Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab – Guide to Choosing the Best One For You

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When someone suffers from addiction, it’s important to choose a program that will help that person break free from the burdens associated with addiction. There are a wide variety of options that work differently for different people.

Addiction treatment programs fall under two categories: outpatient and inpatient or residential rehab. An inpatient treatment definition means you “check in” to rehab for a certain amount of time. Outpatient means you spend a certain amount of time at a rehab. Inpatient vs outpatient is an argument that comes up a lot in recovery discussions. Each program has different offerings and benefits people differently.

Inpatient Rehab

How Residential Rehab Works

An inpatient facility is sometimes referred to as residential rehab. That’s because you’re typically staying in rehab to seek treatment from addiction or alcoholism. The first part of rehab involves detoxification. This typically lasts a week and is the most difficult part of the recovery process.


The length of stay varies upon each inpatient addiction treatment program. Most inpatient rehab treatment programs last 30 days while others could last as long as 60 or 90 days. Your duration is dependent upon how much recovery you believe you need. There have been a wide variety of inpatient rehab models from as little to three days to as long as a year.

Types of Inpatient Programs

The most common treatment programs include the 12-step program, combination treatment, and cognitive behavioral therapy programs.

Advantages and Disadvantages

There are many advantages to inpatient treatment programs. It’s more effective when mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety are part of the program. Inpatient rehab is more effective for patients addicted to drugs who also suffer from severe mental illness such as Bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, Cyclothymic disorder, or Schizophrenia.

One of the biggest disadvantages to an inpatient program is that you cannot leave the premises. You have to eat there and sleep there. The environment dictates your entire schedule. You can only leave the premises for your job during treatment. Also, inpatient rehab may or may not be covered by insurance.

Outpatient Rehab

What Is Outpatient Treatment?

When it comes to inpatient vs outpatient rehab, outpatient rehab allows you to live your life as you normally would. You can attend meetings and treatment programs when you’re available. Outpatient programs offer patients the flexibility to recover while living their lives. Some outpatient rehabs offer detoxification, but there are many that don’t. This process may take place at a hospital or inpatient rehab facility.


Most of these programs may have a 20-hour minimum requirement, conducted over a few days. Individual and group therapy sessions can last several hours at a time, more than one day per week. These sessions may last two hours per day, three times per week, to four hours per day, six days per week, with breaks in between. Some outpatient programs last for three to five weeks while others require a 90-day commitment.

Types of Outpatient Programs

Outpatient treatment programs may consist of counseling services, 12-step meetings, recovery training, and relapse prevention strategies. Counseling may be individualized or may involve group counseling, marriage counseling, or family counseling. Other types of services may include cognitive therapy, open-ended discussions, peer group support, professional psychotherapy, and vocational counseling.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The inpatient vs outpatient treatment argument proves both have striking differences. Outpatient rehabs are desirable because patients can come and go as they please. They don’t have to quit their jobs or rearrange their schedules. Outpatient treatment programs are less expensive than inpatient programs and are sometimes covered by government insurance or private insurance.

One major disadvantage to outpatient treatment is that patients are responsible for getting to their meetings and programs on time. They have greater access to substances, stress, and triggers that could lead to relapse since they return to their home environment. Having less structure gives them more freedom and time on their hands.

Choosing the Right One

It can be hard to make the right decision when it comes to your recovery. There are many advantages and disadvantages when it comes to choosing inpatient vs outpatient drug rehab. Not every patient will need inpatient care while others may not be qualified for outpatient rehab. Overcoming addiction means making a serious commitment, so choose a program that’s focused on you and your recovery.

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