Outpatient Program (OP)

What is Outpatient Treatment?

Outpatient treatment is a rehabilitation program for people struggling with addiction and mental health disorders. This recovery program is made up of scheduled visits that the patient needs to make to the clinic or hospital of their choice in order to receive psychiatric and medical treatment, as well as therapy and any other activities they might be taking part in.

Unlike inpatient treatments, which people seem to be more familiar with, outpatient treatment does not require continuous stay in the facilities or 24/7 supervision from practitioners.

The first step once the patient is officially in the program is to complete an assessment, which is done by a professional so that there can be a better understanding of their current condition and what their needs will be. The duration of the recovery program will vary from person to person, as it is prescribed based on the individual scenario of a patient. They can last anywhere from 90 days to even over a year, and it is adaptable as the program progresses.

Treatment is comprised of a number of steps and services. Unlike what many might think, detox is not the only step or the sole, final goal of recovery programs. That is just about clearing the body from the toxins and getting rid of the withdrawal symptoms, but addiction also has a psychological consequences, too.

Once the detox part of the process is over, there is still much to be done for someone to be safe and have lesser chances of relapsing. Psychiatric help includes medication as well as therapy, which are both ways to improve a patient’s health while also tracking their process.

Outpatient programs can be divided into three main types: standard, intensive (IOP) , and partial hospitalization (PHP). While the essence of these recovery programs is to enable care without constant supervision, the structure of these treatments differ from one another. Both intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization programs have different, more direct approaches since the visits are more frequent and focus on relapse prevention, rehab activities besides therapy and counseling, and other methods that make them more in-depth.

When is an Outpatient Program Recommended?

Because outpatient treatment doesn’t require a patient to restrict their daily lives to the facilities, it is recommended for people that are not experiencing a severe level of addiction, but rather mild to moderate levels. Since the patient would not have 24-hour monitoring, they would have to be in a comfortable environment, not be a risk to others or themselves, and need to be stabilized in order for the program to actually work.

Getting to go back home and keep to a routine that is close to the usual is a great advantage of outpatient programs, but it does not work for everyone. It can only work if the patient is somewhere they would be free from opportunities to start abusing substances again.

Since they might need a little help adjusting to the changes, there has to be a strong support system with family members and friends (if possible, even coworkers or colleagues) for the patient to go through with the program. Additionally, being able to commit to appointments has a lot to do with transportation as well in order to get to appointments, so this would be another requirement for outpatient treatment to work.

People that have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder should be more careful about the program they choose. Suffering from co-occurring disorders makes someone a dual-diagnosis patient, and that requires additional care. While inpatient treatment is also recommended, it is possible to be treated through outpatient programs, so long as the assessment results indicate so.

Others who might want to consider outpatient service settings are people that have gone through residential programs and want to make a smoother transition into their daily lives, either because continuing inpatient treatment was not possible or because they just don’t want to go into it alone.

Differences Between Outpatient and Inpatient Programs

Initially, one might think that the efficacy of each recovery program is different, or that one has a greater chance of not working out. First and foremost, it is important to understand that both programs have been proven to work on the same level so long as patients are correctly assigned to them and followed them through.


Between the two options, outpatient recovery programs tend to take more time to be done on average since treatment is not continuous and monitoring doesn’t happen all day, every day. However, this is based on an average of the duration of programs – while the shortest outpatient programs last 90 days, inpatient treatment can go on for that long or even longer. It all depends on how much progress is made, the patient’s scenario when they began, etc.


Albeit shorter, inpatient programs tend to be more expensive than outpatient ones. That is mainly because there is a need to cover extra costs for services included in the inpatient treatment, like housing, access to medical care, supervision, and others that outpatient programs don’t need to provide.

Emotional support

Both inpatient and outpatient treatment offer support in the form of individual therapy, and group sessions and activities. The one advantage in the outpatient program is that the patient gets to keep more in touch with family and friends, which can make a big difference in their recovery process. This one advantage could prove to be a problem, however, should they not be surrounded by people that motivate them as they should and as needed.


Inpatient treatment requires very big changes to the routine and daily life of the patient, and it is majorly restricting. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing, it is one more thing to adapt to as they’re experiencing extreme changes in the mind and the body. For some, getting to keep to their routine might make treatment easier. Additionally, patients in outpatient recovery programs get to keep on working, taking care of their families, going to school or college, and for some, that can be the one thing keeping them from getting treatment.

PHP: The Perfect Middle Ground

The partial hospitalization program is the version of the outpatient program that can be considered something of an “in-between option” to inpatient treatment and IOP. The reason for that is because, while it also doesn’t require overnight stay for treatment, it is comprised of more frequent, longer sessions in each visit.

PHP can be done through nearly daily visits, with patients coming in for treatment 4-6 times a week on average. Therefore, the intensity of the treatment is quite comparable to that of a residential program, even if it does not require round-the-clock monitoring of the patient. The average duration of the program, as it is with the previously mentioned alternatives, depends on the levels of addiction and the condition of the patient.

This program is especially recommended to anyone who needs to make a slower transition and that does not feel like other outpatient service settings are “safe” enough for them yet. People that experience severe levels of addiction but that do not qualify for inpatient treatment could find this option more suitable for them. If a patient feels that going back home might expose them to risks or triggers that could make them relapse, or that they cannot count on the people in their lives to fully support them, they could benefit from this recovery program setting.

Patients in the previously mentioned dual-diagnosis condition, which can be more complex to treat, might also want to try PHP for their needs, should inpatient treatment not be something they could afford or complete for any reason. The frequent visits make this option safer than other outpatient service settings. However, if experiencing acute symptoms or episodes from either disorder, it would most likely be best for the patient to stay on residential/inpatient treatment, or to treat those symptoms first before seeking PHP.



You Can Get Help at The Freedom Center

Outpatient programs are a practical yet effective solution to get rid of addiction while also being able to keep in contact with the outside world. If you or a loved one are considering treatment for addiction and don’t want to or cannot afford to stay in inpatient treatment, chances are you can apply for outpatient treatment and it might be the right solution for your struggle.

At The Freedom Center, we can help assess your scenario in order to find out if outpatient treatment would be the best choice, and which program would be the perfect fit for you. We offer services like the basics, such as therapy and counseling, as well as many more activities that have been proven effective for addiction treatment, like group sessions, exercise and nutrition plans, yoga, and even legal aid if you are going through any legal issues related to your addiction.

If you want to know if IOP or PHP can work for you, or want more information about our program, visit our website or contact us today by calling (888) 530-5023. Our team of professionals will be glad to answer all of your questions and help you choose the right solution for your addiction-less future.

Break Free From Addiction

At our substance abuse treatment center in Maryland, we do our best to meet each individual where they’re at. Each person comes with a different mold - a different struggle. The best way we can help them is to offer them care that is unique to their own situation; there is no one-size-fits-all method to substance abuse treatment. This is why individualized care is so important to us. If you or a loved one are interested in finding out more, you can contact us here.
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