What Is Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment?

There are many forms of care available for substance use disorder. Outpatient substance abuse treatment can help individuals heal and maintain recovery.

How Can Black Horse Health’s Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment Help You Recover?

At Black Horse Health, we understand that not everyone can attend intensive, residential treatment for substance use disorder or mental health challenges.

Our team of skilled and compassionate specialists have over 100 years of combined experience, and we are committed to helping you or your loved one lead a fulfilling life by providing comprehensive outpatient substance abuse treatment.

With holistic wellness services including medication-assisted treatment, trauma-focused therapies, and group therapy sessions, we will create a path to recovery that best meets your unique set of symptoms.

What’s Next?

Learn more about our outpatient substance abuse treatment, other treatment opportunities, and how our Black Horse Health team of specialists can help you heal in this comprehensive article. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for more information or to begin your path to wellness today.

outpatient substance abuse treatment

What Is Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment?

Outpatient substance abuse treatment is a type of treatment program that allows individuals to receive therapy and support for substance use disorders. This type of care is possible while individuals live at home and continue with their daily responsibilities.

Outpatient treatment is designed for individuals who have less severe symptoms or have already completed a more intensive level of care, such as inpatient care or a partial hospitalization program.

How Does Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment Work?

Outpatient substance abuse treatment provides a balance between receiving structured support for recovery and maintaining the flexibility to continue daily life responsibilities. It is well-suited for individuals with a strong support system and the motivation to address their substance use issues.

The specific services and intensity of treatment can vary among outpatient programs, so it’s important to choose one that aligns with your unique needs and goals.

Here are some other key characteristics of outpatient substance abuse treatment:1

Flexible Scheduling

Outpatient programs offer flexible scheduling. This allows individuals to attend therapy sessions during the day, evening, or on weekends, depending on their availability.

Individual and Group Therapy

Outpatient substance abuse treatment includes individual counseling sessions with a therapist or counselor. This allows individuals to address personal issues, risks, and coping strategies.

It also often involves group therapy sessions where individuals interact with peers, share experiences, and learn from one another.

Evidence-Based Therapies

Outpatient substance abuse treatment typically employs evidence-based therapies, such as:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Motivational enhancement therapy (MET)
  • And contingency management

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Some outpatient programs offer medication-assisted treatment for individuals with opioid or alcohol use disorders. During MAT, doctors may prescribe medications like methadone or naltrexone. These help mitigate the negative side effects of detox. They are often used in conjunction with counseling.

Family Involvement

Outpatient programs may involve family members in therapy sessions to address family dynamics, communication, and support systems. Family involvement can vary depending on the level of support needed and the individual’s relationship with their family.

Education and Skills Building

In outpatient substance abuse treatment, individuals often receive education on substance use, relapse prevention, and the development of coping skills.

Continuity of Care

Outpatient substance abuse treatment often emphasizes continuity of care. This helps individuals transition from more intensive levels of care back to their daily lives while maintaining support and recovery efforts.

Regular Assessments

Treatment progress is regularly assessed. This way, individuals can work with their doctors and therapists to adjust their treatment plans based on their needs and progress.

Drug Testing

Some outpatient programs may incorporate drug testing to monitor abstinence and compliance with the treatment plan. This may be tapered off over time depending on the individual’s progress.

Aftercare Planning

Outpatient substance abuse treatment programs help individuals create aftercare plans to maintain their recovery after completing the program. This may include ongoing therapy, support groups, and relapse prevention strategies.

Length of Treatment

The duration of outpatient substance abuse treatment varies based on the individual’s needs and progress. It can range from several weeks to several months or longer in some cases.

What Is the Difference Between Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment and Other Forms of Care?

There are several key differences between outpatient substance abuse treatment and other levels of care. Outpatient care is suitable for some people, but others may need more intensive care, such as inpatient treatment.

How Does Inpatient Treatment Work?

While outpatient substance abuse treatment provides flexible part-time treatment, inpatient treatment is much more intensive.

The most notable differences that inpatient treatment utilizes include:2
  • Setting: Inpatient or residential treatment takes place in a specialized facility where individuals live on-site for a specified period.
  • Intensity: These programs offer a higher level of intensity and structure. Participants receive 24/7 care, therapy, and a controlled environment to focus solely on recovery.
  • Isolation: Inpatient treatment often involves a degree of isolation from external risks, substances, and stressors. This can be beneficial for individuals with severe substance use disorders.
  • Duration: Inpatient or residential treatment programs are longer in duration, ranging from a few weeks to several months. The extended stay allows for more comprehensive treatment.
  • Support System: While these programs provide a supportive and therapeutic environment, participants may have limited contact with their external support system.
  • Level of Care: Inpatient or residential treatment is typically recommended for individuals with severe substance use disorders, those in crisis or with a high risk of relapse, or those who require a break from their daily life to focus on recovery.

How to Choose Between Inpatient or Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment

The choice between outpatient, inpatient, or residential treatment depends on many different factors.

Some individuals may progress through different levels of care as they advance in their recovery journey. This process typically starts with inpatient or residential treatment and transitions into outpatient care.

What Is the Structure of Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment?

A typical daily session in outpatient substance abuse treatment can vary from person to person based on their treatment needs. However, outpatient treatment is designed to provide individuals with the support, therapy, and tools they need to address their substance use.

Generally, here is how a daily session in outpatient substance abuse treatment works:3


At the beginning of each daily session, individuals check in with the treatment center staff. This provides an opportunity to briefly discuss any immediate concerns or changes in their circumstances since the last session.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is a central component of many outpatient substance abuse treatment programs. Group sessions provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals to share experiences and learn from one another.

Group therapy encourages peer support and typically lasts for a set duration, such as 1 to 2 hours.

Individual Counseling

In addition to group therapy, individuals may have scheduled individual counseling sessions with a therapist or counselor.

These one-on-one sessions allow for more personalized exploration of substance use-related issues and coping strategies. These sessions typically last around 45 minutes to an hour.

Medication Management

Some individuals in outpatient substance abuse treatment receive medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid or alcohol use disorders.

If this is part of an individual’s treatment, they will have scheduled appointments with a healthcare provider to discuss medication effectiveness, side effects, and any necessary adjustments.
These appointments are usually less frequent, occurring as needed.

Skill-Building and Psychoeducation

Throughout the daily session, individuals may engage in skill-building activities and psychoeducation workshops. These sessions aim to provide practical tools for managing craving. Topics covered can include education, communication skills, and stress management techniques.

Homework and Assignments

Individuals may be assigned homework or tasks to complete between sessions. These assignments reinforce the concepts discussed in therapy and encourage ongoing engagement with recovery principles.

Check-Out and Reflection

At the end of each daily session, individuals meet with treatment center staff. This provides an opportunity to reflect on the session’s content, discuss any immediate concerns or insights, and receive feedback from the therapist or counselor.


The length of a daily session can vary but typically ranges from 2 to 4 hours, depending on the program’s structure and intensity.

What Therapies Are Typically Used in Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment?

Outpatient substance abuse treatment uses evidence-based therapeutic approaches and interventions, such as:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is one of the most widely used and researched therapeutic approaches for outpatient substance abuse treatment. It focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors related to substance use.

CBT helps individuals develop healthier coping mechanisms, problem-solving skills, and strategies to manage cravings and risk factors.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)

MET is designed to enhance an individual’s motivation and commitment to change their substance use behavior. It involves exploring and resolving ambivalence about quitting and setting achievable goals for recovery.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is effective for individuals with co-occurring substance use and emotional regulation difficulties. It teaches mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.

Contingency Management (CM)

CM is a behavior-based intervention that provides incentives or rewards for positive behaviors, such as abstinence or attendance at treatment sessions. It has been successful in promoting abstinence from substances.4

12-Step Facilitation

Based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), 12-step models are a structured approach that guides individuals through the 12-step recovery process. It encourages participation in support group meetings and emphasizes acceptance and making amends.

Family Therapy

Family therapy involves the participation of family members in the treatment process. It addresses family dynamics, communication patterns, and support systems to improve the overall family environment. It also helps to strengthen the individual’s recovery.

Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP)

MBRP combines mindfulness practices with relapse prevention strategies. It helps individuals develop awareness of cravings and provides techniques for managing them.

Trauma-Informed Therapy

Many individuals with substance use disorders have experienced trauma. Trauma-informed therapy addresses these underlying traumas and their impact on substance use, helping individuals heal and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

Holistic Approaches

Some programs incorporate holistic therapies like yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and art therapy. These practices address the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of recovery.

Somatic Experiencing

Somatic experiencing is a therapeutic approach used to address trauma and stress-related disorders. It focuses on the body’s physical and sensory experiences to heal trauma, as it recognizes that trauma is not just a psychological phenomenon but also a physiological one.

What Specific Relapse Strategies Are Utilized in Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment?

Many outpatient programs integrate relapse prevention strategies and coping skills. Since outpatient programs are a step down from other treatment options, these strategies are imperative for continued healing and care.

Here are some insights into the relapse prevention strategies and coping skills commonly taught in outpatient substance abuse treatment:

Identifying Risks

Individuals learn to recognize the specific people, places, situations, emotions, and thoughts that may cause cravings or thoughts of using substances. Identifying these risks is a crucial first step in relapse prevention. Then, individuals can learn how to avoid these as well.

Stress Management

Coping with stress is a major relapse risk. Treatment programs teach stress reduction techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation. These strategies help individuals manage stress without resorting to substance use.


Self-care practices are emphasized to promote physical and emotional well-being. This includes getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and engaging in regular exercise.

Building Supportive Networks

Individuals are encouraged to establish and maintain supportive relationships with individuals who are committed to their recovery. Support networks can include friends, family members, sponsors, or peers.

Developing Healthy Habits

Treatment programs help individuals replace addictive behaviors with healthy habits and routines. Engaging in positive activities and hobbies can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Continuing Care

Outpatient substance abuse treatment also emphasizes the importance of ongoing care and support beyond the initial treatment phase. This may involve attending aftercare programs, 12-step meetings, or therapy sessions.

Goal Setting

Setting and working toward personal goals can be motivating and provide a sense of purpose in recovery. Treatment programs help individuals establish realistic and achievable goals for their future.

Accountability and Self-Monitoring

Individuals in outpatient substance abuse treatment are encouraged to track their progress and hold themselves accountable for their actions. Self-monitoring tools, such as keeping a journal or using mobile apps, can help individuals stay on track.

outpatient substance abuse treatment

How Black Horse Health Can Provide Support

If you or a loved one are battling substance use disorder, our supportive team of experts is here to help. We focus on meeting you where you are in recovery so that you can get the care you need. This helps promote holistic and comprehensive healing.

Our knowledgeable professionals have years of experience in the field and are eager to help. Our priority is providing quality care.

Our Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment Program

We work with you to create an individualized treatment plan based on your specific needs and symptoms. Our outpatient substance abuse treatment program can assist in healing from multiple substances, such as alcohol, opioids, and benzodiazepines.

Our treatment is evidence-based, and our goal is to help resolve or improve symptoms of chronic pain, substance use, and mental health disorders.

What Treatment Might Entail With Black Horse Health

Just a few of the substance abuse treatment opportunities our Houston team provides include:

  • 12 Step Model Treatment
  • Art Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment
  • Equine Therapy
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Meditation
  • Trauma-Focused Therapy

Reach Out to Us Today

Finding support can be the first step toward recovery. If you’re ready to find quality care for you or a loved one, contact us today.

We’re here to help you harness the power of healing.