Major Types of Outpatient Substance Rehab

Major Types of Outpatient Substance Rehab | HealthSoul

Outpatient rehab centers have gained more popularity in recent years, largely due to their lower cost. In most cases, outpatient programs are less expensive than residential equivalents and are more easily covered by insurance. They also allow for less of a disruption in a person’s lifestyle and can also be effective for milder cases of substance use disorder.

Like their residential counterparts, outpatient rehab centers can specialize in any number of areas. For instance, some specialize in medically-supervised withdrawal and detox, while others are focused on group therapy. Others may exclusively treat specific types of substance use disorders, such as the case with outpatient methadone clinics.

However, all outpatient rehabs generally fall into one of three major categories below. If you’re in the Greater Boston Area, you can learn more by checking out this comprehensive listing of inpatient and outpatient rehab centers in Boston.

Continuing care / aftercare

These programs are intended for those that have previously completed a residential program or an intensive outpatient treatment. Perhaps the most famous aftercare programs are the 12-step programs endorsed by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Alternative approaches include Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) Recovery, Women for Sobriety, Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S.), LifeRing Secular Recovery, and Moderation Management among many others.

Regardless of the approach taken, most aftercare groups are facilitated by a licensed therapist. Weekly meetings are common, though some groups may meet more or less frequently. Groups could be for specific age groups and genders and may be focused on specific parts of substance use recovery such as trigger management.

Intensive Outpatient Programs

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are similar to residential programs in that they are often objective-based and have strictly-defined criteria for success. These programs often require daily attendance or long weekly sessions. They tend to take more time initially and require less time as the recovering individual progresses through recovery.

These programs can be a good option for individuals that cannot give up work, school, and other responsibilities. However, there may need to be some initial lifestyle adjustments early on to accommodate the schedule of an IOP.

Day programs

These are the most similar to residential programs and provide the most care that could be expected in an outpatient program. These programs usually require daily attendance, usually for at least half a workday or longer. Patients may go home after their treatments, either to their families or a sober living facility. Oftentimes, patients in these programs are grouped with other patients in a residential program run by the facility.

Day programs afford the most intensive treatments possible in an outpatient setting. In many cases, patients will be given the same treatments that those in residential programs receive, including therapy, counseling, trigger management, and supplementary therapies such as meditation, art, and music.

These programs require the biggest commitment in terms of time compared to the two other major types of outpatient rehab. They can be a good alternative to full-time residential programs if the patient can feasibly avoid triggers during their time at home. This can be an especially important consideration for teens that need rehab for a serious substance use issue.


For the right individuals, outpatient programs can be just as effective as a comparable residential program while being much more affordable, as the cost of room and board is not included. If the individual has a severe substance use disorder, however, they may need 24/7 monitoring and medical intervention that could only be possible in a residential program. For everyone else, however, outpatient options are available that strike the right balance of cost and effectiveness.