while receiving treatment for addiction. You’ll have access to many of the same therapies available in an inpatient program without having to stay 24/7 till the end of the program.

An outpatient program requires the patient to come in for appointments, like treatment sessions. Early in your recovery, you might visit your team every day. As you progress, your meetings might become less frequent. You are supported throughout the program, but when you’re not in a session, you won’t be surrounded by your care team.

Outpatient programs typically begin when medical detox is complete so that the patient is stabilized. This means you won’t have drugs in your system, and you won’t be dealing with acute withdrawal. That way, the patient won’t be dealing with many physical symptoms and will be able to sit through sessions of treatment. Being sober is especially important during outpatient treatment since that will make it easier to avoid relapse.

This stage of treatment is meant to address the psychiatric consequences of substance abuse along with the medical ones, too. In order to do that, patients partake in therapeutic activities, counseling sessions, group, and individual therapy, etc. By doing this, the patient will learn more about themselves, their cycle of addiction, their triggers, how to cope with cravings, and much more.

Support groups and group activities play a big role in recovery. First, it makes patients know they are not alone, that what they are going through can happen to anyone. They will work on social skills while learning to be independent and individualistic in a group setting. Finally, they will get to learn by helping others while also feeling a sense of purposefulness for doing so. These are crucial to tackling the mental and emotional aspects of recovery.

Family therapy and activities in general are just as important. They are a way to make sure patients and their families are on the same page. The dynamics between family can affect the chances of relapse, and therapy can help break toxic cycles and behaviors. It is also a great way to inform the family better about addiction, relapse prevention, enabling, and so on. Families are a part of a support group, and as such, need to be in the loop about the situation.

For those suffering from co-occurring disorders, this part of the addiction treatment is even more important. Dual diagnosis patients suffer from symptoms and issues brought on by addiction and a psychiatric disorder. Both disorders must be treated because they feed off of each other. Not taking care of one could make the other worsen with time, or trigger relapse episodes. The treatment will have to be designed according to this medical scenario. 

Addiction experts consider outpatient treatment a “moderate” level of addiction care. While tapping into tools to help you grow and change, you won’t have therapeutic support 24/7. While you are outside, you will need to make responsible decisions and deal with your life on your own.

Why Should You Choose Outpatient Care?

First and foremost, any decisions regarding service settings should be made according to the instructions of a doctor. After doing an assessment, they will tell what options you have for addiction treatment. Outpatient programs come in different service settings, and a licensed professional can instruct you about what options can suit your needs.

Of course, a lot of people have some obstacles to deal with, like taking time off work or attending school or college. Others might not have much time to spend away from home and must take care of family members. And as we mentioned, your insurance company may require that you try outpatient care. But there are good reasons and pros to choose outpatient care.

With outpatient treatment, you can continue with other aspects of your life when you are not in therapy sessions. If you have children or elderly family members, you can continue to care for them. You won’t have to put your pets into a boarding facility or hire pet sitters like you would if you opted for an inpatient rehab program.

With outpatient treatment, you can stay in school and continue to work toward your educational goals. You can keep your job routine since outpatient care doesn’t require you to take a leave of absence. In an outpatient program, you’ll remain in touch with the people who mean the most to you. This could all be a huge plus for your recovery.

Outpatient care allows for all of this, which can reduce stress any worries about the recovery process. Recovery can then be included in your daily routine and lifestyle rather than being a separate part of it. 

Outpatient Service Settings And The Step-Down Approach

When it comes to getting treatment, it is important for the team and the patients to know their limitations. Each outpatient service setting is designed to address specific needs, which patients need to be aware of. Some patients will start a specific program, finish it, and feel ready to go back to their usual daily routines. Others might need to transition back gradually. 

That is why there are different options available – to better help patients overcome addiction and avoid relapse. All service settings provide medical and psychiatric support to patients. The main differences about them are the number of visits a week, their duration, and their intensity. You don’t have to go through all of them, but if you want to, you’re more than welcome to!

Step Down From a Partial Hospitalization Program

Patients that need a more intensive level of care at the beginning of their recovery journey may start with a partial hospitalization program (PHP). In PHPs, they’ll have six hours of treatment sessions, five days of the week. This is the most immersive outpatient service setting. Clients receive a high level of intensive care, staying out way less, which helps to avoid triggers and opportunities for relapse. 

Step Down From an Intensive Outpatient Program

After PHP, they may then transition to an intensive outpatient program (IOP) once they’ve improved. IOPs are also an option for those who think PHP is not needed but do need more than basic outpatient treatment. For IOPs, patients have shorter sessions, about three hours long, three to five days a week. Additionally, they can choose from both day or evening schedules, making it easy to fit treatment into their routine.

Once a patient has achieved stability in an IOP, the next step can be a basic outpatient program. In this case, sessions would be even shorter, about three hours, and only one to two days per week. Basic outpatient programs can also be the starting point for patients suffering from moderate to mild addiction. But they are a good final step before going out on your own independently.

This transition process is considered a step-down approach. It allows patients to move through different levels of treatment as they progress in recovery. While it might seem like a long time for some, it might be just what you need. Each person follows their own unique journey, so there isn’t a set timeline for how long anyone will stay at a certain level of care.

The Need For A Safe Home Environment

While you’re in outpatient care, you’ll be exposed to relapse triggers in the outside world. For example: in a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, 50% of people said they saw content on social media that sparked cravings. They wanted to escape and see their friends and family, but instead, what they saw caused them to crave drugs.

While there’s no way to completely avoid triggers throughout your life, it is important to avoid it during treatment and recovery. In an outpatient program, you’re not living in a protected bubble away from the things that might harm your sobriety. That is why it’s critical that you have a safe, sober home environment, with support from your loved ones.

The people with whom you live must be aware of your treatment and your desire to remain sober. These are the people who can support you when you’re not standing within the walls of your treatment facility. Staying sober means a lot of changes will have to be made in your living environment and social habits. The people beside you should be prepared and informed about it, and have to be ready and willing to help.

A study from Cigna suggests that more than half of us have at least two close friends. But that same study shows that most of our friends are like us. If you have trouble with addiction, your social circles might have a connection to that. If you’re ever tempted to relapse, will your friends help you or harm you?

Your home life could also bring on factors that would cause relapse, including:

  • Economic insecurity, which leads to added stress
  • Unfit living conditions, without proper infrastructure
  • Interpersonal difficulties in the home, including violence or abusive relationships
  • Aspects of the neighborhood, like direct contact with criminal activity or abusive neighbors
  • Too much work or responsibilities, which leaves you little time to care for your health
  • Isolation, especially if you live alone

Any or all of these issues could make it harder to tackle your addiction. And if you’ve tried to get better before and failed, you know that all too well. Relapsing is a process, and as such, has many levels or triggers that might lead someone to substance abuse. Most or all of them should be avoided as much as possible.

Though you can’t make everyone around you change, you can change if you must. For cases like this, inpatient treatment might be ideal. But for those who can’t afford it or don’t meet the diagnostic criteria, moving into a sober living home is a safe, better option.

What Is Sober Living?

Sober living homes also called halfway houses, are group homes meant to be a safe space for those recovering from addiction. Naturally, it is a place free of drugs and alcohol, with a set of rules to be followed. This set of rules is either established by a manager or by the group as a whole. 

Sober homes work like a co-opt, as each resident pays part of the costs and help in the house through chores. There are different types of sober houses to choose: some are privately-owned, others are owned by businesses and/or religious groups, or even charity organizations. 

Not only is it ideal in terms of living arrangements, but it also provides the previously mentioned support. Sober living provides a secure, substance-free environment where you can live with others who are going through the same as you. 

You’ll be able to implement the lessons you learn in therapy into your everyday life, and you’ll have support from your housemates along the way. Many sober homes might also require that you continue aftercare treatment, like attending support groups.

If you don’t have a safe home environment, a sober living home is an option you should consider. Studies have shown that sober living homes help avoid relapse and keep recovering addicts on track. Living tends to be inexpensive, around the same, average price as reasonable rent. And this would all go towards your improvement and sobriety.

Cost Information You Should Understand

Paying With Insurance

Medical fees vary according to the intensity of care, which is why outpatient tends to be less expensive. If you’ve ever had another medical issue, you’ve seen the difference in your bills. A doctor’s visit costs much less than a trip to the hospital. Since outpatient care is less stringent and intense than inpatient, it ends up costing less. But the actual services you receive, such as therapy, are very similar to what you might receive in inpatient treatment.

The reason for these costs savings is because outpatient programs don’t provide:


The reality is that, for many people, the price of treatment is one of the reasons why they won’t get help. Residential and outpatient treatments vary a lot in cost, even if the latter takes longer to complete. But if you have health insurance, you should check with your provider about your coverage. 

The marketplace rules that insurance companies must offer care for mental health issues (like addiction) the same way they would for physical problems (like broken bones). Mental and behavioral services are considered essential benefits, and therefore, must be covered by insurance providers. Those parity rules mean your insurance plan should cover at least some of the cost of care, and spending limits and preexisting conditions bans can’t apply.

But you may have out-of-pocket expenses like copayments and deductibles, and those fees can be a strain on your budget. By choosing a less expensive option for treatment, you could save money. Insurance plans might also require that you try the least expensive option before you move on to something more costly. That means you might have to use outpatient care first when possible, even if it’s not your first option.

Paying for Outpatient Treatment with Medicaid and Medicare

Medicaid is a state- and federal-funded health care program, helping people with low income receive medical treatment. In order to be eligible, people need to provide information on their income and that they can’t afford a majority of the plans available. The income requirement for coverage varies depending on the state. 

Medicare is also a health care program funded by the government, but eligibility for it is different. The requirements have nothing to do with income and are: being over 65 and having paid Medicare taxes for 10+ years; being married to someone who paid Medicare taxes for 10+ years; having a severe disability (all ages); suffering from End-Stage Renal Disease.

Both programs provide coverage for outpatient rehabilitation as well as other rehab services. However, it won’t be full coverage, and some of them have limitations. You’d have to look into the specifics for each plan, and for your own state.

For instance, Medicare is divided into A, B, C, and D parts, and part B specifies outpatient rehab services. It establishes that Medicare can cover up to 80% of costs, covering outpatient care, therapy, drugs administered, and professional interventions. It also covers treatment for co-occurring disorders. And Medicaid also offers coverage for rehab services. In fact, it covers most outpatient programs, as well as both IOPs and PHPs. 

If you are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, you can use both of them to cover your expenses. But bear in mind, you would need to make sure of how much each would cover, and if you can use both for the same specific services.

Paying for Outpatient Treatment Without Insurance

Many people can count on help to make rehab less expensive, or at least more affordable. First, there are other government programs that fund rehabilitation services. You’d have to apply through a mental health agency or a substance abuse agency, both of which can be local or state agencies. Government grants are another possibility and are offered in multiple states.

If you have to pay out of pocket, you can enquire about payment plans. Another similar option would be to pay with a credit card. Both allow you to pay for rehab gradually, though the latter might come with some extra fees. There are also personal and/or private loans available to those who can take them and will be able to pay back in a certain period of time. These can affect your general credit, and they might require that you pay back sooner rather than later.

Is Outpatient Care Right for You?

There are various levels of outpatient treatment, and the choice of which one is right for you is very individual. An initial assessment at a treatment facility will help you determine which level of care will be best for your situation. Once that is done, you can count on the right team to help you. We at Footprints to Recovery can provide any level of treatment you might need, from detox to aftercare.

If you or a loved one need help to overcome addiction, we can help you. Contact us today and ask us your questions, schedule a tour, and learn more about our options. Our team is prepared to guide you through the process and to help you choose what is right for you. Remember that your journey in recovery is unique, so choose a facility that offers tailored care.

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