Why is Outpatient Treatment Important?

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Imagine you have been stranded on an island, and you need to find your way back home. The first step on to road to recovery is a lot like that. Joining an Inpatient care program is a commitment to getting clean and finding your way back.
After some time has passed– you piece together what information you have. You determine that you are 200 miles away from a populated island. Once you arrive you can arrange to get back home–to where sobriety is. You decide to brave the waters and build a raft.
Waves of temptation bear down upon your vessel. To make the journey safely, you are going to need skills, structure, social support. All these things an Outpatient Program can provide; but not all outpatient programs are structured in a way that will meet your personal needs.

Traditional Outpatient Treatment Programs

Traditional outpatient programs help people stay sober as they transition out of inpatient care and back into their regular lives.

Services Offered

Outpatient programs typically meet for one hour once or twice a week. During that time, the patient receives access to:

  • Group and individual counseling.
  • Evidence-based therapies such as: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).
  • Motivational Interviewing.
  • Medication Management.
  • Drug testing.
  • Some educational resources.

Strengths and weaknesses

Outpatient care benefits people by giving them the freedom to enjoy their lives while holding them accountable with regular counseling and drug testing. For those with financial constraints, it is much more affordable than other forms of addiction treatment. According to Footprints to Recovery, (a US organization with facilities in Colorado, Illinois, and New jersey) a three-month program averages somewhere between $,2000-$5000 (2019).
The shortcoming with traditional outpatient care lies in its small weekly commitment and less structured format as compared to other types of addiction treatment. There are concerns that with so much freedom, those newly out of inpatient care could fall back into harmful environments and patterns of addiction.

Intensive Outpatient Programs IOP’s

IOPs were created to bridge a gap between inpatient and traditional outpatient care. IOP’s offer extended services to individuals with moderate to severe substance use disorders who need specialized addiction treatment so that stable recovery can occur (McCarty et al, 2014, as cited in Nagy, 2020).


IOPs commonly structure addiction treatment into three three-hour sessions for a total of nine hours a week for the first 90 days. As treatment progresses, IOP’s work with you to determine focuses and modify treatment plans.
This can result in either “stepping-down” or “stepping-up a treatment.” As a patient improves, for example, their weekly contact hours may be reduced. If a patient regresses, changes in the structure of the treatment become necessary and may lead to an increase of contact hours until the person is ready for more independence.


An article in American Addiction Centers estimated that the average daily rate for an IOP treatment is roughly $250-350 per day. This can vary based on the amount of care and type of services received.

Services Offered

  • Family counselings in addition to group and individual counselings.
  • 24 hours availability.
  • Ability to increase contact hours based on personal need.
  • Assessments that help to develop specialized care plans.
  • An abundance of educational resources (e.g., disorder backgrounds and treatment, coping skills).
  • Relapse prevention training.
  • Medication management.
  • Drug testing.
  • Vocational education connections and financial counselings.

IOP Success Rate

A well-known study by McCarty et al., found that IOP’s for alcohol and other substance abuse disorders produced similar outcomes to Inpatient treatment and other types of residential care (2014).
Another study published at Maximilian’s University in Munich found that 69% percent of participants that enrolled in an IOP program for addiction remained abstinent during the entirety of the treatment. When conducting a six month follow up, researchers found that 64% of participants were clean (Bottlender & Sokya 2005).

Which Treatment is Right for You?

Anyone who has completed medical detox and finished inpatient care is ready to enroll in an outpatient program. Determining whether that is an IOP, or a traditional program comes down to a few factors.

Is an IOP within my budget?

While it is considerably less expensive than inpatient care, an IOP could be too expensive for some.

Can I Spare the time?

An intensive program requires a greater investment of time as well as a personal commitment to self-improvement.

Do I need the extra support?

If you believe you will have difficultly managing sobriety after inpatient care you may benefit from the increased support and structure that an IOP can provide.

Will I benefit from the increased resources?

For some getting sober means completely rebuilding a life. Many IOP programs can connect you to community resources and vocational training that will help make the reintegration process easier.

Contact us now at 1-866-233-9439 to learn about a variety of recovery resources available to you.


Bottlender, M., & Soyka, M. (2005). Efficacy of an intensive outpatient rehabilitation program in alcoholism: predictors of outcome 6 months after treatment. European addiction research, 11(3), 132–137. https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/85548

McCarty, D., Braude, L., Lyman, D. R., Dougherty, R. H., Daniels, A. S., Ghose, S. S., & Delphin-Rittmon, M. E. (2014). Substance abuse intensive outpatient programs: assessing the evidence. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.), 65(6), 718–726. http://psychiatryonline.org/doi/abs/10.1176/appi.ps.201300249

Nagy, P.Foundations Recovery Network. (2020, May 14). Intensive Outpatient Treatment of Substance Use Disorders. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbsVrmP4O8s&ab_channel=FoundationsRecoveryNetwork

The Costs of Rehab Options. Footprints to Recovery | Drug Rehab & Alcohol Addiction Treatment Centers. (2019, September 6). https://footprintstorecovery.com/pay-for-treatment/cost-services-level-care/.

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