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Intensive Outpatient Addiction Treatment: A Comprehensive Guide to Recovery

In this informative article, we explore how intensive outpatient addiction treatment can help individuals achieve and maintain recovery.

Table of Contents

Understanding Addiction

Though addiction can affect anyone, it looks different from person to person. Addiction can occur when a person uses a substance, like alcohol or drugs, or engages in an activity, such as gambling, that they find pleasurable.

These activities may provide a welcome distraction from daily stressors. But over time, individuals begin to need more of the substance or activity to feel the same pleasure they felt initially. Eventually, they may find it hard to stop, even if it causes harm.

One treatment opportunity for addiction recovery is intensive outpatient treatment. 

Two Main Types of Substance Addiction

Substance use disorder can take two distinct forms: drug addiction and alcohol addiction:

  • Drug Addiction: This is when a person becomes physically and/or emotionally dependent on a drug to feel ‘normal’ or to cope with difficult emotions.
  • Alcohol Addiction: Like drug addiction, alcohol addiction occurs when a person becomes dependent on alcohol.

Signs and Symptoms of Substance Addiction

Though individuals may share similar symptoms, addiction can present differently in different people. Some common signs of substance addiction include:

  • Using more of the substance or engaging in the activity more often.
  • Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from the substance.
  • Wanting to cut down or stop but not being able to.
  • Feeling sick when trying to stop or cut down.
  • Needing more of the substance to get the same effect.
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home.
  •  Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships.
  • Giving up important activities because of use.
  •  Continuing to use, even when it puts you in danger.
  • Continuing to use, even when the substance causes or worsens physical or mental health problems.
  • Spending a lot of time thinking about the substance: how to get more, when you’ll use it next, or how good it feels.


If you have experienced any of these symptoms, it is important to talk about it with a doctor or someone you trust.

The Cycle of Addiction

Substance addiction often follows a cycle. The cycle typically progresses as: 

The cycle can be broken, but it often requires help like that offered in intensive outpatient addiction treatment.

Consequences of Untreated Addiction

Untreated, addiction can take over your personal and professional life. The detrimental impact of addiction will be detailed below.

Why Seeking Help Matters

Untreated addiction can be harmful in every aspect. It can damage a person’s job, health, relationships, and more. People struggling with addiction may be sick more often. They may have trouble at work or school, and argue with friends and family.

Addiction often causes money problems, legal trouble, and/or homelessness. By seeking help, one can eliminate or reduce these risks.

Overcoming Barriers to Seeking Help

It can be difficult to ask for help overcoming addiction. Common barriers include fear of judgment, denial, or not knowing where to turn for help. While it may feel impossible, many people have battled addiction and achieved recovery.

Strategies for Overcoming Barriers

While some barriers to recovery are hard to break down, these strategies may help.

Talk to Someone You Trust

Sharing your worries with someone who cares about you can make you feel less alone. They can also offer support and encouragement.

Learn About Addiction

Knowing that addiction is a medical condition, not a personal failing, can help reduce feelings of shame or guilt.

Explore Treatment Options

Knowing what kind of help is available makes seeking help less scary.

Reach Out to Professionals

Doctors, therapists, and support groups help many people battling addiction. They can answer questions, address your fears, and guide clients toward recovery.

When is the Best Time to Seek Help

The best time to seek help is as soon as possible once a person has identified their addiction as a “problem.” Addiction is a progressive illness, meaning it can worsen over time. The sooner a person seeks help, the more likely they are to be successful in their recovery.

Overview of Addiction Treatments

Fortunately, addiction is treatable and recovery is possible. Some treatments require you to stay at a facility. Others allow you to live at home. Each type of addiction treatment has its own benefits.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment requires you to live at a treatment center. In inpatient treatment, people receive care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Inpatient treatment can be helpful for individuals with severe addictions. It can also be helpful for people who do not have a safe or supportive home environment.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment requires you to live at home but go to a treatment center regularly. This could mean once a week, or it could be every day. In outpatient treatment, individuals receive therapy, education, and support at the treatment center. 

 This kind of treatment is helpful for those who need to go to work or school, or who have family responsibilities.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

In a partial hospitalization treatment program, individuals spend most of the day at a treatment center but go home at night. Like inpatient treatment, people receive intensive care in a partial hospitalization program.

This kind of program can be helpful for people who don’t need 24-hour residential care but still need substantial support.

Deep Dive: Intensive Outpatient Addiction Treatment

Now that we’ve defined inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, and partial hospitalization programs, we’ll dive into the specifics of intensive outpatient addiction treatment. 

What is Intensive Outpatient Addiction Treatment?

Intensive outpatient addiction treatment is a form of therapy where individuals visit a treatment center several times a week. Visits often last a few hours. During these visits, clients receive counseling, education, and support to help foster recovery.

Comparison with Other Treatments

In inpatient treatment, individuals live at the treatment center full-time. In intensive outpatient addiction treatment, clients live at home and only visit the center.

Traditional outpatient treatment often involves fewer visits to the center each week. These visits are shorter compared to intensive outpatient treatment. In intensive outpatient addiction treatment, people spend more time at the center each week.

Differences in Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

A partial hospitalization program is a middle ground between inpatient and outpatient treatment. Individuals spend most of the day at the center but sleep at home.

Intensive outpatient addiction treatment involves fewer hours at the center each day but still provides a high level of care.

Advantages of Intensive Outpatient Addiction Treatment

Intensive outpatient addiction treatment is a great option for those who need more support than traditional outpatient care offers, but don’t need the full-time structure of an inpatient program. Some benefits include being time and cost-effective.


Unlike inpatient programs, intensive outpatient addiction treatment provides the flexibility of attending treatment during daytime hours while maintaining a life outside of treatment. This schedule allows people to keep up with other obligations while continuing to receive quality care.

Less Disruption

Because intensive outpatient addiction treatment is less restrictive than inpatient treatment, it causes fewer disruptions in your typical routine. Intensive outpatient treatment allows individuals to stay connected with friends and family while receiving the care they need.

A Structured Environment

Intensive outpatient addiction treatment provides a structured environment where individuals work toward recovery while still having the freedom to attend normal activities.


Intensive outpatient addiction treatment programs may be more accessible than inpatient programs. These programs provide the chance to practice new skills in a person’s everyday environment.


Intensive outpatient addiction treatment is often more cost-effective than inpatient or residential addiction treatment.2

Intensive outpatient addiction treatment can be a beneficial and effective way for people to get the help they need. With continued support and guidance, intensive outpatient addiction treatment can help achieve lasting recovery from addiction.

Effectiveness of Intensive Outpatient Addiction Treatment

Intensive outpatient treatment offers a unique approach to addiction treatment. 

What Makes Intensive Outpatient Addiction Treatment Effective?

Intensive outpatient addiction treatment uses several elements that work together to help you on the road to recovery. Treatment combines both the medical and mental health aspects of addiction. This approach helps develop coping skills to deal with cravings and stress. 

 Intensive outpatient addiction treatment also provides therapeutic support in a group setting, allowing for meaningful connections with others who understand your struggles.

Developing Habits to Maintain Recovery

Intensive outpatient treatment focuses on developing positive lifestyle habits. This can include exercise, nutrition, and other activities that promote better physical health. The goal of these habits is to reduce the risk of relapse and build a strong foundation for recovery.

Through therapy and practice, clients learn skills to manage and reduce the impact of triggers. These strategies help cope with cravings and stressful situations without turning to substance use.

Treatment Modalities in Intensive Outpatient Addiction Treatment

Various strategies are used in intensive outpatient addiction treatment. These will be discussed further in the following sections. 

Evidence-Based Practices

Intensive outpatient addiction treatment uses evidence-based practices. This ensures we are using the most effective tools for you. These tools are developed through years of research and clinical trials.3

Some evidence-based practices used in intensive outpatient addiction treatment include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on identifying and changing unhealthy thinking patterns that lead to addiction.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Motivational interviewing helps patients build motivation and confidence to make positive behavioral changes.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy focuses on helping patients regulate their emotions, tolerate distress, and manage stress more effectively.

Contingency Management

Contingency management rewards abstinence from substance use with tangible rewards like vouchers or cash.

Medication Management

Intensive outpatient addiction treatment programs often include medically assisted treatment (MAT). Medication-assisted therapy uses medications like buprenorphine and methadone to reduce opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Family Therapy

Family therapy is also commonly offered in intensive outpatient addiction treatment programs. This type of therapy helps repair strained relationships, increase communication skills, and address unhealthy dynamics that contribute to substance use disorder.

Success Rates and Long-Term Outcomes

The success rate of any addiction treatment depends on individual factors such as:

Long-term Outcomes

On average, between 50% to 70% of people who take part in intensive outpatient addiction treatment report abstinence at follow-up​. This suggests the importance of long-term aftercare plans.

Other studies show family therapy is associated with greater motivation to abstain from substance use, fewer withdrawal symptoms, and a better ability to cope with stressors.4

Cost and Coverage of Intensive Outpatient Addiction Treatment

The cost and coverage of intensive outpatient addiction treatment programs can vary.  

Average Cost of Intensive Outpatient Addiction Treatment

The cost of intensive outpatient addiction treatment varies widely depending on the level of care and the length of the program.

In general, a three-month intensive outpatient addiction treatment program can range from $3,000 to $10,000. A single session of intensive outpatient treatment can cost anywhere between $60 and $200. One day of intensive outpatient addiction treatment might cost between $250 and $350.

What Is Covered by Insurance?

Insurance can help with the cost of intensive outpatient addiction treatment. Insurance coverage varies depending on your insurance provider, your plan, and even where you live.

Most medically necessary services are typically covered by insurance companies. These services include evaluations, individual counseling and group therapy sessions, medication, and any other medical care related to treatment.

Using a provider that is “out-of-network” for your insurance provider may affect coverage. When using in-network providers, insurance companies coordinate claims and billing. For out-of-network providers, some insurance companies require that clients submit their own claims.

Duration of Intensive Outpatient Addiction Treatment

Intensive outpatient addiction treatment lasts longer than traditional outpatient treatment.  

Factors Affecting Treatment Duration

The length of your stay in intensive outpatient addiction treatment can vary. These programs generally last several weeks to a few months.

Type of Addiction

A few key factors impact how long clients are involved in intensive outpatient addiction treatment. The first factor is the type of addiction. Some substances cause stronger physical dependencies. In this case, clients may need more treatment for successful recovery.

Severity of Addiction

The second factor is the severity of the addiction. If an individual has been using drugs or alcohol for a long time, longer, more intensive treatment may be necessary to achieve recovery.

Individual Goals

A client’s individual goals will also affect the duration of treatment. If you are responding well to the therapy methods used in the program, your treatment duration might be shorter.

Co-occurring Mental Health Conditions

Co-occurring mental health conditions can extend the duration of treatment. Providers should treat these conditions alongside the addiction for the best recovery outcome.

Personal Commitment

Personal commitment to the treatment program can influence the length of treatment. Recovery often requires significant personal effort. Being committed to the program can lead to more effective treatment

Investing in Intensive Outpatient Addiction Treatment

There are some key things to consider when contemplating the pros and cons of intensive outpatient addiction treatment. These include:

Why is an Intensive Outpatient Addiction Treatment Program a Good Investment?

Intensive outpatient programs help clients regain control of their lives. This type of treatment provides tools to manage addiction.

Intensive outpatient addiction treatment also helps build new habits for a healthier lifestyle. These skills are beneficial in overcoming addiction, improving relationships, increasing productivity at work, and other aspects of daily life.

Personal and Societal Benefits of Treatment

Treatment doesn’t only benefit the individual, it also benefits society.

 It can lead to better health, improved relationships, and increased productivity. For society, it reduces the impact of addiction-related issues. These can include reducing the burden on health services. Also, decreasing crime related to substance abuse. 

 Being healthier and happier allows individuals to contribute to their community.

Return on Investment from a Health and Wellbeing Perspective

There’s also a return on investment in terms of health and wellbeing. Think about the cost of addiction – it can harm your health, relationships, and work. 

 The cost of treatment might seem high. But compare it with the ongoing cost of addiction, and you may find treatment is a better financial decision. Not only do you save money in the long run, but you also improve your quality of life.

Intensive Outpatient Addiction Treatment at Boardwalk Recovery

Boardwalk Recovery supports those dealing with substance abuse and addictive behaviors. We provide individuals with a nurturing environment to begin their recovery journey.

Our mission is to offer accessible, evidence-based treatment options to help lay the foundation for successful recovery.

Overview of Boardwalk Recovery Intensive Outpatient Addiction Treatment

We use intensive outpatient treatment as a transition for people moving out of inpatient care. It is also an option for those who do not need immediate acute care​.

Sessions in this program range from three to six hours per day, held three to five times per week. The entire program lasts three months or more. Sessions may take place at the medical facility or online.

Services Offered

We provide an extensive range of treatments within the intensive outpatient addiction program.

Individual Psychotherapy

Individual psychotherapy is one-on-one sessions with therapists to understand and tackle addiction.

Group Therapy

Group therapy provides an opportunity to share personal experiences with peers in similar situations. This fosters mutual understanding and support.


Ecopsychology involves outdoor group therapy and mindfulness meditation to highlight the therapeutic benefits of nature.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy helps individuals identify and rectify harmful thought patterns.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and commitment therapy encourages acceptance of difficult situations and commitment to making necessary changes.

Family Therapy

Family therapy aims to mend strained relationships within the family due to addiction. This promotes a supportive home environment.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation teaches calming techniques to manage stress and anxiety.

Guided Imagery

Visualization techniques promote relaxation and reduce stress.

12-Step Facilitation

12-step facilitation focuses on the acceptance of addiction and making positive changes.


Psychoeducation involves providing knowledge about addiction and mental health, empowering clients in their recovery journey.

Cognitive Processing Therapy

Cognitive processing therapy is particularly useful for clients dealing with trauma, helping them learn effective coping strategies.

These services come together to provide a comprehensive, adaptable, and person-centered treatment plan.

Begin Your Journey

Our goal is to provide individuals with the support they need to reach their recovery goals. If you are ready for recovery, we are here for you. Call today and see what Boardwalk Recovery Center can offer you.
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