The Benefits of Outpatient Rehab

Substance use disorders affect the lives of tens of millions of Americans, as well as their family and friends.

The ongoing opioid epidemic is probably the most high-profile example of this, but substance abuse of all kinds can destroy lives. For those who seek a way to change, the options for treatment can prove confusing. You see odd terms like residential rehab, outpatient rehab, and intensive outpatient rehab. Making the right choice depends on understanding what these programs offer. To help you make a good choice, we’ll try to answer the question, “What is an outpatient rehab program?”

What is an Outpatient Rehab Program?

In essence, an outpatient rehab program provides treatment for substance abuse on a schedule that works for you. Rather than check yourself into a facility for a 30 or 60-day stay, you work from a schedule of meetings for individual counseling and group work. These meetings can happen during weekdays, on weekends, and in the evening depending on the program offerings. This flexibility lets you keep working and taking care of family obligations.

A basic outpatient rehab program usually works best for people with low odds of a major relapse. For example, let’s say John has been in recovery for alcohol abuse for 5 years. He attends a friend’s wedding and has a few drinks. When he gets home, he finds a rehab center in Los Angeles.

He enters their outpatient rehab program to brush up on methods for staying sober. It also lets him try to understand why he slipped. John has a low risk of relapse both because of his long experience in recovery and because he sought treatment immediately. Someone with a more severe habit would likely find themselves routed toward an inpatient or intensive outpatient program. However, this does not mean that an outpatient program would not work for the average individual with a substance use disorder.

Outpatient treatment programs are also often used as an extended care option for those who have completed a higher level of care, such as a detox or residential program. 30 or 60 days in a residential rehab program is usually not enough for someone to learn the tools they need to maintain sobriety outside of treatment. This is where an outpatient program comes in. It provides the flexibility an individual needs to return to their homes and lives, while still providing the necessary support needed to maintain sobriety in the “real world.” There are a number of levels of care within outpatient treatment designed to meet the individual where they are at in the recovery process.

In addition to physical cravings, someone with an addiction issue will also spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about their drug of choice. These thoughts become a compulsion and impossible to control, which leads to drug-seeking behavior that can sometimes be criminal.

Feelings of depression, sadness, anxiety, despair, and the like are often at the root of substance abuse. The substance might temporarily mask these feelings, but they return once the high wears off, creating a vicious circle of drug abuse.

Taking a substance will temporarily stop the cravings and compulsion for it, but soon the same feelings return. In time, it takes more and more of the same substance to achieve the same effect it once had.

People addicted to drugs and alcohol may feel like they have no control over their drug use. Refraining from using or stopping seems to be an impossibility for them. The substance controls them, rather than the other way around.

Someone addicted to drugs or alcohol will continue to seek them out even if their addiction has made them lose friends, family, spouses, and jobs. Drug-seeking behavior can even lead to diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Another benefit of treatment is when the program specializes in treating people with a dual diagnosis. Most people struggling with the disease of addiction have an underlying mental health condition. Due to symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other disorders, many people start self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. While the substances may help in the short-term, they can make the symptoms worse overall.

In treatment, you’ll work with licensed professionals who can help you learn to manage your symptoms of mental illness without substances. By learning new coping skills through various forms of therapy, you’ll see that you can manage and improve your mental health in a natural way. In some cases, medications are needed, but these are non-narcotic medications that can give you the motivation you need to begin recovering.



An intensive outpatient program works a lot like a regular outpatient program, but with much higher demands. You will likely attend meetings for counseling or group work 3-5 days a week. You may spend up to four hours a day in meetings. You may also be required to submit to random or scheduled drug screenings while in the program.

If you are considering treatment for yourself or a loved one, call us today.


Your very next question after, “What is an outpatient rehab program,” is likely to be, “What treatments can I expect?” There is no exact answer to that question. The treatments offered in a given program depend on a few factors, such as:

  • Philosophy
  • Location
  • The expertise and training of the staff

Basic rehab centers often stick with just the most common treatment modalities like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Contingency Management, and the Matrix Model. Programs with a more comprehensive approach and a diverse staff with a plethora of expertise often offer a wider range of evidence-based treatments. For example, LA-based Nexus Recovery offers an extensive range of treatments, including:

When a treatment program offers a wide range of therapeutic methods, there’s a great chance you’ll find one that works for you. Sometimes, you’ll also find that a combination of therapies help you greatly on your path of recovery. The extra therapy options mean the treatment center can better design your treatment to your personality and needs.

For example, let’s say you’re a devout believer in a faith. You may find spiritual counseling easier to accept than a more concrete approach like CBT. If you’re an outdoors person, sitting and talking at every meeting may prove less than ideal. Experiential therapy lets you express your thoughts and feelings while doing something with your hands or body. This can often prove easier for active personalities. Usually, some combination of a variety of treatments in required for treatment to be successful. By having multiple options available to you, you are able to find what works for you.

It’s also important to note that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are rooted in science and have evidence that it changes how the brain functions. Aside from CBT, many other forms of therapy are also based on the methods of CBT. Then, there are  more specific forms of therapy like EMDR that help those who are trying to recover from trauma by changing how your brain processes trauma responses and triggers.

How Do I Enter an Outpatient Program?

The process for entering into an outpatient program usually follows this basic process.

You contact a treatment center. On this call you will be able to ask any questions you have about the program and the program will likely gather some basic information about you. Questions they may ask might include, “What led you to call us today,” or “What have you been using,” and “Are you currently in a safe place?” The treatment center will then likely set up an evaluation meeting. You come in and speak with a professional staff member in-person or over the phone. The person performing the evaluation should be a psychologist, doctor, or licensed professional.

The doctor will ask you a lot of questions about your substance use. They’ll want to know how long you’ve used it. They’ll also want to know about how often and how much you use. They’ll usually ask some preliminary questions about your life in general. For example, they’ll probably ask about your relationship with your family and whether you’re married or in a long-term relationship.

They’ll likely ask about the beginnings of your substance abuse. Did you start taking drugs following an injury or an emotional trauma? Did it begin as an occasional use or did you find yourself abusing the drugs right away?

These questions help the treatment center understand your needs since an emotional trauma requires a different approach than someone who started out with a physical injury.

After evaluating your answers, they’ll make a referral to a level of care based on your needs. For example, if you are currently under the influence the program will typically refer you to a detox center or residential program first with the understanding that outpatient treatment will likely be a part of your rehab treatment journey later on.

An outpatient rehab program can be a powerful tool in achieving or maintaining your recovery. Outpatient programs provide the advantage of a part-time schedule. This lets you keep working and live in your own home while you get treatment. They can also serve as stabilizing experience after a brief relapse. Outpatient programs aren’t the right choice for everyone. For someone just starting recovery from a long-term addiction or from an intense addiction, standard outpatient programs often don’t provide enough support. You should consider IOP rehab as an alternative.

Do you or a loved one struggle with a substance use disorder? If you’re ready to take the first step towards a new life of sobriety, we can help. Reach out to Nexus Recovery at 866.200.2990 or email us.

If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol or drug addiction, we’re here to help. Contact us today and speak with one of our trusted recovery advisors.

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