Outpatient programmes

District Health Board (DHB) funded "outpatient" programmes are a substance use treatment option requiring pre-acceptance followed by a waiting period until a place is available on an upcoming programme. These programmes typically have a duration of about eight weeks, but are not live-in like residential programmes.


Outpatient-type programmes or support groups, also sometimes called day programmes, provide treatment for moderate substance use disorders (addiction). They are an option when a residential programme is not suitable. This might be for any number of reasons including loss of income, and family or life commitments.

So what do outpatient treatment programmes look like?

Typically, an "Intensive Outpatient Programme" (IOP) involves participating in group pyschotherapy sessions for about eight weeks.  There may be one-on-one counselling outside the group sessions, particularly before the group starts, but the main method of treatment and change is found in group pyschotherapy

After being referred by your GP, you are assessed on the phone and then in person. Once accepted you may be wait-listed to join an upcoming intake. This process from your GP to starting a programme may take about two months with several contacts in that time and continued support from your GP. Once started, the initial focus of the group may involve getting a feel for what working in a group is like and becoming familiar with other participants. This creates space for the ‘fog to lift’ before moving on to more intensive work. Typically participants commit to no substance use during the programme.

How do I join a programme near me?

Your GP can refer you and you will most likely be called by your DHBs addiction treatment coordination service. It will be helpful to have previously discussed your substance use with your GP before asking for a referral to an outpatient programme. Learn more about what might be available near you by searching the Alcohol Drug Helpline Service Directory. This may list services offering programmes or may just display your DHBs addiction treatment coordination service whom your GP will contact to arrange a referral. Your DHB's mental health and addictions website may contain more information if you are interested. But if you are feeling stuck about what to do, talk it over with someone on the Alcohol Drug Helpline.

Intensive outpatient counsellingIntensive outpatient counselling is a direct entry program. You can literally pick up the phone and call and make an appointment.

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