Outpatient Addiction Treatment Timeline

How long someone spends in outpatient treatment depends on a variety of factors. Research indicates a 90-day treatment duration can provide a greater chance for long-term recovery when one maintains engagement. However, the length of treatment depends on each individual’s situation and current needs, meaning treatment could take as little as a few weeks to as long as multiple months.

First Week

Evaluation and Admission

  • During the first week, the staff and clinical team at an outpatient rehab facility will get to know you on a personal basis. You will likely complete some form of self-assessment, which will detail your personal history with substance abuse and long-term goals.

Weeks 2-3


  • During the 2nd and 3rd weeks, you may undergo a variety of different treatment modalities, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and more to help uncover the underlying causes of your substance use disorder.

Weeks 4-5

Family Involvement

  • In the latter weeks of outpatient rehab, it’s common for some treatment centers to include family involvement as a part of treatment. This may include family therapy, relapse prevention strategies, and other long-term planning to help manage stress and triggers outside of rehab.

Weeks 5+

Choosing to Stay Longer

  • The average length for most rehab stays, both inpatient and outpatient, is around 28 days (4 weeks). While there are advantages to shorter stays, the likelihood of achieving and maintaining sobriety increases dramatically the longer you choose to stay in rehab.

How Long Will I Be In Outpatient Treatment?

There are a few key differences between the two major types of outpatient care, partial hospitalization programs (PHP) and intensive outpatient programs (IOP). First, the continuum of care, or the path in which care is provided, usually starts with PHP and then transitions into IOP. Both programs are designed for individuals to attend services during the day and then return home.

PHP generally consists of 5 days per week, typically Monday-Friday, that range from 5-6 hours each day. During PHP, patients receive group and individual therapy throughout the week and psychiatric services such as medication management when appropriate.

Most people who engage in PHP start at this level of care because they have moderate substance use conditions, mental health needs, or a combination of both. Some may be unable to work during PHP due to the extensive hours; however, it’s not uncommon to take short-term leave or use the Family and Medical Leave Act to retain employment while undergoing treatment.

Once PHP is complete, patients will typically move on to IOP. Contrary to its name, IOPs are less intensive than PHP, as they take only 3-5 days a week and up to 3-4 hours per day. IOPs are most commonly provided in the morning and at night, allowing patients to continue their employment while working on their recovery goals.

IOP can last anywhere from 4-12 weeks when done immediately after PHP. Many programs will have someone in their PHP program transition into their IOP program with the same providers, which provides patients with a seamless transition rather than having to attend another treatment facility.

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Continued Care After Outpatient Rehab

After PHP and IOP are completed, it is beneficial for some to continue treatment. This is generally referred to as continued care and is more in line with the traditional once-per-week therapy session with an individual therapist.

Some programs may include this in their outpatient treatment programs, and others may refer patients to local therapists specializing in substance use disorders.

At this point in a patient’s treatment journey, continued care is primarily used for maintaining recovery goals developed through the PHP and IOP programs. Often, a therapist or addiction counselor will help patients work on additional mental health needs that might need longer-term care, such as bipolar disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Some people try to start at the outpatient level first; however, most therapists will quickly recognize that mild, moderate, or severe substance use will likely need more intensive care than the traditional outpatient settings can provide, which often results in a referral to attend a PHP, IOP, or perhaps even an inpatient program.

Who Should Attend Outpatient Rehab?

Outpatient treatment options are useful for those with mild to moderate substance use concerns and who also may wish to continue working, living at home, or caring for loved ones while receiving treatment.

Many people attend outpatient programs after completing inpatient programs; however, some may start at the outpatient level first if their symptoms have only recently developed. Outpatient programs can provide beneficial structure and clinical services to help rebuild safe lifestyle behaviors consistent with recovery goals.

They can also provide psychiatric services for those who may benefit from medication management to treat co-occurring conditions commonly associated with substance use, such as depression or anxiety.

Outpatient treatment typically consists of therapeutic services, including group therapy, individual therapy, medication management, case management, medical evaluation, psychiatric evaluation, and 12-step program options. Many outpatient treatment programs will offer these services in conjunction to ensure all aspects of a patient’s health are being treated effectively.

Many outpatient treatment programs offer the same specialty therapies found within an inpatient treatment program, such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) for those with underlying trauma experiences or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) for individuals with difficulty regulating their emotions safely. Many specialty therapies exist, so learning what services a treatment center can offer is important.

For many, outpatient treatment is a flexible option that allows them to engage in life-saving treatment that does not disrupt their lives to the point where they cannot maintain employment or other responsibilities they may need to continue.

Treatment programs keep these concerns in mind and include clinical aspects to their programming to help ensure proper recovery, which often includes urine or blood drug screening that help to measure an individual’s abstinence while in the program. Most substance screening tests have grown quite sophisticated and, depending on the test, can determine whether someone has used a substance within 6 weeks, making them quite dependable when combined with another treatment program.

Find An Outpatient Addiction Treatment Program

The first step toward recovery is recognizing there is a substance use problem that needs treatment. Only once you’ve done this can you determine what treatment program would best fit your recovery journey.

If you or your loved one feel that they are ready for the next step, contact a treatment provider today to learn more about outpatient treatment options.