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The Difference Between Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehab

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

June 8, 2022 (Originally Published)

October 11, 2023 (Last Updated)

Table of Contents

The first step in recovery is changing your relationship with drugs or alcohol. Because recovery involves a step-by-step process, alcohol or drug rehab facilities are available to help you. Many types of substance abuse treatment options are available, starting with detox and then moving on to counseling and therapy. These treatments fall into two categories, including inpatient vs. outpatient treatment.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment

The treatment program you pick depends on the severity of your substance abuse issues. Once you make that determination, with the help of a professional, you can determine if you need inpatient vs. outpatient treatment. Each program is designed to help those with substance use disorders to stop using and reduce their risk of relapsing.

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Keep in mind that one rehab treatment program is not more effective than the other. However, both programs do have distinct differences. These differences include their settings and determining which one is going to work best to meet your needs.

Inpatient Rehab Program

You might hear inpatient rehab treatment facilities referred to as residential rehab. The main reason is that patients live at the facility. If patients are suffering from severe alcohol or drug issues, inpatient rehab could be extremely effective. These programs are also incredibly beneficial for those who are also dealing with mental health conditions.

When patients live at an inpatient treatment facility, that helps them avoid temptations that influence or trigger their substance abuse.

Clients receive 24-hour support, coupled with intensive care from licensed inpatient treatment facilities. These programs break down recovery into three phases, including detoxification, reflection, and growth. That way, upon completion, those in recovery can adopt alcohol and drug-free lifestyles.

Inpatient treatment programs are beneficial for the following reasons:

  • Participation in short or long-term treatment programs help patients detox and make preparations for life in recovery when treatment is complete.
  • Because inpatient treatment includes around the clock care, patients are never alone when overcoming addiction.
  • Residential treatment facilities feature structured routines focusing on every aspect of addiction.
  • When participating in an inpatient treatment program, it is safe, and medical attention is available around the clock.

Outpatient Rehab Treatment

Those who participate in outpatient treatment programs must attend a clinic or facility daily. During these visits, patients participate in similar addiction counseling, group sessions, or therapy programs. When choosing an outpatient treatment program, that means it is possible to continue living at home, keep up with job requirements, and care for the family.

Outpatient treatment programs are beneficial for the following reasons:

  • You can receive treatment while living in the comfort of your own home.
  • It typically costs much less to participate in an outpatient treatment program.
  • This setting offers a variety of treatment options, thus allowing patients to customize their program.
  • It is possible to accommodate work schedules by scheduling appointments in the evening or on weekends.
  • Those who are experiencing co-occurring conditions can receive treatment.

Which Treatment Program Is Best?: Outpatient vs. Inpatient Rehab

Understanding the many differences between inpatient vs. outpatient treatment includes identifying which program is going to fit your needs the best.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you going to experience temptations or triggers during your everyday lifestyle that could interfere with recovery?
  • Do you believe you are not going to get the most out of your treatment program due to the stress levels you are experiencing?
  • Could social relationships influence substance abuse or interfere with your recovery?
  • After trying to quit in the past, has it been unsuccessful?
  • Do you think that you are physically dependent on or addicted to a substance?
  • Could an inpatient treatment program make you feel safe, secure, and feelings of relief?

Everyone grappling with addiction has unique circumstances. This means there is no fixed answer to whether inpatient or outpatient treatment makes the best fit.

That said, there are some general scenarios where a specific form of addiction treatment is advisable and inadvisable.

Most people with severe alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder would benefit from residential rehab, even if this is a short 30-day program.

Inpatient rehab is also typically recommended for those with severe co-occurring mental health disorders.

Those with unstable or unsupportive home environments may find inpatient rehab provides a safe and secure base for detox and recovery.

The majority of those with mild and moderate addictions respond favorably to outpatient treatment. Research indicates that intensive outpatient treatment is equally as effective as residential rehab for those outcomes.

Anyone with the self-discipline and commitment to engage with recovery but unable to take a month away from personal and professional commitments may also benefit from outpatient therapy.

For anyone operating on a tight budget or reliant on health insurance to cover the cost of rehab, intensive outpatient treatment will likely be the optimum route to recovery.

Rather than wondering whether inpatient or outpatient treatment is best, ask yourself which path to sobriety is the best for you.

Final Thoughts

Do you know anyone who is struggling with addiction and could benefit from inpatient vs. outpatient treatment? Identifying which is best is challenging, so now is the time to determine which is optimal. While Renaissance Recovery specializes in outpatient rehab, we can help you or your loved one find the perfect inpatient program for your situation. Contact Renaissance Recovery at 866.330.9449 to learn more about both of these treatment options.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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