Outpatient programs have become increasingly popular in recent years as a treatment option for mental health and substance use disorders. But are these programs truly effective? 

What is an Outpatient Program?

Before diving into the effectiveness of outpatient programs, it’s important to understand what they are and how they differ from other treatment options.

Outpatient programs are a type of treatment where individuals attend therapy sessions, support groups and other treatment activities while still living at home. This is in contrast to inpatient programs, where individuals live at a treatment facility for a designated period of time.

Outpatient programs can vary in intensity and duration, with some requiring daily attendance and others only a few times a week. They also offer a range of services, including individual therapy, group therapy, medication management and more.

Benefits of Outpatient Programs

Outpatient programs offer several benefits that make them an attractive option for those seeking treatment. These include:

  • Flexibility: Outpatient programs allow individuals to continue living at home and maintain their daily routines while receiving treatment. This can be especially beneficial for those with work or family commitments.
  • Cost-effective: Outpatient programs tend to be more affordable than inpatient programs, making them a more accessible option for those with financial constraints.
  • Support system: By attending outpatient treatment, individuals can continue to receive support from their friends and family, which can be a crucial aspect of recovery.
  • Real-world application: Outpatient programs allow individuals to practice the skills they learn in therapy in their everyday lives, making it easier to apply them in real-world situations.

Effectiveness of Outpatient Programs

Now, let’s delve deeper into the topic of outpatient programs and analyze the impact of these programs on individuals seeking treatment for various mental health conditions or substance abuse issues. We will explore the findings from recent research studies to understand the effectiveness of outpatient programs in providing long-term benefits and support to patients.

Mental Health Treatment

Outpatient programs have been found to be effective in treating a variety of mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety and PTSD. A study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that outpatient treatment was just as effective as inpatient treatment for individuals with depression and anxiety disorders.

Additionally, a review of 17 studies on the effectiveness of outpatient treatment for PTSD found that it was effective in reducing symptoms and improving overall functioning.

Substance Abuse Treatment

Outpatient programs have also been found to be effective in treating substance use disorders. A study published in the National Library of Medicine found that outpatient treatment was just as effective as inpatient treatment for individuals with alcohol use disorder.

Furthermore, a review of 11 studies on the effectiveness of outpatient treatment for opioid use disorder found that it was effective in reducing opioid use and improving overall functioning.

Factors That Contribute to Effectiveness

While outpatient programs have been found to be effective, there are certain factors that can contribute to their success. These include:

  • Motivation: Individuals who are motivated to change and actively participate in treatment tend to have better outcomes.
  • Support system: A strong support system, whether it be friends, family or a support group, can greatly contribute to the effectiveness of outpatient treatment.
  • Individualized treatment: Outpatient programs that offer individualized treatment plans tailored to each individual’s needs tend to be more effective.
  • Continuity of care: Outpatient programs that offer a continuum of care, meaning they provide support and resources after treatment ends, have been found to be more effective in maintaining long-term recovery.

Inpatient Programs vs. Outpatient Programs

While both outpatient and inpatient programs have been found to be effective, they differ in several ways. Understanding these differences can help individuals make an informed decision about which type of treatment is best for them.

Level of Care

The main difference between outpatient and inpatient programs is the level of care provided. Inpatient programs offer 24/7 care and support, while outpatient programs require individuals to attend treatment sessions and then return home.


As mentioned earlier, outpatient programs tend to be more cost-effective than inpatient programs. This is because inpatient programs require individuals to live at a treatment facility, which can be expensive.

Severity of Condition

Outpatient programs are typically recommended for individuals with mild to moderate mental health or substance use disorders. Inpatient programs are often recommended for those with severe conditions that require round-the-clock care.

Time Commitment

Outpatient programs require individuals to attend treatment sessions for a designated period of time, usually a few hours a day or a few times a week. Inpatient programs, on the other hand, require individuals to live at the facility for a designated period of time, which can range from a few weeks to several months.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs) are a type of outpatient treatment that provides a higher level of care than traditional outpatient programs but does not require individuals to stay overnight at a treatment facility. 

PHPs offer structured treatment during the day, typically for several hours, and individuals return home in the evenings. These programs are designed for individuals who require more intensive treatment than traditional outpatient care but do not need the round-the-clock care provided by inpatient programs. PHPs often include a combination of therapy, medication management and support groups to address various mental health and substance abuse issues.

Finding Care

Finding care and support for your mental health can be as simple as a phone call. Arbour Hospital has several programs and resources to support your mental health, including partial hospitalization, inpatient and outpatient programs. Call today at 617-505-1490 to see if Arbour is the right fit for you, and to get assessed for your eligibility.

About Arbour Hospital

Arbour Hospital is a behavioral health center that offers services to adults and adolescents alike as a way to achieve long-term wellness and sobriety. We treat primary psychiatric and substance abuse disorders. We also constantly strive to meet the needs of our communities with treatment that address individualized behavioral health needs.

Located in Jamaica Plain, MA, we’re a fully licensed and accredited center that provides exceptional care. Our team of professionals provide patients and their families with high-quality care and service excellence across a continuum of specialized behavioral health services. Some of our services include our adult psychiatric, adult substance abuse and adolescent partial hospitalization program.

Our facility has a patient-focused approach to behavioral healthcare. To schedule a no-cost assessment or for more information, please call 1-833-322-2687.