Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab

Addiction treatment is often conducted in either an inpatient or outpatient rehab setting. This article can help you understand some of the distinctions between inpatient vs. outpatient rehab, various addiction treatment approaches utilized in either setting, and what questions to discuss with your provider to help find the level of treatment that is the best fit for your needs.

What’s the Difference Between Inpatient & Outpatient Rehab?

The primary difference between inpatient rehab and outpatient rehab is that for an inpatient rehab program, you spend all of your time at the facility for the duration of your program. For outpatient treatment, however, you return home at night to sleep and oftentimes can still work and/or go to school.2 There are commonly many similarities in the types of programming or therapeutic interventions that you receive in both inpatient and outpatient rehab; though level of intensity of care may vary somewhat. Both types of treatment can involve a combination of evidence-based behavioral therapy, medications, and recovery support services.1

Though there may be different levels of care available, many outpatient programs require relatively fewer hours of programming each week overall, thus allowing people to manage some home and work responsibilities while attending treatment. It is important to note that while some people might want to go to outpatient treatment, it may not always be the most ideal or appropriate treatment setting due to factors such as addiction severity, substance withdrawal risks, or the presence of other co-occurring mental health or medical conditions.3

Benefits of Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab for Drug or Alcohol Addiction

Group of people with their hands in center of circle, supporting one another

Both inpatient and outpatient rehab offer a range of therapeutic services to benefit people recovering from substance use disorders. It is important, however, to note that treatment effectiveness may be optimized by addressing the specific needs of the individual.4 A thorough assessment of a person’s needs, strengths, and resources can help a treatment provider determine which type of treatment setting and level of care is the best fit for you.5 There are benefits to both inpatient and outpatient treatment, and it is important to realize that one rehab setting is not necessarily better than the other, but the ideal setting for rehab really does depend on a person’s individual situation and needs at the time of entry into treatment.5

Ideally, substance use treatment services are provided on a continuum, where people can enter treatment that best suits their recovery needs at the time and can go up and down with the intensity of services, both inpatient and outpatient, as a person’s need for treatment changes.3

Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehab involves 24/7 supervision and care. Though this can provide a relatively secure and intensive treatment setting for recovery, is may not necessarily be needed for everyone seeking addiction treatment. The populations who may be better suited to a 24/7 inpatient treatment environment, include:3,2

  • People who have co-occurring medical or psychological conditions.
  • People who need continual nursing care.
  • People who need relatively intensive withdrawal management.
  • People who need additional recovery support services, such as job placement.
  • Those who might benefit from a therapeutic community around them daily to enhance recovery.

Benefits of Inpatient Addiction Treatment

Some of the benefits of inpatient addiction treatment are:3

  • A 24/7 structured environment to help provide a suitable social setting for recovery, where drugs and alcohol are not available.
  • Ability to be monitored closely for risk of harming self or others.
  • Readily available treatment for medical conditions.

Outpatient Rehab

The level of care for each person will depend on many factors and a thorough assessment of needs and strengths.5Outpatient rehab settings may be an appropriate level of care for people who:2

  • Are dealing with relatively less severe substance use disorder issues.
  • Can arrange for transportation and childcare to attend daily treatment.
  • Have extensive social supports outside of the program.
  • Do not need intensive medical or psychological care.
  • Have already completed more intensive, inpatient or residential programming.

Benefits of Outpatient Addiction Treatment

One key benefit of outpatient rehab is that it is often less expensive than inpatient treatment.6 In addition, outpatient treatment:2

  • Provides some flexibility for people who continue to work at their job, which enhances their financial resources.
  • Allows people to be home with family and attend to their responsibilities.
  • Allows for a variety of intensity of services, based on needs, including low-intensity services of less than 9 hours per week, intensive outpatient treatment (IOP), which meets from 9–20 hours per week, or partial hospitalization (PHP), where people can attend 20 hours per week.
  • Can be attended in combination with staying in a sober living home.

For some people, intensive outpatient programming can be just as effective as inpatient treatment for substance use disorders.7 However, it is important to note that your specific situation may be better treated in an inpatient program, which is based on a detailed assessment of all of your needs and assets that are available to you.If you are able to be treated in an outpatient program, it is good to know that the effectiveness of outpatient is not inferior to the treatment you would receive in an inpatient program.7

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehab: Which One Is Right For Me?

People gathering in a circle with their arms on each other's shoulders, comforting one another during group counseling

There are many factors to consider when trying to decide between inpatient vs. outpatient treatment. Though the information in this article may help you begin to consider which type of treatment setting might be ideal for you, speaking with a doctor or other treatment professional is the most effective, appropriate way to determine the appropriate level of care you may need. It may also be helpful for you to call the admissions department of a specific facility to discuss your specific situation and individual recovery needs so that you can learn more about the types of treatment available to you.

The ultimate determination of whether inpatient or outpatient rehab is best for your situation will depend on the assessment of your substance use disorder. The best fit for care can then be made to provide you with the optimal treatment you need to start your journey to recovery.5

Speaking to a professional at the facility you are interested in can help them guide you towards the best possible treatment options for you and your particular needs, as they have the specialized knowledge to assess your substance use disorder and treatment needs.

Are you ready to reach out for help and start the addiction treatment process? If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and are ready to take the first steps towards recovery, call us today at . Greenhouse Treatment Center, American Addiction Centers’ rehab in Texas, is ready to help you get the treatment you need today.


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