Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehab

inpatient vs outpatient

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehab

If you’ve decided to move forward with seeking treatment for substance abuse, one of the first steps is to decide if you should attend an inpatient drug rehab or outpatient treatment program. Although these two types of programs are different from one another, one is not inherently better than the other. However, one program might be better for you. Each program has advantages and disadvantages that you should consider when choosing a treatment center and rehab program.

Before selecting an inpatient or outpatient program, you should consider every aspect of the recovery process, your personal needs and goals, and the difference between inpatient and outpatient rehab in order to select the best program for you. This article contains tips and information to help you decide between inpatient and outpatient rehab.

Understanding Inpatient Rehab

When most people think of a drug and alcohol treatment center, an inpatient rehab program often comes to mind first. The defining feature of an inpatient rehab program is the fact that the person stays at the facility 24/7 for their entire treatment. Most inpatient programs last 28 to 90 days, depending on the needs of the person. However, some inpatient programs can be even longer.

After entering an inpatient rehab program, most people will undergo inpatient detox before they begin the actual treatment for addiction. Sometimes, the detox program will take place in a location that is different from the location of treatment, as some programs have a specified detox center. However, other programs may have detox and treatment at the same location. As part of the detox process, trained medical professionals will provide around the clock monitoring to help men and women manage the symptoms of withdrawal that are associated with the detox process.

In some programs, medication is used during the detox process to help ease the discomfort and pain of withdrawal symptoms. Other programs may use medications sparingly and rely more on counseling and nutrition. Regardless of the approach, the ultimate goal of detox is to get the substance out of the person’s body and stabilize them. After detox, the focus moves to developing life skills and coping strategies that will help the person stay sober when they leave rehab and return home. This process may consist of using counseling, drug and alcohol education, and support groups.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Inpatient Rehab

Although many people attend and benefit from inpatient rehab programs, everyone has different needs and goals. It is important to consider the pros and cons of inpatient treatment before selecting such a program to help you overcome addiction.

There are numerous advantages of inpatient rehab.

  • Inpatient programs provide a stable and temptation-free environment where participants have access to knowledgeable and supportive medical and addiction treatment staff. As a result, participants have a reduced risk of relapse.
  • Treatment professionals at inpatient programs can provide medical and psychological monitoring and treatment while participants go through withdrawal and addiction recovery. For individuals with coexisting mental health problems or physical health issues, inpatient monitoring and treatment is especially important.
  • Inpatient programs feature a number of important therapeutic components, including intensive individual and group therapy, support from staff members and other program participants, and specialized services, including acupuncture, fitness, meditation, and yoga.
  • Because inpatient treatment is longer and more intensive, participants are more likely to achieve long-term success and sobriety.

Although inpatient treatment features a number of unique advantages over outpatient rehab, there are still some disadvantages to consider before committing to an inpatient program.

  • Participants have limited access to the outside world with inpatient therapy. Many programs even limit how often family and friends can visit.
  • Attending an inpatient program requires participants to take time off from work, school, and other responsibilities. Being able to take time away from these commitments to attend an inpatient program for several weeks or months can be a luxury that some people cannot afford.
  • Because room and board are provided by inpatient programs, the cost of inpatient treatment can be significantly higher than an outpatient program.

Understanding Outpatient Rehab

As the name suggests, outpatient rehab programs allow people to continue living at home when treatment hours are over. This arrangement allows people to complete detox and rehab while still attending work and school and spending time with friends and family. The format of outpatient rehab consists of attending group and individual therapy sessions every week. Additionally, the person can meet with a psychiatrist on a regular basis to receive medication and support to manage and treat withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and coexisting mental health issues.

While the treatment in an outpatient program is similar to what is provided in an inpatient program, it is less intensive. However, it will include one or more types of therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common forms, which helps participants identify destructive thoughts and behaviors, while providing strategies and techniques to change the thoughts and behaviors to something healthier. There are other types of therapy as well.

  • Contingency management offers rewards to encourage people to develop behaviors such as regularly attending therapy or maintaining sobriety.
  • Family therapy is designed to help families communicate and function better. This type of therapy is especially useful to help teens with drug or alcohol problems.
  • Matrix model empowers the participant, helping them develop positive self-image and confidence. This treatment was developed specifically to treat stimulant abuse.
  • Motivational interviewing identifies and modifies feelings that could turn into barriers to treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Outpatient Rehab

Just like inpatient rehab programs, outpatient rehab also has different advantages and disadvantages. It’s a balancing act to look at the positives and negatives to determine which type of program is right for you.

Outpatient rehab programs have several advantages over inpatient rehab.

  • Outpatient programs tend to have lower costs because people do not have to pay for room and board at the treatment center.
  • Participants find that outpatient programs are less disruptive to their lives and schedules because they can continue to go to work and school while they attend the program. Participants also have greater access to their friends and family members, which is very important to some program participants.
  • Because outpatient rehab programs allow people to return home each day, the participants live in the “real world” throughout the treatment process. As a result, participants are able to practice relapse prevention techniques in their daily lives before they finish the initial treatment process.

While there are notable benefits of outpatient rehab programs, there are some downfalls that are equally noteworthy.

  • In an outpatient rehab program, people do not have access to 24/7 care and monitoring from medical professionals and drug treatment specialists during the detox and recovery process. Lack of monitoring during detox can be dangerous if the person is abusing a substance that produces dangerous or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms and medical complications.
  • The risk of relapse is higher for outpatient rehab programs, because people in outpatient rehab have easier access to addictive substances at home and they may have an unstable or stressful home environment that is not conducive to recovery.

How to Select the Best Type of Rehab for You

Getting help for an addiction is one of the most important life decisions you will ever make. Although the process for picking a program can be overwhelming, you shouldn’t make the decision in haste. It’s important for your safety and sobriety to select the right rehab program for your situation.

Because every person’s situation is different, you want to consider your life circumstances before you select an inpatient or outpatient rehab program. Before committing to a program, you should ask yourself the following questions to determine which program will be the best fit for you and your goals.

  • Do you have access to drugs or alcohol at home or in your daily life?
  • Do your family members drink alcohol or use drugs around you?
  • Do you have a stable and supportive home environment?
  • Do you have a strong support network that is dedicated to your sobriety?
  • Do you have medical or mental health issues that require special treatment?
  • Do you need special services, such as gender-specific rehab or handicap accessibility?
  • Do you have reliable transportation you can take from home to the treatment facility multiple times each week?
  • Do you have the ability to leave your job, classes, or home responsibilities to attend an inpatient rehab program?

After answering these questions for yourself, you should also consider who tends to do best in each type of drug and alcohol rehab program. Because outpatient rehab does not fully remove people from everyday temptations, outpatient treatment tends to be best for people who do not have a severe or long-term addiction. It is also a better fit for people who are not addicted to a substance that has dangerous or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. In contrast, inpatient rehab is a good fit for individuals who have more severe or dangerous addictions, or who simply want to escape their current temptations to focus entirely on getting clean and sober in a distraction-free environment.

Other Questions to Ask Rehab Centers

To ensure that you are getting the treatment and care you need to achieve long-term sobriety, you should ensure that the drug and alcohol treatment program that you select meets the following qualifications.

  • The rehab program treats the physical and psychological problems that are associated with addiction. Individuals who attend treatment programs that address both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction tend to be more successful in maintaining long-term sobriety after they leave treatment. Without the proper treatment, untreated psychological and physical problems could cause addiction to return.
  • The addiction specialists have education in the field and are licensed or certified. You want to ensure that you are receiving the highest quality of care for substance abuse treatment. The treatment center should be licensed and able to provide its licensing information. To find out what certifications and licenses your state requires, you can visit the website for the National Review of State Alcohol and Drug Treatment Programs, which is provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • The program should have good reviews from people who attended it. While there will always be a few disgruntled people who write negative reviews online about everything from treatment centers to restaurants, you should be reluctant to attend a treatment program that has a great deal of negative reviews. If the reviews of a program are overwhelmingly negative, you can feel relatively confident that many of the people who attended the program are dissatisfied with the treatment and care they received.

When you’re preparing to select a drug rehab center program, deciding whether to select an inpatient or outpatient option can feel like an overwhelming task. However, knowing the difference between inpatient and outpatient programs, as well as understanding what you need in a rehab program, can help you pick the best type of rehab for your unique situation. When you select a program that is tailored to your needs, you are more likely to have a safe and successful rehab experience that leads to long-term sobriety.




If you still have questions about the differences between inpatient and outpatient rehab programs, the compassionate and experienced drug and alcohol treatment professionals at HARP can answer your questions, allowing you to determine which type of treatment will be best for helping you achieve your goals. If you or someone you love is ready to get help getting sober, the experts at HARP here.

HARP specializes in treating addiction to many types of substances. Our team of caring medical professionals and addiction treatment experts provides detox, counseling and support services, and long-term resources to give all clients a comfortable and productive stay at our treatment center before they reenter their lives – clean and sober. With help and support, recovery from addiction is possible. HARP can help clients live a life free from drug and alcohol addiction.

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