Do I Need Inpatient or Outpatient Treatment? Choosing the Right Rehab Option

Choosing the right kind of rehab program is important because the best treatment is tailored to the needs of each individual. While some people do best with residential care, others find more success with outpatient treatment. To make the right choice it is necessary to understand more about each option and what each has to offer patients.

What Is Inpatient Treatment?

Inpatient treatment is also referred to as residential treatment. These terms apply to any kind of addiction rehab that requires patients to stay overnight in the treatment facility.

The length of the program may vary, from a week or two to several months, but in all inpatient programs people reside where they are receiving treatment.

Programs for inpatient care may also vary in terms of how many, if any, outings patients go on or if and when visitors are allowed.


What Is Outpatient Treatment?

The alternative to residential treatment is an outpatient program. This is any program for which residency is not a requirement. The patients may stay at home, alone, with family or friends, or in some type of sober living house or community. Patients go to a treatment facility during the day, in the evenings, or on weekends for therapy, medical care, group support, and other types of treatment.

Outpatient programs can vary in how much time patients spend in treatment. It may be just one or two therapy sessions a week, for instance. Or, patients may participate in an intensive outpatient treatment program, or IOP, which involves several sessions per week, with each session lasting a few hours. There is also the option of partial hospitalization, which includes even more hours spent in treatment than in an IOP, sometimes all day, most days a week.

Reasons to Choose Inpatient Care

There are pros and cons for both types of treatment, and the choice often comes down to individual needs and preferences. One benefit of inpatient treatment is that it provides care and monitoring around the clock in a safe environment. If you struggle to resist temptation, think you will relapse at home, or if you have nowhere safe or supportive to live, inpatient care could be a good option.

Another good reason to choose residential care is to provide a focused environment free of other responsibilities. Being in treatment 24 hours a day gives patients the chance to completely dedicate their time and energy to all aspects of care, without spending any time on family responsibilities or work. Depending on the program, an inpatient treatment facility may be able to offer more varied options for care, including different types of therapy, group support, work skills, and holistic medical care.

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Reasons to Choose Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient programs have benefits too. If you have a supportive family and take comfort and strength from being around them, it may be better to stay at home while attending treatment sessions. Some people just feel uncomfortable being in a residential setting and find more success when they can stay somewhere familiar.

Patients who have family responsibilities or who need to continue going to work may also want to choose outpatient care. Depending on the program, treatment may be flexible, with evening or weekend sessions. Another consideration is cost, which can be a lot lower for an outpatient treatment plan.

If you are more interested in outpatient treatment but are concerned that you won’t have as many resources available, consider an IOP. Many residential facilities offer IOPs so that patients can choose an outpatient option but still have access to all the different types of treatment and support services they would have in a residential program. Multiple studies have compared IOPs favorably to residential treatment programs, finding that the success rates are similar.

Considerations for Any Kind of Treatment

Regardless of whether you choose inpatient or outpatient treatment, there are factors that all effective programs have in common:

  • The best treatment programs match the individual needs of the patient, even within the same facility.
  • Treatment should be for at least a few months.
  • The most effective programs address all of a patient’s needs, including medical, psychological, and social needs, legal problems, and work or vocational needs.
  • Any mental illnesses should be identified and treated along with treating substance use disorders.

Whether you choose inpatient or outpatient treatment for substance use disorder, be sure that a program you select includes the above elements. The best care you can get is in a program that meets all of your unique needs and gives you options for treatment.

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