Blog - Beach House Rehab Center
January 25, 2019

What Is Outpatient Rehab?

Outpatient rehab is one of the most popular forms of treatment for substance use disorders in the United States today. It is heralded by many for both its flexibility and its effectiveness, and it is remarkably affordable compared to some other forms of treatment.

There are a number of different formats that outpatient treatment can take, each with its own virtues that make it right for those who decide to participate. Here we’ll explain the ins and outs of each to help you choose the right outpatient program for you.

What is Outpatient Rehab?

Outpatient rehab is a form of professional treatment for substance use disorder that takes place in a registered treatment facility part-time. Clients who undergo such treatment will do so at their own behest and are free to come and go as they please. They are provided all of the same resources as any other form of care but between treatment sessions they are able to maintain a normal daily routine.

What Is the Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab?

The other common form of rehab is an inpatient rehab program. Inpatient rehab treatments also take place at a licensed treatment facility, however, as part of the program, clients are not allowed to come and go as they please. Instead, they live at the treatment facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week for an allotted amount of time (usually a minimum of 30 days). However, that is not the only difference.

Level Of Intensity

Between the many inpatient and outpatient programs offered for drug and alcohol addiction, there is a significant difference in the level of intensity. Inpatient programs tend to be relatively intensive, designed for those who are severely dependent and perhaps otherwise incapable of managing their recovery on their own. Conversely, outpatient care is typically less intensive, designed for those who are either less-dependent on their chosen substance of abuse or otherwise deemed fit to manage recovery without around the clock supervision.

Time In Treatment

The amount of time spent in treatment is another major difference between inpatient and outpatient programs. As we’ve mentioned, those who are enrolled in inpatient recovery programs live on site 24/7, and much of their time is dedicated to treatment and recovery. They are allotted a certain amount of free time, but they are generally not permitted to leave the premises without supervision.

Outpatient programs take up significantly less time out of the client’s day. Some programs will have structured treatments every day of the week, but most are part-time. There are even outpatient setups that are offered on weekends only, leaving clients free to enjoy an otherwise normal weekly schedule.

What Are The Different Options For Outpatient Rehab?

Outpatient treatment can be used in a number of different ways depending on the needs of the client and the recommendations of their physician. In some cases, outpatient rehab is used as an extension of previous inpatient treatment; as a stepping stone back out into the world and a more normal lifestyle. In other cases, it is used as an initial step to treatment, as a way to overcome a budding substance use issue before it becomes a full-blown disorder. Here we’ll take a look at the three most common outpatient rehab formats and discuss what each treatment option is geared towards.

Partial Hospitalization

Partial hospitalization is pretty much exactly what it sounds like—it takes place in the hospital or treatment facility part time. Generally, this will entail meeting at the hospital two to three days a week for a period of 4-6 hours at a time. This treatment format leaves a lot of flexibility in the client’s schedule, allowing them to hold down a full-time job and fulfill family obligations. Because of the degree of freedom and lack of professional oversight outside the treatment facility, this form of treatment is most commonly recommended for those who have an existing stable living condition and have been deemed fit to oversee their recovery somewhat independently.

Intensive Outpatient Care

Intensive outpatient programs, as you may have gleaned from the name, require a bit more of a commitment than partial hospitalization programs, yet not so much as residential treatment. Essentially, they offer all of the same treatments and support that residential care programs do but clients are allowed to spend their free time at their own home. The primary goal of intensive outpatient programs is to prevent the occurrence of relapse. They are designed to effectively treat addiction and prevent relapse for those who require more supervision, yet still allow them to fulfill obligations to school, work, family etc.

Therapy and Counseling

Therapy and counseling, by themselves, require the least amount of commitment, take up the least amount of time, and grant the greatest amount of freedom for clients. The primary goals are to help clients understand the true causes of their substance use issues and to learn and practice effective coping mechanisms to help maintain their sobriety.

Therapy and counseling are offered as part of every inpatient and outpatient program around. However, additional counseling may be recommended in conjunction with either of the other two forms mentioned.

Continuing Care Groups

Continuing care groups tend to be the last step in the process of recovery. Their main purpose is to provide an outlet for those in recovery to meet with others like them, share accomplishments and struggles, and, most importantly, maintain their sobriety. These meetings are typically looser and much less structured than formal treatment—dictated by the needs and preference of the group members themselves. Also, they require a much smaller time commitment than the other forms of treatment we’ve discussed, typically meeting about once a week for one to two hours.

Depending on a client’s geographic location, the availability of continuing care groups or aftercare services will vary. For those who live in medium-sized to large metropolitan areas, there is likely to be a larger number and wider variety of support groups available. This can be of great benefit, as clients are more likely to find a group that suits their particular taste and offers the specific brand of support they desire.

In smaller or more rural areas, it can be difficult to find an option that fits all of a client’s desires or requirements, and they may be forced to travel longer distances to participate in their chosen group sessions. This is especially true for those who wish to discuss topics that are specific to their gender.

What To Expect in Outpatient Rehab

If you are brand new to outpatient rehab, not knowing what to expect can make the prospect of joining a little nerve-wracking. However, you should rest assured that these types of rehab programs are designed with your comfort and well-being in mind. They are designed to challenge you, but in a healthy and nurturing way.

There is a lot of variation between different outpatient programs in terms of daily time commitment and duration of treatment. The minimum amount of time you can expect a treatment program to last will be 30 days. It has been shown that any duration shorter than that has reduced rates of effectiveness. There are many programs that last up to 90 days, and some that last even longer.

The total duration of the program you will enroll in will depend on the severity of your disorder, the degree to which you are equipped to handle recovery independently, and the recommendations of your addiction treatment specialists.

Outpatient Treatment Offerings

Outpatient treatment programs are designed to offer a support network by providing access to official support groups comprised of other clients like yourself. These groups are offered in various formats, including both individual and group counseling to provide a more holistic form of care. Group counseling will be directed and overseen by a licensed counselor with opportunities for the group to dictate certain portions of some meetings.

Benefits of Outpatient Rehab

The benefits of outpatient rehab are numerous, and each allows the client a certain degree of comfort and dignity as they navigate their recovery journey. We will discuss a few of them here.

Free Time

The most obvious benefit to not being confined to a treatment facility is the ability to hold onto an otherwise normal lifestyle. Clients are free to come and go between meetings, allowing them to hold a steady job, live with and enjoy their families, engage in their favorite hobbies, and socialize with their friends outside of treatment.


Outpatient programs afford clients a degree of privacy that is not necessarily feasible in an inpatient setting. In residential programs, clients live and receive treatment alongside other patients who are not friends and family. They are also subject to professional supervision both during treatment sessions and during free time.

Real Life Practice

Another great feature of outpatient programs is that they afford clients the opportunity to practice and hone their newly learned skills in real world situations. Residential care programs, while effective in teaching these skills, offer limited opportunities to practice them until the client is released from the facility.

With outpatient care, clients have the opportunity to take their newfound knowledge out into the real world and apply it, whether it be limited to their own support group or their community at large. This also presents the opportunity for them to gain valuable feedback, a solid understanding of their progress (or lack thereof) and use that to adjust their strategies under the guidance of their counselors.


In most cases, you will find that there is a dramatic difference in cost between inpatient and outpatient care. Of course, this is dependent upon the level of care being offered by the program you’ve enrolled in and the particular clinic offering it. However, it stands to reason that it would cost a lot more to offer food, housing, and amenities to clients in-house, in comparison to those who live elsewhere.

How To Choose An Outpatient Rehab Program

Suppose you do choose to enter an outpatient program for your drug or alcohol addiction but have yet to decide on one specifically. What is the best way to go about making your decision, and what are the factors you ought to be considering? The simplest way to do it is to start with a list of your priorities—ask yourself what is most important to you and features you believe will aid you most in your recovery. Some of these features could include:

  • Types of therapies offered
  • Types of activities available
  • Amenities
  • A specific program you desire
  • Continued maintenance resources

Once you have been able to put together a solid list, it is time to start narrowing in on the program that is going to work best for you. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help with this part of the process:

  • What are the methods of treatment employed at this clinic?
  • How qualified are the staff and specialists?
  • Do their scheduling options fit my needs?
  • Will my treatment be covered by insurance or will I have to pay out of pocket?
  • What is the success rate of this particular program?
  • Does this program allow friends, family, and other members of my support group to participate in therapy?
  • Do they offer continuing support to help me once I’ve completed the program?
  • Does the level of structure and flexibility fit my needs and desires?
  • Do they offer any additional services or amenities I might take advantage of?

Is Outpatient Rehab Right For Me?

Because outpatient rehab offers a greater degree of freedom with reduced intensity and oversight, you will need to be honest with yourself about your current state and make sure that you fit certain prerequisites to ensure that this type of treatment has a chance to be effective.

Outpatient substance abuse treatment has proven to be most effective for individuals who have a stable living situation outside of the clinic; are in good health, both physically and psychologically; and have a strong support network of friends and family. There are also a couple of considerations outside of these that will make you a good fit for outpatient care.

  • You need to be able to manage your addiction independently. Typically, this means that you fall somewhere in the early stages of addiction and don’t require detox or other medical care
  • You want additional support beyond that which your existing network provides
  • You want to make strides toward overcoming your substance use disorder, but you can’t afford an intensive inpatient program


An outpatient rehab program can be an extremely valuable and effective resource to guide you in your quest for sobriety. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder, please reach out to us with any questions you may have. Our Florida substance abuse rehab center is here to help you take the next step toward recovery.