How Does a Drug and Alcohol Outpatient Rehab Work?

Life is hard. Wanting an escape at times is understandable, but what happens when drugs and alcohol take control of your life? Research shows that over 20 million Americans struggle with drug or alcohol addiction. It is easy to say that the best solution is to seek treatment, and although it is true, conventional inpatient rehabilitation is not a viable option for everyone.

Many people hesitate to go to a rehabilitation center because they either don’t think they can afford it or don’t have the flexibility to commit to a 30 to 90-day program. Luckily, several different treatment levels are available when someone is ready to regain control of their life. 

One of the best options is an outpatient rehab program. It is a versatile, affordable option that could be an excellent solution for you or a loved one suffering from mental health concerns or substance use disorder.

We will review everything you need to know in order to decide if an outpatient rehab program is the best fit for you or a loved one. Let’s get started!

How Outpatient Rehab Works

One of the most desirable features of outpatient rehab programs is that housing is off-site or at home. With this, there is minimal disruption to your daily routine.

Outpatient programs are tailored to fit the patient, so the duration and intensity are variable. You can expect to go to the treatment facility 3-4 days a week, totaling 12-15 hours of services.

While some clients exclusively participate in the outpatient program, many use it after completing their inpatient treatment. The transition from inpatient to outpatient services allows clients to ease back into “normal life” and learn additional coping mechanisms and strategies to achieve long-term recovery.

When you choose an outpatient rehab program, you will receive therapy from a licensed clinician and have access to a medical doctor who will support your recovery with medications when necessary. These are indispensable tools to relieve you from the clutches of addiction.

Therapy Fundamentals of Outpatient Treatment

Therapy is one of the most powerful mental health and addiction recovery tools. The best outpatient facilities teach their clients to overcome drug and alcohol abuse by focusing on improving the following aspects of their mental health:

  • Self-esteem
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Distorted or disordered thinking
  • Mindfulness
  • Psychoeducation

Mastering these elements of your psyche will help you to achieve sobriety. Next, we will review several therapy modalities that will help you learn and integrate these fundamentals.

Individual and Group Therapy

There is value in both individual and group therapy sessions. Both will help you learn the fundamentals of living successfully but in different ways. Combining individual and group therapy is the most effective way to achieve long-term sobriety.

Individual therapy is most appropriate for patients who are uncomfortable or reluctant to share their problems with peers. With the participation of these patients in individual therapy, they can grow the inner strength and skill set to work with a group as well.

Working one-on-one can root out deeper issues that there may not be time to address in a group setting. Additionally, the flexibility to set appointments to your schedule is only available with individual therapy.

Group therapy, on the other hand, offers a communal experience that is vital to someone suffering from drug or alcohol use disorder. Through group sessions, you can interact with peers who have similar backgrounds and goals for the future. Even if your experiences are different, there are commonalities that you will only learn from participating. Building a community around recovery is one of the greatest assets to long-term sobriety. A sober community can give you the support you need when you are struggling.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a highly effective therapeutic tool for those dealing with addiction, PTSD, and other mental health concerns. It has been a proven strategy to aid mental health struggles and addiction since the 1960s.


During CBT treatment, your therapist will find what harmful psychological issues are rooted in negative or maladaptive thought patterns. When someone can re-wire their thought patterns, they can break through the cycle of destructive self-talk. It is those negative thought patterns that sometimes result in unhelpful learned behaviors. If behaviors are learned, then they can be unlearned and restructured.

CBT will teach you what triggers you to use drugs or drink, giving you tools to manage those situations in the future.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

For people with co-occurring disorders such as mental health and substance abuse disorders, DBT provides a new approach to treatment. Through various techniques, patients will learn mindfulness, how to better relationships or interpersonal skills, and how to recognize and accept both negative and positive emotions. Regulating emotions and gaining self-confidence through the process motivates patients to sustain sobriety.

Licensed therapists use feedback coaching and storytelling methods so patients can be mindful and motivated to use the new skills.

Who Is Outpatient Rehab Designed For?

If you are interested in outpatient rehab, you will need to speak with an admissions advisor or intake counselor first. They can help you determine what treatment option is best for you.

The admission advisor will likely ask you questions regarding your use of alcohol and drugs. They will want insight into your medical and mental health history. They will use this information to assess if outpatient rehab is the level of care you need.

That being said, if you meet the following requirements, outpatient rehab will likely work for you.

Strong Home Support Group

As you navigate outpatient rehab, it is paramount that you have peer and family support. Engaging with family and friends who do not use substances is crucial to the recovery process. After all, these are the people you will be spending the most time with when you’re not in a treatment session.

Stable Home Environment

Having stable housing is also critical for those undergoing outpatient rehab. If that is not the case for you, residential or inpatient treatment may be more appropriate.

The same is true if you are confronted with drugs or alcohol at home. Likewise, outpatient rehab might not work if you experience domestic violence at home. You may also need to choose residential treatment if you are being abused or not having your basic needs met at home.

Desire to Continue Schooling, Work, and Other Obligations

Choose outpatient rehab if you want to continue to work or attend school while undergoing treatment.

The flexibility of outpatient rehab makes it a smart choice for those who cannot miss work for extended periods of time. Likewise, you may want to go with outpatient rehab if you have young children. After all, arranging childcare may be difficult for those going through inpatient treatment.

Reliable Transportation

Finally, it is crucial to have reliable transportation if you are to participate in outpatient treatment. This transportation can include public transit or your car.

Dependable transportation is essential because outpatient rehab requires consistent attendance and active participation. The ability to get to and from your appointments is critical to success.

Alternate Treatment Options

Don’t give up if outpatient treatment doesn’t seem like a good fit. Below we will discuss some alternate levels of care that may be better suited to your needs.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

When drug and alcohol dependency reaches a certain level, medical attention is required for detoxification. If that is the case for you, a partial hospitalization program (PHP) may be the best option. It is an adaptable treatment program that requires varying time commitments. 

As the name suggests, a partial hospitalization program provides therapy and medical attention to our patients while they are temporarily in the hospital, at our treatment facilities, or home. During this time, clients are under the careful supervision of medical and mental health professionals and spend time with their peers in group therapy. This structure develops a support group of people undergoing a similar struggle, which is shown to help in long-term sobriety.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

An alternative to PHP is an intensive outpatient program (IOP). IOP has less of a time commitment than PHP but more than OP. IOP can be a standalone treatment option or a bridge between inpatient and outpatient treatment or discharge.

This program option is recommended for individuals who don’t require 24/7 supervision, detoxification, or medical intervention. You will work with a team of mental health counseling experts, nurses, and psychologists. This well-rounded treatment approach will equip you to tackle the underlying issues responsible for your substance use disorder.

The purpose of an IOP is to provide an empathetic, concentrated, and comprehensive environment for your recovery. This program gives you the tools to navigate any temptations you might face when you return to daily life as a newly sober individual.

Where to Find Help

The market is saturated with rehabilitation centers, making it hard to determine the best fit for you. We wrote an article specifically to help you on that journey; you can read it here.

In short, a trustworthy rehab center will offer several levels of care, including OP, IOP, PHP, and inpatient. These centers will use evidence-based treatment methods that have stood the test of time regarding successful recovery from mental health concerns or substance abuse. The center will create unique treatment plans to cater to your exact needs.

At Sunshine Care Centers, we are proud to offer all of these treatment options, as well as a suite of evidence-based therapies. We use traditional and holistic modalities to help our clients overcome adversity and regain control of their lives.

Treatment at Sunshine Care Centers

Addiction is one of the most common health conditions in the US. Believe it or not, 1 in 10 Americans will suffer from addiction at some point in their lives. If you or a loved one is ready to tackle mental health struggles, or drug and alcohol use disorder, Sunshine Care Centers has your back.

Sunshine Care Centers has a suite of specialists with over 30 years of experience in drug and alcohol rehabilitation to assist you on the road to recovery. Whether in North Texas or Southern California, Sunshine Care Centers offers the highest level of care available. We pride ourselves on our clean, compassionate, and secure environment. We use evidence-based addiction treatment with flexible programs that cater to your needs. 

Don’t wait to receive the help you deserve. 

Speak to a specialist at Sunshine Care Centers by calling 883-597-CARE or message us today! 


Related Readings: 

Feedback Informed Treatment

Children of Addicts