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Alcohol & Health
Helping Alcoholics
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Updated on September 15, 2023
9 min read

Outpatient Alcohol Rehabilitation

What Is Outpatient Alcohol Rehab? 

Outpatient alcohol rehabilitation is a treatment program that allows people with alcohol use disorder (AUD) to regularly attend treatment sessions at an outpatient center and return to their living arrangements outside program hours. 

These programs vary depending on a person's individual needs. Some involve behavioral therapies, while others include the use of medications.

Outpatient rehab is an excellent option for alcohol addiction treatment that minimally interferes with daily routines. These programs can provide the foundation for long-term recovery for alcoholics. 


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Who Is Outpatient Alcohol Rehab For? 

Outpatient rehabilitation tends to suit people further along in the alcohol abuse recovery process. The treatment relies on a person’s home being alcohol-free and the benefits they can get from a safe support system. 

Some people enroll in an outpatient treatment program after completing an inpatient program to maintain sobriety and ease the transition back to everyday life. 

Outpatient rehab is not advised for people in the beginning stages of alcohol recovery or with life-threatening AUD. Professionals recommend inpatient treatment because they need 24-hour medical supervision that outpatient care does not provide.

Types of Outpatient Rehab Programs 

Depending on the facility and level of care needed, a participant can choose between several types of outpatient alcohol rehab programs for recovery. 

Outpatient addiction treatment programs and healthcare providers customize treatment plans according to a person’s individual needs. 

There are three main types of outpatient rehab programs.1

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)

Partial hospitalization programs are intensive outpatient programs designed to actively treat alcohol addiction for several hours every day. 

These programs are highly structured and typically last up to six hours every day of the week. At the end of each session, patients return to their homes. Some facilities also offer transportation to and from the treatment center.

PHPs focus on psychotherapy, group counseling, and skill-building lessons. Progress is tracked periodically to ensure the program from the treatment provider is effective.

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)

Intensive outpatient programs allow people to receive intensive care while continuing their day-to-day activities. These programs are suited for people who don’t meet the criteria for inpatient treatment but need more than bi-weekly sessions.

While the length of sessions depends on a person’s needs, 9 treatment hours a week is standard among facilities offering this program. 

IOPs are best suited for people who: 

  • Are transitioning from a residential program into a life of sobriety
  • Are in the early stages of addiction and have a solid support system at home
  • Have work or family commitments that they cannot leave behind
  • Cannot afford inpatient programs but have a strong will to recover

Support Groups

Support groups are the least intensive form of outpatient treatment. They provide resources that help individuals solidify their commitment to sobriety. 

Support groups for those in outpatient programs meet at least once every week under the supervision of a licensed therapist. Some groups may be limited to specific people, depending on factors like gender and age. 

These groups build camaraderie among people with similar goals and can help people who struggle with loneliness during recovery.

Mutual support groups are not considered professional rehab but can complement prior or ongoing treatment and occur in various settings.


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How Does Outpatient Rehab Work? 

Most outpatient rehab facilities see people at least once or twice a week, sometimes more. They employ varying treatment methods to help people recovering from alcohol addiction. 

Sessions can focus on the following:

  • Counseling
  • Therapeutic interventions and techniques like group therapy and individual therapy
  • Skills training 
  • Educational lessons
  • Medication therapy
  • Psychosocial treatment 

Therapies Used in Outpatient Alcohol Rehab

Each outpatient alcohol rehab program employs a combination of behavioral and medical interventions to support a person recovering from alcohol addiction.2

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT, also known as talk therapy, teaches people to recognize and resolve distorted thought patterns that can influence their behavior and lead to substance use disorder. 

This therapeutic model teaches people to cope with triggers that lead to drinking and learn new ways to manage and avoid relapse

Contingency Management (CM)

CM is grounded on principles of positive reinforcement and encourages positive behavioral changes. It rewards patients with incentives, such as vouchers for submitting negative urine drug screens or attending support groups. 

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

MI addresses ambivalence and helps a person’s motivation to change harmful behaviors, such as alcohol abuse. A collaborative relationship between the therapist and patient allows for goal setting, self-motivation, and planning for sobriety. 

12-Step Facilitation

12-step groups are peer support groups that help people recover from substance use disorders through the following methods:

  • Coping skills development
  • Peer network building
  • Accountability

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

MAT involves FDA-approved medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat people with substance use disorders, including AUD.

Family Behavioral Therapy

Family therapy includes the family in treatment and sessions, encouraging them to set up family rules reinforcing sobriety. This approach involves techniques for encouraging positive behavior and can incorporate elements of contingency management.

The Matrix Model

The Matrix Model incorporates evidence-based treatment practices to treat a whole person while teaching them how to structure their daily schedules and free time. 

This approach involves a holistic method that includes relationships, behavior, and emotions in the treatment improvement protocol. 

The Matrix Model was created to treat people who used stimulants.

What Medications Are Used in Alcohol Outpatient Rehab?

Successful medically assisted rehabilitation efforts combine counseling and behavioral therapies with medication. They are not always necessary for recovery from AUD.

Numerous medications can be used in outpatient alcohol treatment to manage withdrawal and prevent relapse.3


Naltrexone prevents a person from experiencing some euphoria associated with alcohol use, facilitating a decrease in ongoing drinking. The drug can be administered even if a person is actively drinking. 


Acamprosate works by decreasing cravings and urges to use alcohol. The drug does not prevent withdrawal symptoms. Usage typically starts on the fifth day of abstinence from alcohol. 


Disulfiram can help a person overcome their drinking problem by blocking the processing of alcohol in the body and causing an unpleasant reaction to alcohol consumption. 

The drug is administered after a person has undergone detoxification and is abstaining from alcohol.


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Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment: What’s the Difference?

The main difference between inpatient and outpatient treatment is the level of medical monitoring involved. Each program is also suited for different populations, depending on the severity of alcoholism and the person’s home life and support network. 

Outpatient Rehab Programs

  • Occur in a clinical setting for several hours a week
  • Provide flexibility and allow people to focus on other aspects of their lives, like careers, relationships, and community involvement
  • Best suits people with a stable home life or a robust support network
  • Demand time and effort, despite their flexibility
  • Tend to be less cost-intensive than inpatient treatment

Inpatient Rehab Programs

  • Occur in a hospital setting
  • Provide around-the-clock supervision from professional medical staff
  • Best suits people with minimal support, unstable living environments, or conditions that need urgent care

People who might respond more favorably to inpatient treatment include those:

What Are the Pros and Cons of Outpatient Treatment?

Outpatient rehab programs have benefits and challenges, depending on a person’s addiction history and recovery needs. 

Benefits of Outpatient Alcohol Rehab

Flexible Scheduling

Patients can attend outpatient treatment when convenient and maintain little disruption in their everyday responsibilities at home, work, or school. 


Outpatient treatment costs less than inpatient treatment, so patients can receive treatment over a longer duration.

Skill Transfer

Patients can immediately apply the skills they learn in treatment to their home setting and everyday life while still having the support and feedback of their treatment staff and peers in recovery. 

Challenges of Outpatient Alcohol Rehab

Managing Complex Medical or Psychiatric Needs 

People with co-occurring disorders, like AUD and mental health conditions, may need more intensive care than an outpatient program can offer, such as an inpatient treatment program specializing in treating depression. 


Attending regular sessions for outpatient treatment is a requirement, so a patient must have access to reliable transportation. 

Round-the-Clock Accountability

Outpatient programs typically do not provide surveillance or treatment outside the scheduled hours. An outpatient treatment program may not provide the accountability needed for recovery for somebody prone to relapse. 

How Long Does Outpatient Alcohol Rehab Last? 

The duration of outpatient rehabilitation programs depends on varying factors, such as:

  • Severity of alcohol misuse
  • Progress rate
  • Any co-occurring physical or mental health issues
  • History of relapse

While the duration for outpatient treatment is flexible and would depend on a patient’s needs, they may last anywhere from 1 to 6 months.4 

How Much Does Outpatient Alcohol Rehab Cost?

Many factors affect the cost of outpatient treatment, such as:

  • Location
  • Facility
  • Insurance coverage 
  • Length of care
  • Additional services needed

General outpatient rehab programs range from $1,400 to $10,000 over 30 days. Many outpatient rehab centers offer a 3-month program for $5,000 in total.5

How Do I Find the Right Outpatient Program?

The right outpatient program should help a person feel supported and encouraged to continue sobriety. It also helps if a facility’s program treats problems commonly associated with alcohol addiction.

It’s essential to consider anyone’s specific needs when looking for the right outpatient program, as no single treatment approach is proven more effective than others. Professionals may recommend a blend of techniques for a more holistic approach.

The factors a person should consider include:

  • Cost and coverage of therapy from insurance
  • Therapists involved in the program
  • Personalities and habits that could influence response to treatment
  • Facility principles
  • Treatment setting
  • Treatment components
  • Posttreatment adjustment factors (family, friends, career, etc.)


The recovery process is a long journey. No matter what you’re going through, help is always there, whether through clinical support like therapy sessions, other psychiatric services, and inpatient and outpatient treatment programs.

Outpatient alcohol rehabilitation allows people with alcohol use disorder to regularly attend treatment sessions at an outpatient center and return to their living arrangements outside program hours. 

Outpatient programs are best suited for people further along in their alcohol recovery journey and do not require 24-hour medical supervision. 

Depending on the facility and level of care needed, a patient can choose between several types of outpatient programs for recovery, such as partial hospitalization programs, intensive outpatient programs, and support groups.

Updated on September 15, 2023
5 sources cited
Updated on September 15, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Treatment Settings | Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and Research.” Johns Hopkins Medicine.
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “A Guide to Substance Abuse Services for Primary Care Clinicians.” Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 1997.
  3. Winslow et al. “Medications For Alcohol Use Disorder.” American Family Physician, 2016.
  4. Schmidt et al. “Duration of therapy – Does it matter?: A systematic review and meta-regression of the duration of psychosocial treatments for alcohol use disorder.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 2018.
  5. Average Cost of Drug Rehab.” National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, 2023.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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