At first glance, the difference between inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation for substance abuse seems quite clear. Obviously, inpatient rehab requires individuals to live in the rehabilitation center for a certain period, while outpatient rehab allows the patient to remain in their own home and receive treatment during scheduled appointments at a provider’s office or hospital.
However, the differences between inpatient and outpatient rehab extend beyond the physical location of the treatment. Depending on your own unique circumstances, one rehab setting may be more appropriate than the other. Either option can be effective in treating alcohol or drug abuse, but which is best depends on your own addiction, whether you need detox or have concurrent mental health problems, and how much support and structure you need for recovery and life after treatment.
Therefore, as you explore treatment options, consider some of these key differences between inpatient and outpatient programs.
Inpatient drug rehab programs tend to have high success rates, primarily because patients live at the rehabilitation center anywhere from 28 days to six months and focus strictly on their recovery. By removing patients from their usual surroundings, inpatient rehab eliminates not only many of the factors that contribute to addiction but provides enough structure that patients don’t need to worry about other daily activities while they are in treatment.
Inpatient treatment is typically geared toward those who have very severe addictions, and often begins with detox. During this period, patients are closely monitored by medical staff while they go through withdrawal. Because the earliest days of sobriety after detox are often the most difficult in terms of cravings and urges to do drugs, living in a drug-free, supportive environment increases the likelihood of success and helps patients reach a point where they no longer want to use substances.
For patients in inpatient rehab, every day is carefully planned and scheduled, with intensive therapy sessions filling most of their time. A typical day is likely to include both individual and group therapy, as well as other types of therapy depending on the facility. Staff closely monitors patient progress and provide additional support for any co-occurring mental health issues. Depending on the focus of the facility, treatment may also include exercise and nutrition guidance, designed to improve overall health.
The downside to inpatient treatment, of course, is the fact that it does require taking time away from family and school or work responsibilities. Access to the outside world is usually strictly limited, with many facilities prohibiting all contact with the patient for at least the first 30 days. And of course, inpatient rehab is more expensive than outpatient programs, and not all insurance policies cover this type of treatment.
For those who need help overcoming addiction but cannot forego other responsibilities for a residential or inpatient program, outpatient rehab is a viable option. Often recommended as a step down from inpatient rehab to support long-term recover and prevent relapse, outpatient programs have been successful for individuals who are committed to recovery and able to manage distractions and temptation and don’t need supervised detox.
Outpatient rehab typically takes place via scheduled therapy appointments. Depending on the program, patients are likely to have individual therapy and counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and in some cases, family therapy sessions. Besides being less expensive than inpatient rehab, outpatient treatment allows for your family and friends to support you during the process and gives you the chance to apply your new strategies for preventing relapse to real-world situations. At the same time, the lack of structure and a 100 percent sober environment can make it easier to backslide, and outpatient rehab generally isn’t recommended for people who still have the urge to use. Outpatient services are also better suited to those who are able to commit to attending their therapy sessions, and don’t require treatment for multiple disorders.
Again, the best rehab option for you depends in large part on your own addiction and requirements for support. Rehab is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, and different programs and centers have their own focus. The important thing is that you get the help you need, in whatever form, and get on track to living a healthier life free from addiction.