Skip to Main Content
Pros and Cons of Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient Treatment Considerations

The idea of an outpatient substance abuse program may be new to you. Often when we think of drug treatment, we think of the “rehabs” popularized in movies and TV, where adults go for 28 days and come back transformed. This kind of story works well for Hollywood, but how about in real life?

There are indeed success stories of folks who leave home, get sober, and are able to maintain that sobriety. However, more common are the stories about the “revolving door of treatment,” in which a person goes away, struggles to maintain their gains when they go back to the same environment they left, and eventually go back to rehab.

This cycle continues to play out, causing people struggling with substance abuse and their loved ones to believe that they are beyond help or hope. Outpatient substance abuse programs treat people without entirely isolating them from their daily life and communities. This approach has both pros and cons.

Pros of Outpatient Substance Abuse Programs

Cost. Inpatient programs often are extraordinarily expensive and are often not covered by many insurance plans. Outpatient programs tend to be more affordable and more likely to be covered by your health insurance.

Less Disruptive. While there are times that a total break from the familiar can be helpful, this must be balanced with the disruption caused by sending a teen or young adult away. An outpatient program may allow clients to keep their job, stay enrolled in school, and maintain supportive relationships with family, friends, and their current therapist.

Multiple Levels of Care in One Program. An outpatient program with a full continuum of care has multiple levels of treatment with differing time commitment and intensity. This means that as clients gain greater stability and confidence, they can easily transition to a lower level of care. Alternately, a client who is struggling can move up the continuum and receive a higher level of support and structure.

Duration of Treatment. Studies show that maintaining a year of sobriety significantly increases a person’s chances of staying sober over the long term. By tapering in intensity, outpatient programs allow clients to stay in treatment over a longer period of time.

Build Community. Participating in a local outpatient program means that the meaningful relationships built during treatment can be maintained. Rather than forming close but transient relationships, participants can maintain and grow their network of peers focused on recovery.

Family Support. An outpatient program allows for family to be included every step of the way. Families can try out new tools and ways of interacting knowing that they have a team to support them in learning from their successes and mistakes.

Cons of an Outpatient Level of Care

Lacks Medical Detox. A person in need of medical detoxification from substances such as alcohol or opiates may need to start at a higher level of care in order to safely and humanely allow their body to adjust to the withdrawal of a substance on which they have become physically dependent.

Does Not Provide 24-hour Supervision. If your loved one is so ambivalent about recovery or their behavior so erratic and the consequences of them slipping up ia so dangerous that they need constant supervision, they are likely in need of inpatient or residential treatment until they are more stable.

While many parents wish that their teen could be completely removed from all danger until their frontal lobe is fully developed, the reality is that teens and young adults need opportunities to both fail and succeed. However, if your teen is so out of control that they are a danger to themselves or others, they may need inpatient treatment until they stabilize.

Requires Family Involvement. Good outpatient programs work with the whole family system. A family that is hoping to drop a troubled teen off and cross their fingers that they come back totally changed may be disappointed with the reality that sustainable change involves the whole family system and requires work and vulnerability on everyone’s part.


Outpatient care is not right for everyone right away. However, at some point in the recovery journey, outpatient care is essential to long-term success. If you are unsure what level of care is appropriate for you or your loved one, or wondering whether a drug rehab for teens or young adults is right for you, reach out to our team today. We can help you navigate the many treatment options to find the best one for you. Help is here. Contact us.

Insurance Accepted

Sandstone Care works with most insurance companies. We are able to verify benefits and estimate program costs prior to admission. Contact us to verify insurance benefits and coverage.

Background Image

We’re available 7 days a week to help answer any questions you may have.