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Outpatient Drug Rehab for Teens

A number of recovering substance addicts benefit from the ability to continue living at home, going to school and working their job while commuting to addiction treatment in their free time. Call us to learn more about outpatient rehab in your area.


5 min read

What Is Outpatient Drug Rehabilitation?

Teen girl offers to help her friend crying on the floor

Outpatient rehab is a way for teens to undergo a treatment program without interrupting their day-to-day obligations or leaving the comforts of home. Where inpatient rehab (or residential rehab) requires the patient to be admitted at a facility for 24/7 monitoring and supervision, outpatient rehab is less exhaustive, spread out over several short sessions throughout a week.

If your teen begins an outpatient rehab program, they will usually meet with treatment professionals after school or on the weekends — all while continuing their classes, club meetings or any other activities as they normally would.

Outpatient Program Options

A teenage girl contemplating rehab

Outpatient treatment programs vary from casual and infrequent to rigorous and persistent, depending on your teen’s needs relative to their substance problem. When you’re choosing treatment options with your child’s doctor, several outpatient offerings may be available.

Adolescent outpatient drug rehab options may include:

  • Intensive Outpatient – the most comparable outpatient option to residential treatment, intensive outpatient rehab (or intensive day treatment) is structured around 3–4 days a week of 2–4 hour sessions with addiction specialists
  • Partial Hospitalization – for teens who require ongoing monitoring in a medical environment, this treatment plan has them meet at a hospital 3–5 days a week for 4–6 hours at a time, so their health and progress can be assessed thoroughly before returning to their stable living situation
  • Therapy and Counseling – these are elements typical to most treatment programs, in conjunction with other aspects like relapse prevention strategies, medication and support groups — for some minor cases, occasional sessions with a therapist or addiction counselor may be sufficient to overcome the substance problem

Addiction is never black and white, and neither is a prescribed rehab program. Upon being diagnosed, your teen’s doctor will help lay out an individualized recovery plan that implements different treatment models at varying intensities and lengths of time. Once treatment gets underway, their progress will be assessed at regular intervals, and their rehab program will be updated based on any progress — or lack thereof — that your son or daughter exhibits.

What Happens During Outpatient Drug Rehabilitation?

A rehab group discussing sobriety

An individualized continuing care plan is designed for each patient enrolling in outpatient rehab. In most cases, your teen will commute to and from a treatment facility, where they’ll have scheduled sessions with psychiatrists and other staff members.

Intensive outpatient treatment programs may involve the following services:

  • An initial outpatient drug detox
  • Group counseling and therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Psychoeducation programming (i.e. addiction classes)
  • Pharmacotherapy and medication management
  • Monitoring alcohol and drug use (i.e. drug tests)
  • Community-based support groups (e.g. Teen Addiction Anonymous and other 12-step programs)
  • Medical treatment
  • Psychiatric examinations and psychotherapy
  • Relapse prevention and education
  • Dual diagnosis treatment (for teens suffering with co-occurring mental and substance use disorders)

Case management is another major component of proper outpatient addiction rehab. A patient may have issues in their life not directly related to their substance use that can’t be addressed with these other services. A case manager might provide or refer patients to services such as:

  • Skill building
  • Job training and job placement
  • Educational consulting
  • Housing placement
  • Food banks
  • Clothing distribution centers
  • Recreational facilities
  • Preventative health care
  • Faith-based institutions
  • Volunteer transportation
  • Legal assistance

It’s impossible to fit every element of rehab into a single outpatient session. These services will likely be spread out over several weeks or months, until your teen is in a good place — physically, mentally and emotionally. While teens are encouraged to stay in school full-time, you may decide to pull them out temporarily so they can focus on getting better. Speak with the school administrators and your teen’s teachers in advance, and together determine the best option for continuing education during rehab.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Outpatient Rehab

Parents talking to their teenager about rehab

Outpatient drug detox and addiction treatment has numerous pros and cons. The efficacy of these plans usually hinges on the patient’s willpower and their desire to get clean. Whether you choose inpatient or outpatient treatment, your child needs your love and support to get healthy.

Pros of outpatient drug rehab include:

  • Less expensive
  • Ability to continue daily activities, such as school and work
  • Living at home and staying involved with family
  • Sessions take place in the evenings and even on weekends
  • Less commitment — can start applying lessons immediately
  • No need to explain an extended absence to friends or classmates

Cons of outpatient rehab include:

  • Exposure to daily influences, risks and triggers of substance use
  • Possible access to addictive substances
  • Lack of 24/7 monitoring and supervision
  • Can’t give full attention to recovery, and can be easily distracted (i.e. school, friends, clubs, etc.)
  • Limited access to counselors, nurses and other treatment staff
  • Less likely to meet or create bonds with others in recovery

Whichever avenue you and your teen decide on, any treatment is better than no treatment if an addiction is at play. The consequences of substance abuse can be enormous, and each day they abuse drugs or alcohol, they are gambling with their future. Take time to talk to your child about drugs and understand what they’re going through. Then, as a team, sit down with a doctor and figure out which recovery path is right for them.

Does My Teen Need Outpatient Drug Rehab?

Two young girls talking about their rehab experiences

In general, outpatient rehab is recommended for teens with less severe addictions, used as a stepping stone after inpatient treatment. It tends to be a relatively affordable treatment option, and it requires less of a time commitment. If you trust your teen’s ability to stay focused in school, to avoid high-temptation situations, and to give 100% during their treatment sessions, an outpatient program may be right for your family.

Use your judgment (as well as the doctor’s) in determining the severity and urgency of your child’s substance abuse problem, along with any other possible mental disorders that co-occur with drug abuse (e.g. depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, ADHD). Don’t take any risks with your child’s life. If it seems they’re on a collision course and substance addiction is sitting in the driver’s seat, outpatient rehab may be the best option.

Every addiction situation is different, so it’s important that you choose a treatment program that aligns with your teen’s unique needs. We at have treatment professionals on staff who can help you determine whether your teen will benefit from outpatient rehab, or if another option seems more effective. From there, we can help you peruse suitable facilities until you find the right one. Calling us is free, and everything we discuss is kept in the strictest confidence. It’s time for a change — take the first step right now.


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