Effects of Outpatient Treatment and 12- step Group Involvement on Substance Abuse Treatment Outcomes


Effects of Outpatient Treatment and 12- step Group Involvement on Substance Abuse Treatment Outcomes

Persons interested in substance abuse treatment can either enroll in an inpatient drug rehab center or an outpatient treatment program. While an inpatient treatment program involves patients residing in a treatment facility where their overall progress can be monitored, an outpatient treatment program is more flexible, allowing patients to attend treatment sessions and take care of any other responsibilities they may shoulder. 

12-step intervention programs are associated with positive long-lasting outcomes in the treatment of persons with substance use disorders. A 12-step program can be defined as a program that outlines the specific actions to be taken – and the principles guiding them – to facilitate recovery from addictions or other behavioral challenges. It is premised on the belief that people can help each other achieve – and maintain – abstinence from substance abuse, a concept that is similar to group therapy.

Group Therapy and Substance Abuse Treatment

Group therapy can be a major component of outpatient programs for substance abuse treatment, but patients can choose to either attend an outpatient program, group therapy or a combination of both as a drug treatment option. Group therapy as a tool in drug rehab programs is as helpful as – and in some cases more successful than – individual therapy.  

There are a number of group therapy models used today in substance abuse treatment which include:

  1. Psychoeducational Groups – main aim is to educate people about substance abuse;
  2. Skills Development Groups – seeks to develop in individuals the necessary skills for breaking free from addictions
  3. Cognitive-Behavioral Groups – helps in re-calibrating thinking patterns and actions that promote addiction
  4. Support Groups – creates an avenue that keeps patients accountable and supports constructive change
  5. Interpersonal Process Groups ( Therapy Groups) – helps patients identify challenges arising as a result of past experiences and how best to resolve them.

Most treatment options center on the first four models, and their various combinations. The last model is not as commonly used because of the high level of training, and the long time-frame required to run such groups.

Advantages of Twelve-Step Programs in Substance Abuse Treatment

Some advantages of participating in a 12- step substance abuse treatment program include:

  •  Positive peer support and pressure to avoid commonly abused substances
  •  Reduced feelings of isolation commonly experienced by persons with substance abuse disorders
  •  Enabling an environment where patients witness firsthand the recovery process of others
  •  A credible source of valuable information to persons just starting the journey to recovery
  • It offers members the opportunity to (re)learn the social skills necessary for inclusion into the society.

Most effective treatment options incorporate a 12-step program as a mandatory part of the treatment process. A 12-step program is not to be confused with group therapy, although it can serve as a great complementary component to the overall recovery process.


Empirical evidence exists that support the claim that participation in 12-step programs leads to better and long-lasting outcomes in treating persons with substance abuse disorders. Patients who regularly participated in their outpatient treatment programs and consistently attended 12-step group meetings fared better than those who did not in the long run.


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