There’s no denying that confronting an addiction is a challenging experience.

inpatient vs outpatient rehab

Even coming to terms with addiction and accepting that you need help is a big step, but choosing the right type of help you need can be an intimidating challenge in itself. You’ll have to decide whether outpatient treatment is right for you or if your addiction requires an inpatient recovery program. In order to make the right decision, it will be important to discover what’s involved in each option and how the two types of recovery differ.

In this article, we will discuss both Outpatient treatment programs and inpatient rehab addiction centers, and the difference between the two. In addition, we will cover what to expect going into addiction treatment and how to make the right choice.


A Look at Outpatient Treatment Programs

Basically, outpatient alcohol or drug addiction programs allow individuals to attend therapy sessions around their schedule, so they can continue to maintain their obligations.

They can continue to work and live at home with family, while attending sessions in the evenings, early mornings, or whenever is more convenient. While this does give the individual more freedom, they are still required to attend sessions and meet requirements for daily check-in appointments.

Inpatient rehab and outpatient treatment programs are similar in that they each combine professional counseling, education about addiction, and a peer support system. These are essential factors in any addiction treatment, because they each offer valuable tools for the recovering addict. Where outpatient addiction recovery is concerned, the individual has more control over which types of help he receives more of by customizing his rehabilitation. For instance, if he feels peer support meetings are especially helpful, he might make a point to attend those meetings more often.

In general, there are three main types of outpatient addiction rehabilitation:

Day Rehab Programs

This type of therapy provides the highest level of structured therapy for outpatient individuals. Patients participate in programs for a few hours per day and must attend sessions at least five days per week. Some programs require attendance every day, but the daily routines may be shorter. In addition to common types of therapy, patients may receive biofeedback or engage in relaxation activities. These activities may include painting, listening to music, or taking a yoga class. Although patients go home afterward, the time spent in the facility may limit their availability for work and other obligations.

Intensive Outpatient Drug Programs

Intensive outpatient programs, which are often referred to simply as IOP, use goals to establish progress for the recovering addict. As each goal or milestone is achieved, therapy requirements are decreased, which frees up more time for the patient. In this type of outpatient therapy, the individual spends several hours a week engaged in therapy sessions, a 12-step program, and learning about relapse prevention tactics. This kind of drug outpatient rehab is ideal for many, because it allows them to pursue recovery, while also providing the freedom to continue working and meeting family obligations.

Ongoing Care

This type of outpatient therapy is intended more for individuals who have already graduated from a more intensive form of drug addiction treatment. They’re able to resume their lives, while continuing their sobriety from an alcohol or drug addiction. They participate in a 12-step program such as Narcotics Anonymous, which provides the peer support they need to remain clean. Additionally, these types of peer support meetings keep the principles of sobriety fresh in their minds, making it less likely that they will succumb to the pressures of daily life. Triggers can be managed better with the more structured support system that attending regular meetings provides.


What to Expect from Inpatient Rehab

The primary difference between an inpatient program and drug outpatient rehab is that it’s far more structured. In addition, it is more focused on evidence-based treatment and these treatment programs are more equipped to handle withdrawal symptoms – including administering addiction medicine.

It’s typically recommended for individuals suffering from more severe types of addiction, which are characterized by strong cravings and a high risk of relapse. The inpatient residential treatment setting provides the supervision and controlled activities to help prevent additional substance use.

In most cases, patients are first treated with a medicated detox program, often with addiction medicine, which helps them get clean safely. The medications administered to the patient helps to taper off the dependency of the drug, while also limiting the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Once the individual is clean, he or she can participate more fully in rehab programs with other residential patients.

This is the most intensive type of addiction recovery treatment centers, because it keeps the patient under the observation necessary to fully recover from the addiction. Many residential treatment centers offer a variety of programs that can last anywhere from 30 to 90 days, depending on the nature and severity of the addiction. In many cases, patients who are returning after a relapse will be required to stay for longer than 30 days to ensure they’re fully recovered upon their release.

Another factor that separates inpatient treatment programs from other forms of addiction therapy is that inpatient treatment centers are also equipped to handle mental illness with the use of evidence-based treatment. Often, addicts suffer from a co-occurring mental illness, which may have caused or contributed to their addiction. By treating the addiction and their mental health simultaneously, the patient can leave the facility in a healthier state and the risk of self-medicating will be reduced. In these instances, patients should expect to stay for 60 or 90 days, since mental illness takes more care to treat than addiction.

Outpatient services offer one thing that’s typically absent from the inpatient setting and that’s the support of the individual’s loved ones. For that reason, most inpatient programs specifically incorporate family therapy sessions into each patient’s schedule. Meeting regularly with supportive family members provides a source of emotional strength for the recovering addict, allowing the individual to stay dedicated to getting better. This type of therapy also provides an opportunity for the recovering addict to heal relationships that the addiction has torn apart.

This is also an important part of recovering from addiction, so many treatment centers encourage family members to participate in activities.


Finding the Right Facility

Once you’ve chosen between inpatient or outpatient services, it’s still important to determine which facility is right for you. Just like any other service you would retain, it’s important to determine if the organization is reputable, successful, and can help with your specific circumstances, as well as help you create a treatment plan.

Writing down a list of questions to ask may be especially helpful, such as:

  • What types of addiction do you treat?
  • What kinds of therapy do you provide?
  • Are aftercare and sober living options available?
  • Can I see your licenses and certifications?
  • Do you provide access to peer support groups?
  • Do you accept health insurance? Are other payment options available?

Additionally, you should check reviews for the facility online. This will help you determine if the facility has helped others get clean and stay sober. Essentially, rehab therapy is a chance for you to restart your life and make a treatment plan, so you want to make sure you put your trust in the right caregivers. A good program with experienced therapists can mean the difference between beginning down a new path or suffering a devastating relapse, which is why it’s essential to choose the program that’s a right fit for you, personally.



It’s very rare that people can recover from an addiction without any help. While admitting that you can’t do it alone may be difficult for you, seeking the help you need will ensure you can overcome your addiction as successfully as possible. Finally, remember that you and your addiction rehabilitation caregivers have the same goal. That is to help you live a clean, healthier, and happier life.