Alcohol Abuse Outpatient Treatment Programs | Treatment Solutions

Alcohol Abuse Outpatient Treatment

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition that is marked by an impaired ability to stop or control the habit of drinking alcohol, in spite of health, educational, or social consequences.1

AUD is considered a brain disorder and it can be mild, moderate, and severe. Lasting brain changes generated by alcohol abuse reinforce AUD and make people prone to relapse. However, no matter how serious the issue might appear, there are many treatment options that can help people with alcohol abuse issues achieve and maintain recovery, including outpatient alcohol treatment programs.1

What Is Outpatient Alcohol Treatment?

Outpatient treatment consists of various types of programs where a patient attends a treatment facility or counselor on some days of the week. The biggest difference between outpatient treatment and inpatient programs is that inpatient treatment for alcohol abuse provides 24-hour care, including accommodation, oversight, and access to medical care.2

Individuals struggling with alcohol addiction can seek outpatient treatment at:3

  • Health centers.
  • Community mental health clinics.
  • Counselors’ offices.
  • Hospitals.
  • Local health department offices.
  • Residential facilities with outpatient alcohol treatment.

Outpatient recovery services have varying attendance standards. Some programs require regular attendance, others only meet one or three days a week. That is why alcohol abuse outpatient treatment programs are more appropriate for people who are employed or who have significant social support.2

best outpatient alcohol treatment programs

Why Choose Outpatient Alcohol Treatment?

Some people can benefit more from outpatient alcohol treatment and care than others. Outpatient alcohol rehab may be a good solution for individuals who have:

  • A mild to moderate alcohol dependence.
  • Little chance of severe withdrawal with medical complications.
  • Friends and family members to support them.
  • A reason to attend counseling sessions regularly.
  • Transportation to get to and from treatment facilities.

Alcoholic outpatient alcohol treatment also brings the following advantages:

  • Patients can live in their homes while receiving treatment.
  • Outpatient treatment is less costly than residential or inpatient treatment
  • There are several different forms of therapy and treatment offered, and an individual can choose the level and intensity of care that suits them most.
  • It is possible to schedule appointments in the evenings or on weekends in order to suit work schedules.
  • Some rehabilitation facilities may treat patients with co-occurring conditions or illnesses, such as depression, eating disorders, bipolar, or post-traumatic disorder.

Types Of Outpatient Alcohol Treatment

The 3 main types of outpatient programs are the following:4

  • Standard outpatient
  • Intensive outpatient
  • Partial hospitalization programs

They might differ in intensity, structure, and types of services.

Standard Outpatient Alcohol Treatment

Standard outpatient program for individuals struggling with addiction is the least intensive kind of outpatient program. The patients dealing with alcohol abuse may visit the treatment facility only once or twice per week for 1 or 2 hours at a time. Usually, these programs provide very little medical supervision. Group therapy sessions or one-on-one counseling with a therapist may be included in a standard outpatient alcohol treatmet program.4

Intensive Outpatient Program for Alcohol Abuse

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) require patients to meet for 9 to 20 hours each week. They provide a broad range of services, such as:4

  • Group counseling.
  • Individual counseling.
  • Medication.
  • Drug testing.
  • Case management.
  • 12-step meetings.

Some individuals might seek the initial therapy through an IOP because their degree of addiction severity may not require inpatient treatment. Others might undergo an IOP program after they got discharged from an inpatient treatment program.4

Partial Hospitalization Programs for Alcohol Abuse

Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) or day treatment programs typically take place in hospitals or free-standing centers. Patients may receive alcohol abuse treatment up to 7 days a week. The treatment is carried out for 3 to 8 hours a day, and it can consist of:3

  • Individual, group, and family therapy.
  • Psychiatric care.
  • Medication.
  • Medical care on-site.
  • Recreation.
  • Social services.

A PHP program may help someone recover, act as a transition from inpatient treatment, or help someone avoid complete hospitalization.

What to Expect From Outpatient Alcohol Treatment

Before the program starts, an individual with an alcohol abuse issue meets with a staff member to create a treatment plan. In order for the therapy to be successful, the plan needs to consist of goals for the treatment. Because of that, staff members of the treatment facility may ask a patient questions about their use of alcohol, medical history, prescriptions, mental health issues, family problems, employment, and living situation.3

Once the treatment plan is set up, a patient will also be told about the rules they are supposed to follow over the course of the program. For example, some outpatient alcohol treatment facilities may require regular testing to ensure that an individual does not drink alcohol while being treated. Therapy sessions are supposed to be attended regularly by any person who signs up for outpatient rehab. In some instances, a patient will have to complete some tasks outside the sessions.

When it comes to terms of commitment, these programs vary. Some alcoholic outpatient programs require a few hours a week of meeting attendance, while others require several hours a day. Some programs might also offer medical care and prescribe medication.

In addition, patients should make sure to have reliable transportation so that they can get to and from the treatment center. It is important to attend meetings consistently so as to prevent having any gaps in treatment.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Outpatient Treatment

Alcoholics Anonymous is an international organization of peer groups that meet to support each other. Members meet regularly to address their alcohol addiction-related problems and concerns and to encourage each other. In general, younger participants are “sponsored” by more experienced members, who lead them through the process of “working the steps” to aid in alcohol recovery.6

AA outpatient treatment employs the 12-step approach. Members, often with the help of a sponsor, complete each step on their journey to recovery. At any point, members can revisit the steps. Many individuals work the steps several times.6

Many AA groups cooperate with outpatient treatment facilities and they work the same way as groups that meet in churches, schools, and other environments. Meeting on the premises of a hospital or treatment facility has the benefit of making the meeting more accessible to clients in the setting.7

AA meeting attendees are welcomed into the group, where the discussion is encouraged but not required for the new attendees. It is understandable that certain individuals might not feel comfortable sharing personal information on their first visit. In the meetings, individuals may need to be vulnerable about how their alcohol addiction has affected them and their loved ones. As time goes by, through the open and frank conversations these meetings offer, most individuals find great healing and therapy.7



Frequently Asked Questions

  • Outpatient alcohol abuse treatment programs are different and they have different structures and schedules. Some programs require a patient to attend recovery sessions 5 days a week for several hours a day. Others may only meet once or twice a week. It all depends on how serious alcohol addiction is and whether the individual needs medical or psychiatric care at the same time.

  • There is no standardized way to evaluate the effectiveness of outpatient alcohol treatment. Many treatment facilities base their performance levels on inaccurate metrics, such as:

    • Completion of the program.
    • Sobriety rates right after the completion of treatment.
    • Interviews with patients.
    • Internal studies.

    However, it would be better to evaluate the real level of care that a facility provides, both before and after the treatment is completed. Knowing the criteria used by a facility to measure its success rate will help an individual get an accurate image of how successful it really is and whether it is the right place for them.

    In general, the longer the patients stay in treatment, the more likely they are to recover. It is important to commit to treatment for it to be successful.

  • The cost of alcohol abuse outpatient treatment can be affected by numerous of factors, such as:

    • The location.
    • The treatment facility.
    • Insurance coverage.
    • Quality of care.
    • Duration of care.

    If a patient has insurance, it may cover their treatment. An individual might qualify for public insurance services, such as Medicaid or Medicare if they don’t have private insurance. In addition, plans provided under the Affordable Care Act are required to cover substance abuse addiction and mental health treatment to the same extent they cover medical needs.

  • There are numerous state-funded programs. Most states provide affordable inpatient or outpatient treatment options for substance abuse by offering resources for recovery through public mental health or addiction treatment facilities. Usually, people without insurance or income can access these drug rehab and alcohol treatment facilities.

    Also, there are faith-based rehabilitation programs that can be accessed even if an individual is not a religious person. Many faith-based services are free of charge and do not require any special religious conviction from their patients to subscribe. Two such programs are the Salvation Army and Jews in Rehabilitation.



1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2020). Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder.

2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018).Types of Treatment Programs.

3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2008). What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families.

4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2006).Substance Abuse: Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment.

5. McCarty, D. et al. (2014).Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient Programs: Assessing the Evidence. Psychiatric Services, 65(6), 718-726.

6. Alcoholics Anonymous. (2017).This is A.A. An introduction to the A.A. Recovery Program.

7. Alcoholics Anonymous. (2018). A.A. in Treatment Settings.