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Outpatient or Inpatient Treatment for Addiction


Choosing the right addiction treatment is easily one of the most important things that you’ll do on your journey to recovery. Although many elements of addiction treatment can be found across all program types, there are varying services and varying levels of support that each provides. With inpatient addiction treatment, people spend a period of approximately one to three months living in secure, closed-campus environments.

These programs remove clients from outside triggers and distractions and give them the opportunity to place their entire focus on getting well. Conversely, outpatient programs are designed to help people maintain more normal and balanced schedules. With outpatient treatment, it’s possible to continue going to work and school and caring for minor children among other responsibilities. 

While both program types have their benefits and drawbacks, inpatient addiction treatment statistically has far higher rates of success. These environments have a strong focus on security and thus, visitation is limited, cell phone use is limited, and off-campus excursions are rare. By the time that people in inpatient rehab re-enter any real-world setting, they’re already well-equipped for any challenges they might face.

No matter what your circumstances or substance use history may be, understanding the difference between outpatient vs inpatient treatment is a key part of finding the right support for your needs.

What Is Inpatient Treatment?

Inpatient programs typically last about one and six months. Depending upon your addiction history, the type of substances you’ve been using, and any other recovery efforts that you’ve made in the past, you can choose the duration of your stay.

During your time in rehab, you’ll undergo detox with medical supervision and other support. This will be followed by interventive therapies for mitigating the largely psychological effects of post-acute withdrawal. Once you’re ready, you’ll take part in:

  • Private counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Skill-building activities and workshops
  • Stress management activities
  • Treatments for any co-occurring disorders or co-morbidity

Although you won’t have access to the outside world, you certainly won’t be idle or bored. This is a time away from any enablers in your life, toxic relationships, and toxic environments that have been contributing to your addiction. Patients enjoy around-the-clock safety and security, and a refreshing sense of peace. Inpatient rehab places a major emphasis on teaching new coping skills so that when outside triggers and stressors are experienced, clients are able to respond to these challenges in healthy, positive ways. 

During the final stages of an inpatient program, some centers allow clients to take day trips and other outside excursions to test their new skills out. Family counseling services are available to help loved ones overcome the trauma of addiction, break enabling habits, and learn how to support recovering addicts once their in-house treatments have ended.

Following inpatient rehab, some people return home, and others opt to transition into sober living houses or other living arrangements where additional, post-rehab support is supplied. Inpatient rehab is a full-time commitment that requires time away from work and school, and special arrangements for minor children or anyone else that patients’ are personally responsible for. 

How Is Outpatient Treatment Different?

Outpatient addiction treatment offers greater freedom. People typically commit to between 12 and 30 hours of treatment each week, depending upon the type of outpatient programs they choose, and their level of overall intensity. This generally leaves sufficient time for handling a diverse range of personal responsibilities while also ensuring that people are spending enough of their days in treatment to mitigate the risks of relapse.

Because of its looser structure and the far higher levels of independence that outpatient rehab entails, it is not usually recommended for anyone who’s addicted to highly addictive substances, or who’s tried and failed in rehab before.

Outpatient programs can last between three months and one full year. People who attend them can obtain increased support by simultaneously staying in sober living homes or in other living environments that have strong anti-drug, anti-alcohol rules. For those with long-term addictions and multiple failed attempts at recovery in their past, outpatient rehab can even be used as a follow-up to inpatient rehab as an effective form of relapse prevention.

There are also intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) that require a maximum commitment of time, and that have multiple interventions in place for preventing relapse during and immediately after treatment. 

Benefits of Outpatient Treatment

The idea of living in a closed-off environment for a period of several months isn’t always appealing. While some people are relieved at the thought of “getting away from it all”, others worry about missing their friends and families, losing their jobs, or disrupting the course of their academic careers.

Outpatient rehab can be perfect for someone who works well in self-managed environments and programs, and who has access to consistent support from relatives and other personal associates. With these treatments, life can essentially go on, even as people achieve lasting sobriety and learn how to manage their addictions long-term.

Another benefit of outpatient rehab is the fact that it can be significantly cheaper. When cost is a concern, outpatient addiction treatment can often be intensive enough for meeting the needs of the individual without creating undue financial stress. Moreover, when paired with other forms of addiction treatment and support, and used by people who are truly committed to getting well, it can definitely be a successful stepping stone to lasting sobriety. 

Which Treatment Option Is Right for Me?

There are several easy ways to determine whether inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment is most suitable for you. To start, you should consider the type of substance you’ve been using. For certain highly addictive drugs like fentanyl and other opioids, the tightly controlled environment of inpatient rehab is generally best.

No matter what substance you’ve been using, if you’ve been addicted for many years and have a history of using large quantities of drugs or alcohol at a time, inpatient rehab is the right choice. These programs are additionally recommended for anyone who’s relapsed multiple times in the past, whether doing so after professional treatment or efforts to recover on their own.

When considering outpatient vs inpatient treatment, it’s important to account for cost as well. When outpatient care is the only accessible choice, some support is always better than none at all. Even when high-risk individuals attend outpatient rehab, they can work with counselors to obtain supplementary resources and support for mitigating their elevated risk of relapse.

At Recovery Bay, we offer a comprehensive range of mental health services, therapies, and other forms of recovery support. We also have a top-rated residential treatment program and options in medically assisted detox. Call us today at 833-991-2955 to find out which of our services can best meet your needs.