Recovery Options: Inpatient vs Outpatient Programmes

Ellen Diamond, (2021, August 13). Recovery Options: Inpatient vs Outpatient Programmes. Psychreg on Psychotherapy. https://www.psychreg.org/recovery-options-inpatient-outpatient/

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While deciding to end your dependence on drugs or alcohol is the first important step on the road to recovery, you should consider a rehabilitation programme that can support you throughout your journey and equip you with the tools you need to live a substance-free life. 

There are two rehabilitation options available, inpatient rehabilitation and outpatient rehabilitation. Whether you need an intensive outpatient program or residential treatment entirely depends on what’s best for you. 

Outpatient rehab treatment

Outpatient rehabilitation programs involve daily treatment that includes counselling, therapy, or group sessions in a medical facility. Patients receiving outpatient treatment may continue to attend their school or their job, take care of their families, and live at home. 

Outpatient rehabilitation programs require individual or group counselling sessions, and also use a ‘step down’ approach – meaning that patients’ attendance of sessions gradually becomes less frequent as treatment progresses. 

Intensive outpatient rehab programs equip patients with the tools they need to overcome addiction and maintain a substance-free lifestyle when treatment ends.  

Benefits of outpatient rehab treatment

There are many benefits to opting for outpatient treatment which could make it a good choice for you, especially if you require flexibility.

  • Flexible structure. You can continue to live at home, which works well if you have a strong support system from family and friends. There are different options when it comes to therapy, so you can choose what level of intensity works best for you. You can schedule sessions after hours or on weekends to accommodate your needs.
  • Lower costs. Compared to inpatient rehab treatment, the cost of outpatient treatment is often much lower.
  • Holistic approach to addiction treatment. Many addiction programs are available through outpatient treatment, and the approach is usually tailored to the patients’ specific needs. Addiction disorder has effects on a person’s psyche, and these need to be addressed as well. When other mental health conditions are present, the term is called dual diagnosis.

If you struggle to control your urges to use, outpatient treatment may be challenging because 24-hour support is not always available. You are also required to attend therapy or counselling sessions regularly; the success of outpatient rehab programs depends on it. If you need a more structured treatment plan, consider an inpatient program.

Inpatient rehab treatment

Inpatient rehab, also known as residential rehab, is when you live and receive treatment at the rehabilitation facility. Inpatient recovery programs can be effective when severe problems with drugs and/or alcohol are present – especially for individuals who have other mental health conditions.

Living at a rehabilitation facility helps people avoid the influences, temptations, and triggers that occur in everyday life, and living in a supportive environment helps with the recovery process.

Facilities that offer inpatient treatment offer round-the-clock intensive care and assistance, incorporating a three-phase approach to recovery. These three phases are detoxing, reflecting, and personal growth – with a special focus on assisting individuals in adopting a substance-free lifestyle when their inpatient treatment ends. 

These programs use an incremental approach to help patients cope with the transition from inpatient treatment to individual or group counselling when they leave the facility.

Short-term and long-term residential programs exist – long-term patients usually live at an inpatient rehab facility for six months to one year, and short-term patients stay for three to six weeks. 

When deciding whether inpatient or outpatient care is best for you, there are several factors to keep in mind. 

Advantages of inpatient rehab treatment

Inpatients offer many benefits, which make them the best option for some patients.

  • Preparation for life after treatment. Short-term and long-term inpatient rehabilitation programmes have been specifically designed to assist with detoxification and prepare patients for the resumption of daily life without drugs or alcohol when treatment ends.
  • Holistic approach to addiction treatment. Rehab treatment is structured in a way that addresses all the aspects of substance abuse and addiction – this includes social, lifestyle, and psychological factors that may influence your situation.
  • 24-hour care. Medical professionals are available 24 hours a day, which can be especially beneficial for patients with severe issues that are further complicated by other mental health conditions. Patients don’t have to ever feel alone while they overcome their addiction. Inpatient rehab treatment is highly structured, which can be challenging. Your daily schedule and activities will be controlled and decided upon by the staff. Some people find it extremely difficult to adhere to a rigid agenda.  The costs for inpatient rehabilitation treatment are often higher than outpatient treatment. However, it is vital to remember that the costs of rehabilitation are ultimately always lower than the costs of substance abuse and addiction.
  • Separation from daily life. For inpatient rehab treatment to be effective, patients are required to completely separate themselves from daily life. This may mean having to find someone to care for their family, and taking time off work or school for the duration of inpatient treatment.

Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.


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