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Outpatient treatment therapies used in addiction recovery programs are sometimes characterized as having identical philosophies and using the same methods for everyone. A high-quality treatment program will use a framework, but it’s customized to an individual’s needs and unique situation. On a basic level, effective outpatient treatment therapies include a few common methods.


Psychotherapy, also called “talk therapy,” is a core component of treatment. For many, substance abuse is connected to past experiences and how these experiences affected them emotionally and psychologically. Patients talk about their experiences, feelings, and thoughts. By providing a safe place to address and work through these longstanding issues, individual or group psychotherapy helps people feel, think and cope in new and healthier ways.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy can take place one-on-one or in a group setting. This therapy method facilitates behavioral change by adjusting the ways patients think and behave and how they perceive themselves and the world around them. A CBT group also works to form a social support network that promotes continued sobriety. Social networks help to develop an awareness of behaviors that may lead to relapse. CBT social networks also encourage the sharing of abstinence strategies.

Skills Development

Skills training teaches people the tools needed to become and stay sober.1

Some coping skills are directly related to using substances:

  • How to refuse an offer of drugs or alcohol
  • Avoiding triggers for use
  • Coping with urges to use

Other coping skills are related to learning how to live a sober life:

  • Managing anger
  • Solving problems
  • Reducing stress

Relapse Prevention

Relapse prevention groups focus on helping individuals maintain abstinence, or to recover from the relapse. These groups do this by aiming to improve a person’s ability to manage risky situations. Relapse prevention also helps to create stability in a client’s life through changes in behavior.

Expressive Groups

Expressive groups use a wide range of therapeutic activities to permit clients to express feelings and thoughts in nonverbal or creative ways. These types of groups may also focus on social interaction among participants during creative activities. Examples of expressive therapy activities include art, music, drama, games, dance, poetry, equine therapy, yoga and meditation.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Most people in addiction recovery have experienced significant changes in brain function and chemistry caused by substance abuse. It takes time for these changes to heal. Medications help prevent relapse by preventing withdrawal and alleviating the cravings that occur during healing. Medication-assisted therapy can be an important part of outpatient treatment therapies for alcohol, opioid and opiate addictions.2

Methadone for opioid dependence, antidepressants for co-occurring disorders and naltrexone for alcohol dependence are all types of medication-assisted treatment.

Finding the Right Outpatient Treatment Therapies for You

Your individually tailored treatment plan begins with an assessment. An assessment determines the right outpatient treatment therapies based on your needs. Once an assessment is completed, recommendations are made for what may work best for you.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64214/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64154/
Types of Outpatient Treatment Therapies
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