What Is Drug Rehab?

Drug rehab is available to help people who are struggling with drug addiction, also known as
substance use disorder (SUD). Usually held at a drug treatment center or facility, drug rehab provides an individualized blend of therapies to assist drug addicts in finding both sobriety and a long-term, sustainable recovery.Drug rehab programs can be either on an inpatient or outpatient basis, and can be either short-term or long-term in duration.

Recovering from drug addiction can be extremely difficult, and not to mention dangerous. Getting the proper professional treatment can give people the vital support they need to achieve sobriety, and even embrace it in the future.

Drug addicts need the structure that goes with drug rehabilitation programs. They need to be in safe and secure environments where it is nearly impossible for them to
relapse, and that will help them stay on the right road to recovery. But what is drug rehab exactly and what does it involve? This is what we will answer here.

What Makes Drug Addiction Treatment Effective?

Even though recovering from drug addiction can be challenging, it is possible. The right treatment can make a real difference in people’s lives. It is the most effective way to address substance use disorder and help people to move on from being active drug addicts to living lives of sobriety.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there are several
principles of effective substance addiction treatment, based on mid-1970s scientific research, which all treatment programs should reflect. These are:

  • Addiction is a chronic and complex disease, primarily affecting brain function and an individual’s behavior, but it is TREATABLE
  • No single treatment is the correct treatment for everyone
  • People require quick and obstacle-free access to treatment – otherwise, they may reconsider their decision to go to drug rehab
  • Effective treatment addresses 100% of the patient’s health needs, eg. their
    mental health
    not just their drug use
  • Staying in treatment long enough is critical to recovery
  • Counseling and other behavioral therapies are the most commonly used forms of treatment
  • Medications are an important part of treatment (known as
    medically-assisted therapy or MAT), especially when used in conjunction with behavioral therapies
  • Treatment plans must be reviewed, and modified, on a regular basis, to address the patient’s changing needs
  • Treatment should address other possible mental disorders if diagnosed or present (known as
    dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder)
  • Medically-assisted detoxification is only the first stage of treatment
  • Treatment doesn’t have to be on a voluntary basis to prove effective
  • Any drug use during treatment must be monitored rigorously and continuously, because of the risk of
    addiction relapse
  • Treatment programs should test patients for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases, as standard clinical practice, as well as to teach patients about steps they can take to reduce the high risk of these illnesses

Treatment Options For Drug Rehab

There is no single “right” way to treat substance addiction; therefore, there are many different options available, as well as many possible combinations of these individual options. This is because people all have very different needs when it comes to recovery. It is critical for those needs to be properly addressed during their treatment.

It is always best for people to discuss their needs for treatment with an addiction professional. They can then provide a recommendation for the proper level of care based on the information they are given.

Inpatient Drug Rehab

Inpatient drug rehab programs offer drug addiction treatment in a residential center or facility, so the patient can focus 100% on their therapy and the beginning of their recovery. Drug rehab removes the triggers or temptations of relapse that exist in the patient’s normal environment, and the patient can receive 24/7 constant care, if required.

Inpatient drug rehabs can vary widely in the environment they offer – from a 5-star hotel-type setting, with all the luxury facilities and amenities, to the rather sterile surroundings of a typical hospital ward. However, the vast majority of drug rehabs are positioned halfway between these extremes, providing a warm and friendly environment so patients feel comfortable and relaxed while receiving their treatment.

Research studies have shown that inpatient drug rehab programs offer the best chance of success for a long-term recovery, as it allows the patient to fully engage with their treatment and improving health. Furthermore, patients can learn how to enjoy their free time in a way that does not involve the use of drugs.

Lastly, many
inpatient rehabs offer a professional, medically-assisted detox as a part of their programs. Those that do not do this normally provide their patients with a referral.

Outpatient Drug Rehab

Outpatient drug rehab programs offer the same drug addiction treatment as an inpatient program, but without the residential element. Instead, patients access their treatment by attending an outpatient drug rehab center or facility at certain times during the day – this can range from a full day to specific appointment times.

Outpatient programs for drug addiction treatment are also offered at differing levels of care, ranging from partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), to intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), and down to traditional outpatient programs.

These different levels of care are determined by a combination of clinical patient assessment, and the number of hours per week someone can commit to their drug addiction treatment. Depending on the treatment center, outpatient treatment timetables can be highly flexible, enabling people to either meet family obligations, continue working or attend school while still receiving treatment.

However, with an outpatient program, the individual is still living in the environment that allowed or enabled their substance use. In that respect, they are slightly less successful in attaining a long-term recovery than inpatient programs.

In fact, outpatient programs are at their most effective when they form part of an overall drug addiction treatment plan that provides a continuum of care for a recovering individual that begins with inpatient drug rehab.

Partial Hospitalization

Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) offer the highest level of care that is available on an outpatient basis. Clients live at home and during the day, they come to the treatment facility. PHPs offer many services that people in recovery need, such as:

  • Medication management services
  • Treatment for mental health conditions
  • Individual therapy sessions
  • Group therapy sessions
  • Family therapy sessions
  • Therapeutic activities

Partial hospitalization programs typically require people to remain at the facility for the entire day. This time requirement might be lessened as time goes on.

Intensive Outpatient Programs

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) also offer a high level of care. Many experts believe that an IOP is very similar to what people experience when they go to inpatient rehab. IOPs are typically about 12 weeks in length, and they require people to attend regular appointments, usually between 3-5 times per week.

During IOPs, clients participate in various types of therapy. They can receive treatment for co-occurring disorders as well as for their SUD. The program provides people with a well-rounded treatment plan, including Individual and group counseling sessions, that is fully personalized to meet their individual needs.

Many people gravitate toward IOPs, because they have so many benefits. They work well for people who work or go to school, and for parents to care for their children during the day, because of the flexibility of appointments.

Traditional Outpatient Drug Rehab

A more traditional outpatient alcohol treatment program may not be best suited for people who are new to recovery. This level of care tends to offer less professional support, and there may not be any peer support available at all. It is usually reserved for those who have gone through an IOP, PHP or inpatient program in the recent past.

But traditional outpatient rehab does have its place in addiction recovery. It typically involves regular individual therapy sessions with an addiction treatment specialist. Some may also have group therapy sessions available, but most do not. This type of treatment can work well for people as a form of follow-up, but it can also work for those who milder addictions.

Sober Living Homes

Sober living homes are often essential for people who are in addiction recovery. While they do not provide any in-house alcohol treatment, they do offer safe places to live for those who need them. Many people are not able to return home after going to rehab because of the risk of relapsing, domestic violence, or for any number of reasons. Having access to sober living homes gives people the added security they need during this critical time in their lives.

For many people, sober living homes provide them with opportunities they would not have had otherwise. They can serve as a helpful way to transition back into ordinary life. They can also help people who want to relocate to a new city or state once they are in recovery.

Residents are required to pay rent every month, and there may be other rules that need to be followed as well. It is not uncommon for many sober living homes to have curfews and require chores. Every resident may need to submit to drug and alcohol testing, and secure their own outpatient addiction treatment program.

The Importance Of Drug Detox At The Beginning Of Recovery

The first step in drug addiction recovery is going through the detoxification (“detox”) process. Before any recovery can fully begin, it is imperative that the individual being treated is 100% free from the drugs they have abused, as well as any toxins in the body that have been produced by their drug use.

When people use addictive drugs, over time they will build up a “tolerance” to the substance, which invariably leads them to keep increasing the amount they use and how often they use it just to get a similar effect. When they stop using, the result is drug withdrawal.

Detox allows for a safe withdrawal from a drug, as some of the symptoms that can appear during the process can range from uncomfortable to severe, and even life-threatening, and it is virtually always the first step for anyone withdrawing from moderate to severe forms of drug addiction.

Types Of Detox

The type of detox a person requires depends on the substance(s) they are addicted to, the severity of their addiction, and how long they have been addicted.

Inpatient Detox

Also know as medical detox, the person stays in a facility where they are constantly supervised by medical staff to avoid deadly withdrawal symptoms

Outpatient Detox

The person detoxes at home. Best suited for those with strong social support and less severe addictions that won’t trigger fatal withdrawal symptoms.

Depending on the drug, detox can require the use of specific medications in order to reduce the intensity of the symptoms. A process of “tapering” can also be used where the medicating drug is itself addictive, meaning the medication is slowly reduced in dosage until the patient is no longer physically dependent.

Common Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

Drug withdrawal occurs when a person stops using addictive drugs, and the severity and type of withdrawal symptoms that are experienced can vary with the type of drug used, the length of time the drug use continued, and the amount taken each time the drug was used.

Some of the most common signs of drug withdrawal include:

  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Cognitive problems
  • Sleep disruption
  • Nightmares
  • Rapid heart rate

During detox (and possibly during post-detox treatment), patients can be prescribed specific medications to assist with their recovery process. This is known as “medically-assisted treatment” (MAT), and these medications are used for:

  • Managing withdrawal symptoms during detox
  • Reducing drug cravings
  • Treating a co-occurring mental health disorder

In no way does MAT (which is described in more detail later in this article) replace evidence-based drug addiction treatment; it is only effective when used as part of a comprehensive treatment program.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Drug addiction treatment programs, whether inpatient or outpatient, use prescription medications during detox and /or as part of the patient’s therapeutic treatment, if required, and this is known clinically as
pharmacotherapeutics, as well as
medically-assisted treatment or
medication assisted treatment
(either is abbreviated to MAT).

The clinical use of these medications is normally dependent upon the drug that the patient is addicted  to, and any other existing medical conditions affecting the patient – for example, a heroin addict with a co-occurring disorder, such as
major depressive disorder, may require medication during the detox to help with withdrawal symptoms, and then medications to control cravings and to treat the depression throughout their treatment.

It has proved to be clinically effective and to significantly reduce the need for inpatient detoxification services. This treatment approach has been shown to:

  • Improve patient survival
  • Increase patients’ ability to gain and maintain employment
  • Decrease illicit opiate use and other criminal activity among people with substance use disorders
  • Increase retention in treatment
  • Decrease illicit opiate use and other criminal activity among people with substance use disorders

MAT is the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a

“whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders

How Does MAT Work?

To understand how the medications provided by MAT actually work, and why they can be essential to a patient’s recovery from drug addiction, we firstly need to work out how addictive substances affect the brain when an addict uses them.

>Addictive substances produce euphoria, and other side effects, by manipulating
the brain’s pleasure and reward centers. Although different MAT medications work in different ways, the majority of these pharmacotherapeutics are designed to restore the brains’ natural balance in both of these centers, and to stabilize the patient’s neurochemical processes, previously disrupted by a patient’s substance abuse.

Pharmacotherapeutics are only used as part of the drug addiction treatment for specific addictions, and they can continue to be prescribed after treatment has finished. They are prescribed because they offer a particular benefit, such as:

  • To diminish cravings and withdrawal symptoms
  • To counter the intoxicating effects of a drug
  • To provide “off-label” benefits that can support a patient’s recovery, or
  • To replace the drug with a less powerful drug; this is known as “opioid replacement therapy,” which uses medications, such as
    methadone, to replace the abused opioid

Most Commonly Prescribed Medications In Drug Rehab

The most common medications prescribed for use within an addiction treatment program, offering one or more of these benefits, include include:

  • Naltrexone (Vivitrol): Naltrexone, known as an
    opioid agonist, is highly effective when used in opioid addiction treatment, as it completely blocks other drugs from binding to and so activating the brain’s opioid receptors – necessary for achieving the euphoric effect. It is used in post-detox treatment. If it was used during the detox, when opioids are still present in the body, it will significantly increase the severity of withdrawal symptoms.
  • Buprenorphine (Suboxone, Zubsolv): Buprenorphine, a
    partial opioid agonist, works in a similar way to naltrexone, but only partially blocks the opioid receptors – this means that the receptors are activated after the drug is administered, but not to the full extent that, say, heroin can activate them. It can be used to wean patients off their use of opioid substances.
  • Methadone (Dolophine, Methadose): Methadone is a synthetic opioid agonist, and it is used in opioid replacement therapy.
  • Naloxone (Narcan): Naloxone is a
    competitive antagonist, which means it blocks the effects of opioids, and even reverses them. It is commonly used
    to reverse opioid overdoses.
  • Other medications include mirtazapine (Remeron) and
    bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban), which are antidepressants, and
    modafinil (Provigil), used to treat sleep disturbance.

How Does Drug Rehab Work?

It is important to remember that addiction is medically defined as “a chronic, relapsing brain disorder,” and just like other chronic diseases, like type I diabetes, hypertension, and asthma, it requires ongoing treatment to control its symptoms.

Drug rehab works, and there is clear proof it does. However, it does not cure drug addiction. Regardless, drug rehab can help people recover to the point where their continued abstinence in the future can control the addiction. It does this by the providing the following treatment and care:

In-depth clinical patient assessment, where individuals are clinically assessed to determine the extent of their drug addiction; from this assessment, the level of care can be determined, eg. inpatient or outpatient, and other needs.

Personalized drug addiction treatment plan.

Safe, medical detox for the drug-addicted patient.

Medications, as and when or if required.

Secure, drug-free environment enabling the patient to focus fully on recovery (residential drug rehab).

Professionally delivered evidence-based therapies for the patient’s physical and mental health, including one-to-one counseling, specialized therapies, such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), and exercise and nutrition.

Proven strategies and tools to control cravings and relapse triggers.

Professional recommendation for the next stage of addiction recovery, eg. an outpatient program, if required.

Personalized relapse prevention plan on departure.

Just like the other chronic diseases mentioned previously, patients with addiction
can and do relapse. Drug addiction relapse should actually be more likely. However, for those who attend and complete their drug rehab program, the success rate is on a par with other chronic diseases:

  • Relapse rate for Type 1 Diabetes is between 30-50%
  • Relapse rate for drug addiction is between 40-60%
  • Relapse rate for hypertension or asthma is between 50-70%

Leaving Rehab Early & Risk Of Overdose

When a patient leaves rehab from 7-14 days is when they’re most susceptible to overdosing and dying. The person’s tolerance to their usual substance of use tends to be much lower. heir bodies won’t be used to the same amount they used to take. This potentially can cause an overdose that could be fatal.

Drug Rehab: Different Types Of Behavioral Therapy

The proven behavioral therapies that are used in drug addiction treatment are based on the individual patient’s physical and mental health, as well as their substance use history. A wide range of effective therapy options are available, and these include:

Individual Counseling

Individual counseling sessions, held one-to-one with a professionally qualified counselor or therapist, are an integral part of drug rehab treatment. This counseling gives the individual the opportunity to express themselves fully, particularly about their own psychological and social concerns that could potentially trigger a relapse; for example, stress or their home environment.

Counseling helps individuals understand their addiction and its root causes, learn to manage cravings, and deal with the potential triggers that exist in daily living.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is one of the most common and most effective therapies used in drug rehab, either in an inpatient or outpatient setting. As virtually all addicts engage in both destructive and negative thinking and behavior, and since cognition fundamentally affects our wellbeing, it is vital to change these harmful thought patterns into far more positive, constructive and forward-thinking ones. These changes can be accomplished through the use of CBT, which is highly goal-orientated and focused on problem resolution.

CBT works by:

  • Exploring the patient’s patterns of behavior, and why they are resulting in self-destruction and negativity
  • Identifying which thought and behavior patterns require changing, and actively working on an alternate way of thinking
  • Helping a patient cope positively with everyday life with practical and helpful strategies developed through CBT
  • Lastly, helping clients formulate their own coping strategies to handle potential triggers and stresses following their drug addiction treatment program

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Initally introduced to help those with suicide thoughts, and now primarily used in the treatment of severe personality disorders, particularly borderline personality disorder, DBT has been again adapted for use within drug addiction treatment.

Its aim in drug rehab is to reduce cravings, to help patients avoid the situations, and even opportunities, to relapse, and to learn healthy coping skills. It is actually a form of CBT, as it addresses a person’s thinking (their cognitions) that form their belief systems, personal assumptions, and assumptions about the world they live in.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (Met)

MET is used to assist recovering addicts change the negative thoughts and behaviors that are intrinsic to their addiction. It is particularly beneficial to those with dual diagnosis, who are also suffering with mental health issues such as bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Biofeedback Therapy

Biofeedback is a therapy designed to help patients understand the normal, yet involuntary processes that our bodies go through. During the therapy, electronic sensors are positioned on the patient’s skin to monitor their brain activity. Once the resulting brain patterns have been reviewed by the qualified therapist, they can recommend a number of psychological techniques that the patient can use to help overcome aspects of their addiction.

Alternative Therapies & Activities to Complement Standard Treatment

Further to the standard therapies described above, there are a wide range of alternative therapies designed to complement the treatment program, and may be included in a drug rehab’s list of available modalities and services.

These complementary therapies improve the patient’s wellbeing, and can act as a way of decreasing stress levels. Examples of these types of therapy include:

  • Art/Music Therapy
  • Horticultural Therapy
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Equine-Assisted Therapy
  • Exercise
  • Meditation/Mindfulness
  • Yoga

Drug Rehab: The First Steps

Although long-term recovery from substance addiction can be a difficult and life-changing process, it is certainly possible. However, to increase the chances of a successful recovery, it is absolutely vital that the addict is 100% committed to getting clean, sober and healthy.

SpringBoard Recovery, located in Scottsdale, Arizona (near Phoenix), provides effective and affordable outpatient treatment programs for individuals struggling with substance use disorders and mental health disorders. The goal at SpringBoard is to give clients a completely fresh start, along with the recovery skills needed to thrive in everyday life –

  • Individualized treatment plans based on patient needs and treatment goals
  • One-to-one therapy with a qualified counselor or therapist
  • Group therapy, allowing peer-to-peer discussion
  • Full range of clinical therapies available
  • Follow-up with a quality outpatient or intensive outpatient treatment plan for clients who complete their drug rehab programs

How Springboard Recovery Can Help

SpringBoard Recovery, located in Scottsdale, Arizona (near Phoenix), provides effective and affordable outpatient treatment programs for individuals struggling with substance use disorders and mental health disorders. The goal at SpringBoard is to give clients a completely fresh start, along with the recovery skills needed to thrive in everyday life –

External Sources

Outpatient drug rehab is a common term used for describing an addiction treatment program where patients regularly attend a professional drug and alcohol rehab facility for scheduled appointments in the treatment of their substance use disorders (SUDs).

SpringBoard Recovery is a professional drug and alcohol rehab center located in Scottsdale, Arizona (near Phoenix), and we offer an accredited intensive outpatient drug treatment program, helping our clients successfully recover from a range of drug and alcohol addictions.

We have earned many years of full accreditation from the Joint Commission, who expect the highest national standards for addiction treatment, and we are committed to continually improving patient care.

We accept most major health insurance coverage, and clients travel from all over the U.S. to receive their personalized treatment with us, with many staying in our on-site, substance-free Sober Living accommodation.

Learn more about the exceptional benefits of our successful outpatient addiction recovery program and our high-quality Sober Living accommodation here.

What is Outpatient Drug Rehab?

Outpatient drug rehab is a common term used for describing a substance addiction treatment program where clients receive their treatment on a part-time basis at a professional drug and alcohol rehab facility.

Importantly, this allows clients the freedom to continue with the important commitments of their lives – commitments that previously may have stopped them attending treatment in the first place.

These important commitments are typically:

  • Caring for children or family
  • Continuing to work
  • Continuing to study, or
  • Other reasons where being away from home is difficult or problematic

Unlike an inpatient drug rehab (or residential drug rehab), where patients stay in the drug and alcohol rehab facility 24/7 to receive their treatment, outpatient programs provide their treatment through a regular schedule of addiction therapy appointments.

At these scheduled appointments, clients receive a range of specialized, evidence-based therapies to help in the successful recovery from their substance use disorder (SUD).

Outpatient Drug Rehab Therapies

Outpatient drug rehab therapies should include, as a minimum:

  • One-on-one Counseling
  • Group Counseling
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Case Management

Note: All of the above counseling, therapies and other treatment sessions are included in SpringBoard Recovery’s outpatient drug rehab programs, and described in detail later in this article.

Additionally, many professional outpatient drug rehabs, including SpringBoard Recovery, use a fully holistic approach to addiction treatment. A holistic approach involves treating the body, mind and spirit, which involves additional therapeutic activities, such as:

  • Nutritional Counseling
  • Equine Therapy
  • Yoga
  • Meditation & Mindfulness
  • Cross-Fit
  • Music Therapy
  • Horticultural Therapy

How Long Does Outpatient Drug Rehab Last?

The duration of outpatient drug rehab programs vary depending on the substance involved, the severity of the addiction, whether the program is intensive or not, and, obviously, the progress of the individual themselves during the program.

As with the actual scheduling of individual therapy appointments, outpatient drug rehab programs are reasonably flexible in terms of the length of the program, too.

In fact, the better outpatient programs will monitor and continually assess the effectiveness of treatment on a case-by-case basis.

They are then able to adjust the program accordingly, if necessary.

Normal program length for intensive outpatient drug rehab, such as that provided by SpringBoard Recovery, is around 12-15 hours of treatment a week for about 3 months, and this can be extended as needed.

Normal program length for standard outpatient drug rehab is around 3 appointments per week, and, again, for about 3 months.

The NIDA Definition: Outpatient Drug Rehab

Outpatient drug rehab is formally described by the U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) as “outpatient behavioral treatment” and described as “a variety of programs for patients who visit a behavioral health counselor on a regular schedule. Treatment is sometimes intensive at first, where patients attend multiple outpatient sessions each week.”

Statistical data derived from the U.S. National Survey of Drug Use & Health 2019 (September, 2020)

Inpatient Rehab vs. Outpatient Rehab

There are several differences between inpatient (or residential) and outpatient drug rehab programs which can influence an individual’s personal choice.

However, for people looking to successfully recover from their substance addiction, it is important to follow the expert clinical advice provided by their primary care physician or family doctor, or a professional addiction treatment specialist.

These professionals will normally be the ones to initially diagnose the type of substance use disorder (SUD) someone is suffering from, and they are best placed to advise people of the most appropriate treatment needed.

For those suffering from a severe drug or alcohol addiction, an inpatient drug rehab program is normally the clinical recommendation, as such a program is able to offer medical and therapeutic support on a 24/7 basis.

This can be vital in the addiction treatment of those most likely to relapse in the early stages of recovery. By staying in a safe and secure drug-free environment, the likelihood of this happening can be reduced to zero.

Outpatient drug rehab programs are suitable for those who transition from an inpatient program or those whose substance use disorder is classified as moderate (not severe).

Additionally, as stated previously, this type of drug rehab program allows a person to continue to live at home (as long as their homelife is supportive of their recovery), and their life can continue as usual, outside of their treatment.

Both types of treatment program – inpatient vs. outpatient – have unique advantages and benefits (detailed below), depending on an individual’s circumstances.

Regardless, both have the professional potential and successful outcomes to help people recover from their drug or alcohol addiction.


The Main Differences Between Inpatient & Outpatient Drug Rehab


Inpatient Program (IP) Advantages

Outpatient Program (OP) Advantages


  • High level of care for long-term / severe substance use disorders
  • Medical care provided 24/7
  • Highly structured every day



  • 3 levels of programs available, differentiated by level of intensity:
    • Part Hospitalization Program PHP
    • Intensive Outpatient Program IOP, and
    • Outpatient Program OP



  • On-site detox / referrals



  • Continue to live at home



  • Dual diagnosis treatment for those with mental health disorders



  • Flexible appointments (including evenings and weekends)



  • Daily evidence-based therapy



  • Continue to work or study



  • Safe and secure environment:
    • Substance-free
    • Peer-based community



  • Significantly lower cost than IP (many healthcare insurance plans cover the cost of an OP in full)



  • Highest rates of successful recovery



  • For adolescents, family is close by


Note: Some IOP drug rehabs also provide dual diagnosis treatment.

IMPORTANT: Outpatient drug rehab is not suitable for those who:

  • Constantly have the urge to use, as treatment centers are not 24/7
  • Require medical attention or suffer with multiple disorders
  • Have proven to be very unreliable when it comes to attending appointments

Who Should Choose Outpatient Drug Rehab?

Outpatient drug rehab programs are most suitable for those who have:

  • Mild to moderate addictions
  • Strong support system from family and friends
  • Transportation to attend counseling sessions regularly
  • Motivation to attend sessions regularly and stick to the treatment
  • Low risk of withdrawal with medical complications
  • Personal circumstances that prevent full-time addiction treatment

Outpatient Drug Rehab: Types of Available Programs

There are many different options for substance addiction treatment that all fall under the heading of “Outpatient Drug Rehab.”

This method of recovery from substance addiction is highly flexible, and can meet the needs of many different types of patients, addictions, and circumstances.

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs)

Intensive outpatient programs (abbreviated to IOPs) can be an excellent alternative to inpatient / residential programs for people who still require a high level of professional support and care.

Not everyone is able to fully commit to inpatient rehab, but in the early stages of the recovery process (when relapse is more likely), they still require intensive support.

  • IOPs are flexible, and can operate during the day, in the evening hours, and at weekends.
  • Clients are required to come to regular scheduled appointments, which are usually held 3-5 days per week.
  • Each appointment generally lasts a few hours to allow time for enough therapy to take place.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs) & Day Treatment Programs

Partial hospitalization programs (abbreviated to PHPs, and often referred to as day treatment programs) offer an even more intensive level of professional support and care than IOPs (described above).

  • These programs operate during the day, and patients may come as often as 5-7 days out of the week.
  • Patients may also be required to have periodic drug tests to ensure they are being compliant with the program.
  • During PHPs, patients participate in individual and group therapy sessions, as well as other types of therapy.
  • The daily time commitment to this type of program is usually adjusted down as the patient improves.

Traditional Outpatient Rehab & Therapy / Outpatient Programs (OPs)

Traditional (or standard) outpatient rehab programs (OPs) involve a combination of individual therapy sessions and specialized therapies, such as CBT, and it may or may not also include group therapy.

The level of support and care provided by these programs is normally not sufficient for people with a substance use disorder (SUD) who have never attended treatment before. In those instances, the minimum requirement is usually intensive outpatient programs (IOPs).

Outpatient rehab can be an excellent way to continue getting support once most of the work of recovery is finished. It allows people to keep working on the issues that initially led to their substance abuse problems.

Recovery Housing / Sober Living Homes

Recovery Housing (also known as Sober Living) provides comfortable, substance-free accommodation during an individual’s recovery from drug or alcohol addiction.

It is the perfect solution for those whose home and family life is not supportive of their recovery.

What are sober living homes?

Normally, these residential facilities maintain strict rules to keep people on track during their recovery – they may even insist on regular drug tests as proof of continued sobriety.

Residents are usually required to pay rent, and attend a form of recognized outpatient rehab.

What Happens at Outpatient Drug Rehab?

At the beginning of the outpatient drug rehab, patients travel each day they have therapy appointments scheduled either from their own home, from their previously arranged recovery housing accommodation, or from wherever else else they may be staying for the duration of their treatment.

Because outpatient drug rehab programs vary in their time commitment (the number of sessions per week, the time of day, and the length of those sessions), there is no “normal” schedule.

Outpatient drug rehab programs may also offer medical care, and have the necessary permissions to prescribe medications, such as medically assisted treatment (MAT), eg. methadone for those with opioid use disorder (OUD).

Either previously or at the very beginning of the outpatient drug rehab program, patients will meet with a staff clinician or other facility member to organize their personalized treatment plan.


The treatment plan consists of treatment goals and objectives in order to make the therapy more effective.

For that purpose, the facility staff member will ask the patient important questions, which will usually include:

  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Medical history
  • Current medications
  • Mental health issues
  • Family problems
  • Legal problems, and
  • Employment or academic history

Once the treatment plan is established, patients are informed about the facility rules and procedures they’re expected to follow during the length of the program, such as:

  • Some outpatient drug rehab programs require regular drug tests to make sure patients are not using drugs or drinking alcohol while receiving treatment.
  • Patients need to be fully compliant with the schedule they are given, and they must ensure they finish the program with 100% attendance.
  • In some cases, they may have to complete assignments and tasks outside of the sessions.

Your health insurance plan may cover your recovery at SpringBoard. Verifying your insurance is quick and easy!

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Outpatient Drug Rehab Therapies

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy (also known as one-to-one counseling and “talk therapy”) is often regarded as the cornerstone of addiction treatment. Clients work with professionally qualified therapists who specialize in treating substance abuse issues.

Additionally, they offer treatment for co-occurring disorders like anxiety and depression, which, after treatment, can further reduce the risk of a relapse.

Establishing the counselor-patient relationship is critical, and it can provide the patient real and positive insight into their personal thoughts and behaviors.

Group Therapy

Group therapy sessions can be incredibly beneficial to someone in an outpatient rehab program. People tend to learn extremely well from each other, and working with a group of peers can encourage people to continue in recovery, and motivate them to succeed.

Group sessions can also help people form long-term, substance-free friendships with others who are facing similar situations as they are. It is helpful for people in recovery to know that they are not alone, and this realization can give them further motivation.

Family Therapy

In normal circumstances, people in addiction recovery get the majority of their support from their families. However, addiction has a way of destroying these important relationships, which can make the patient feel isolated.

Family therapy can help people by working through their differences to a resolution so that these vital relationships can be restored.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

One of the most widely used therapies in addiction treatment, CBT teaches patients vital coping skills and tools to avoid relapse. One of the most important benefits of CBT for the patient is helping them to explore the positive and negative consequences of drug abuse.

In this way, it’s far easier for the individual to understand why their treatment and recovery is so important. CBT also helps to identify certain cravings specific to them, so these can be avoided or managed in the future.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)

MET is designed to assist patients in clarifying, and then working through their own resistance to entering and fully participating in drug addiction treatment.

In this case, the therapist sources the necessary motivation for a positive change in the patient’s life, and then develops a comprehensive plan to make it happen.

MET begins with a thorough personal assessment, followed by 2-4 individual therapy sessions.

Outpatient Drug Rehab Therapy: Points to Remember

Successful addiction treatment has several steps:

  • Detoxification (if required)
  • Behavioral therapy – as provided by an outpatient treatment program
  • Medication (if required. eg. for opioid use disorder)
  • Evaluation and dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring mental health issues, eg. depression and anxiety
  • Long-term follow-up strategy to prevent relapse

Behavioral therapies help patients:

  • Modify their attitudes and behaviors toward drug use
  • Increase healthy life skills
  • Persist with other forms of treatment, such as medication

Benefits of Outpatient Treatment Programs (OP)

OP Benefit


Live at Home


  • Continuing to live in your home environment while receiving outpatient addiction treatment can be a huge benefit to those who have a fully supportive family around them, especially for ttenagers adolescents.


Family Commitments


  • Many people believe they are unable to commit to addiction treatment because they have strict obligations, such as childcare, or other caregiving, eg. looking after elderly or disabled relatives. However, with an outpatient program, this is no longer so restrictive.


Work / Study


  • Likewise, there are many who feel unable to commit to treatment because of their jobs or their university or college studies. The right outpatient rehab program allows them the flexibility they need.




  • Accountability during addiction treatment and afterwards is a decidedly underrated factor in successful recoveries. People need to know that their progress is important and that those providing treatment will be checking in to see how they are doing.


Real-World Practice


  • Because outpatient programs allow people to continue living at home, they are immediately putting their learning into practice in the real world.


Cost & Insurance


  • In the U.S., the Affordable Care Act requires health insurance companies to offer clients necessary addiction treatment just like any other form of treatment. Because of this, the majority of healthcare plans now cover the costs of an outpatient program in full.

Our treatment programs are custom tailored to your specific needs. One phone call is all it takes to start your recovery from drug & alcohol dependency.

SpringBoard Recovery: Intensive Outpatient Drug Rehab

At SpringBoard Recovery, we offer one of the best intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) in the southeastern U.S.. We are here, ready and fully committed to providing you with the expert professional support you need to reach your recovery goals.

Our successful drug and alcohol treatment programs enables our clients to find a successful, long-term and sustainable recovery by:

  • Addressing underlying psychological conditions and past traumas
  • Learning how to identify and avoid high-risk situations, triggers, and relapses
  • Developing a new lifestyle that doesn’t depend on alcohol use
  • Receiving treatment at our facility and continuing to live at home or in one of our Recovery Houses
  • Maintaining your work, school, and family commitments while receiving treatment

Outpatient Drug Rehab: FAQs

To decide if an intensive or traditional outpatient drug rehab program (IOP / OP) could work for you or a loved one struggling with substance addiction, read through the following FAQs – frequently asked questions – about this level of treatment and care.

1. Apart from people staying 24/7 at inpatient drug rehab, what are the main differences between outpatient drug rehab and inpatient drug rehab?

The main differences between outpatient and inpatient drug rehab, apart from the residency aspect, predominantly relate to freedom and cost. Patients receiving IOP or OP treatment have the freedom to continue to live at home (hopefully within the supportive framework of family), and be able to continue with the important parts of their life, such as working or studying, or being a mother or a caregiver.

The cost of an outpatient drug rehab program is significantly less than an inpatient program, and the full costs incurred should be completely covered by a standard healthcare insurance plan.

You can check and verify your insurance coverage with SpringBoard Recovery here.

2. Do you get the same addiction treatments and therapies at outpatient drug rehab? 

Yes, absolutely. All treatments and therapies  – including medically assisted treatment, CBT, counseling, and so on – are available at both an inpatient or an outpatient program, and are prescribed for each individual case.

3. How long does outpatient addiction treatment last?

The duration of outpatient drug rehab programs vary depending on the substance involved, the severity of the addiction, whether the program is intensive or not, and, obviously, the progress of the individual themselves during the program.

However, intensive and traditional outpatient programs normally last around 3 months, although the intensive version requires more hours per week.

5. Does standard health care insurance cover the cost of outpatient rehab?

Healthcare insurance coverage for addiction treatment will vary depending on your insurance company and policy.

However, in the U.S., the Affordable Care Act requires health insurance companies to offer clients necessary addiction treatment just like any other form of treatment. Because of this, the majority of healthcare plans now cover the costs of an outpatient program in full.

You can check and verify your insurance coverage with SpringBoard Recovery here.

6. Can outpatient treatment address co-occurring disorders?

Yes, depending on the facility you decide to attend and the level of services they offer – for example, SpringBoard Recovery’s IOP does include dual diagnosis treatment for patients where it is diagnosed.

As with any other treatment program, treating both addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions simultaneously is vital to the effectiveness of the treatment as a whole.

7. What are the main benefits of outpatient treatment?

Participating in an outpatient program can be beneficial :

  • You can continue to live at home, and so keep your family commitments, like childcare or caregiving, or continue your work or studies.
  • You retain your privacy because you are living at home (or in recovery housing).
  • You need to put what you have learned into practice immediately.
  • Not living at a facility requires you to hold yourself accountable, but most outpatient programs still provide additional support if it is needed.
  • Outpatient treatment typically requires you to participate in both individual and group therapies, so you’re able to build a support network.
  • Most healthcare insurance plans will cover the cost of an outpatient treatment program in full.

8. Is outpatient drug rehab enough for long-term recovery?

Outpatient programs are successful in helping people overcome their substance addiction. However, real recovery is a long road, and you have to keep maintaining your sobriety afterward.

Therefore, it’s highly recommended to join a 12-step program, such as AA or NA, or another mutual aid support program, like SMART Recovery, or to keep attending some form of counseling or individual talk therapy.

This way, you’ll continue to work on your recovery, your physical and mental health, and your level of motivation.

External Sources:

  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction. January, 2019. Available at DrugAbuse.gov.
  • Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). U.S. National Survey of Drug Use & Health: 2019. September, 2020. Available at SAMHSA.gov.
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine. Dual Diagnosis. 2021. Available at MedlinePlus.gov.
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. 1999. Available at NLM.NIH.gov.
  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. About the Affordable Care Act. March, 2021. Available at HHS.gov.
  • National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA): Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction. January, 2019. Available at
  • National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA): Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition) – “Evidence-Based Approaches to Drug Addiction Treatment.” January, 2018. Available at
  • Science Direct: Behavior Therapy. 2002. Available at
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine: Definition of Partial Hospitalization. Spring, 1990. Available at
  • American Nurses Association: Nursing World – “Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opiate Dependence” (downloadable PDF). 2021. Available at

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