Substance Abuse Treatment

Outpatient vs. Inpatient Rehab: What’s the Difference?

inpatient rehab
Written by Fritz

Substance use disorder (SUD) is one of the most common conditions plaguing us. Fortunately, 75% of patients with SUD who complete a comprehensive treatment plan go on to live successful lives. Still, not all of them seek treatment in the first place for many potential reasons.

Well, there are different types of rehab that may offer more benefits to certain people. Let’s talk about the differences between inpatient rehab and outpatient rehab to determine what’s right for you!

What Is Outpatient Rehab?

Outpatient treatment programs can include therapy sessions, doctor visits, or a comprehensive program involving more intensive care. The most common is support groups like AA or NA. Did you know that over 15 million Americans have attended support groups in their lifetimes?

Moreover, some programs may include coming to your home for detox services, while others offer completely unique programs. Regardless, you will live at home while you attend this program.

Outpatient treatment can involve an organized and comprehensive treatment plan. Alternatively, you can design your own by speaking to a therapist, talking to your doctor, attending meetings, and hiring other services as needed.

Either way, this program will allow you to continue any work or personal obligations that you need while still receiving treatment. While this is preferable to many new patients, it isn’t always ideal for somebody new to sober living. It is still possible to give in to temptation.

What Is Inpatient Rehab?

Inpatient programs are likely what you think of when you hear the term “rehab”. Inpatient rehab may offer everything that a comprehensive outpatient program would offer. The only difference is that you live at the facility. This is also known as residential treatment.

Typically, this requires a stay of 30, 60, or 90 days. In most cases, you will have a regimented schedule with support groups, therapy, medical attention (as required), recreational activities, and more. The goal is to help you get through the initial detox stage safely and prepare you for a sober life on your own.

Many people who attend an inpatient program will then live in a sober living or transitional home. This is to help them transition back into their lives without temptation. However, this is not always necessary.

During your program, you will learn how to identify triggers, cope with challenges, and build a sober life for yourself. Think of it as an intensive course on the topic of sober living.

More importantly, you will have access to medical oversight around the clock. This is essential during the first couple of weeks, as withdrawal complications can be lethal.

What Are the Differences?

Every program is different from one another. It’s hard to make blanket statements about inpatient and outpatient programs because there is so much variety between each. However, there are a few key distinctions.

Overall, inpatient rehab is a better choice for early recovery, as it offers everything an outpatient program can offer but with a controlled, substance-free environment. From there, patients can learn the skills and develop the tools they need to live a successful life beyond their stay.

Also, inpatient treatments tend to be more comprehensive. You can develop a strong outpatient plan, but inpatient programs typically have more structure and variety to choose from.

For example, you may have special needs including religion-based, identity-based, or trauma-based care needs. In that case, you’re more likely to find what you need in a residential facility. Of course, that’s not to say that an outpatient option won’t exist!

Which Is Right For Me?

Generally speaking, if you are just beginning recovery for the first time, then we would strongly recommend an inpatient program. Detox is the most intense part, and the potential health complications cannot be taken lightly. We wouldn’t recommend outpatient care if you:

  • Have difficulty showing up voluntarily
  • Struggle in group settings
  • Have a busy schedule
  • Require treatment for coinciding disorders
  • Have never successfully maintained sobriety for 30 days

However, if you have completed 30 days of sobriety or a stay in rehab, outpatient treatments are perfect to help maintain sobriety. Maintaining sobriety is the longest, and arguably hardest, part of the road to recovery. Having ongoing treatment in place can make a world of difference.

Still, if you or a loved one is hesitant to commit to an inpatient program, an intensive outpatient program can offer serious benefits. As long as you have some type of oversight during detox and a sufficient support system in place, then start treatment right away! Just remember, the longer you wait, the more dangerous the situation becomes.

Alternatively, a partial hospitalization program (PHP) can offer the best of both worlds. This way, you can continue meeting necessary obligations while getting the treatment you need. If disruption to your life is your biggest barrier to finding treatment, then this is the way to go!

Lastly, if you do have specific needs for your treatment (gender-based care, LGBTQ+, etc.), then you should find a program that meets your needs. This is especially important if you have an underlying mental illness, including depression or anxiety. Treating the root cause is just as important as treating SUD!

Get Help As Soon As Possible

Now that you know the difference between inpatient rehab and outpatient rehab, you can make an informed decision as to what’s right for you or your loved one. However, it’s important to remember that any treatment is better than no treatment at all.

Stay up to date with our latest recovery tips, and don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions!

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