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Outpatient vs. Inpatient Rehab: How to Decide

Posted Mar 20 2012 7:20pm

Making the decision to seek help for a drug or alcohol addiction is the first step on the road to recovery. Professional assistance is necessary to ensure success, but how do you decide what type of treatment to seek.

It’s important to understand the differences between inpatient and outpatient treatment options, and the benefits and drawbacks of each, when considering a treatment plan. Knowing these differences will help you make the best decision for yourself or your loved one and get you on the path to a lifetime of sobriety

Inpatient Treatment

When a patient enters inpatient treatment, he or she lives at the facility for a specified amount of time – usually several weeks or even months – and spends 24 hours a day focused on recovery. After detoxing, an often-painful process in which the body adjusts to the removal of the addictive substance, inpatient rehab focuses on therapy (both group and individual) to help the patient deal with the issues that lead to the addiction in the first place. Patients also learn strategies for living a sober life once they leave rehabilitation.

The benefit to inpatient rehabilitation is that it removes all outside influences, so the patient can focus entirely on recovery. Contact with friends and family may be limited, or restricted entirely, so that all of the patient’s energies can go toward healing and achieving sobriety.

However, while inpatient rehabilitation has its advantages, it also has some drawbacks. It’s significantly more expensive than outpatient rehab, for one, and it does require addicts to put their lives on hold while they recover. And while a stint at an inpatient facility can certainly increase the chances of a lifetime of sobriety, when the rehab program ends, the patient needs to continue the work of recovery on his or her own, including attending meetings, seeking therapy, or participating in other sobriety management programs.


Outpatient Treatment

For some patients, outpatient rehabilitation is an option. With outpatient treatment, patients undergo detoxification under the supervision of a healthcare provider (which may involve a hospital or facility stay, as detoxing can be dangerous) and then receive treatment without living at the facility. Many of the treatments are the same as with inpatient rehab, such as therapy and group sessions, but patients only spend a few hours each day in treatment.

Outpatient treatment is far less expensive than inpatient rehab, but it presents some additional challenges to those seeking sobriety. Patients are able to continue to work and meet family responsibilities, but unless they have changed the factors that led to their drug use, such as ending contact with other drug-users, it’s going to be hard to stay sober. In addition, the challenges of everyday life can interfere with recovery in an outpatient setting.


Which Option is Best?

Deciding whether you or a loved one should seek treatment on an inpatient or outpatient basis depends on several factors.

  • Whether the patient has attempted rehab before. Many addiction counselors and health professionals recommend most patients start with outpatient therapy, but if someone has tried outpatient services before and did not stay sober, an inpatient facility may be a better choice.
  • The severity of the addiction. All substance abuse problems are serious, but some addictions are more destructive than others are, and require intense treatment from the start.
  • Other diagnoses. If the patient has been diagnosed with a mental issue, such as depression or anxiety, an inpatient program may be a better choice. The intense therapy can help the patient deal with those issues, which may be the key to recovery.
  • The patient’s support system. Patients who do not have a strong support system of sober family and friends may be better off in an inpatient treatment program. Outpatient treatment requires patients to have a drug and alcohol-free living environment and the support of family and friends to be effective. Without that environment, the chances of relapse increase exponentially.

No matter which type of rehabilitation facility the patient chooses, recovery requires a commitment on the behalf of the patient and his or her family to the sobriety, and to making the necessary lifestyle changes. Rehab only gets the patient through the early days of recovery, and continued support is necessary to maintain the patient’s progress.


This Post was written by Ricky Stanton.   Ricky currently works as an Online consultant for   He has over 10 years of experience in helping people find the best  drug rehab facilities  to fit their need.

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