Close this search box.

How Do Residential and Outpatient Rehab Programs Compare?

picture of Joe Gilmore
Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

February 15, 2024 (Originally Published)

February 15, 2024 (Last Updated)

Table of Contents

Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction? Understanding the different treatment options available is crucial for making the right choice on the road to recovery. Treatment programs for substance use disorders are typically classified into two categories: inpatient drug rehab and outpatient drug rehab.

Inpatient programs, also known as residential treatment, are designed for individuals with severe substance use disorders. These programs provide intensive care and require patients to stay at a treatment facility from detox to discharge. On the other hand, outpatient programs are structured to allow individuals to continue their daily lives while receiving treatment.

heart icon that is 2 hands holding

Need help getting addiction treatment?

This guide aims to help you navigate the differences between inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment. By exploring these options thoroughly, you can increase your chances of achieving and maintaining sobriety. Keep reading to learn more about the distinctions between inpatient and outpatient rehab, and discover how to find evidence-based addiction treatment near you.

What Is Inpatient Rehab?

What is inpatient treatment, then? Also known as residential rehab, inpatient rehab is the most intensive form of addiction treatment.

Inpatient programs last from 30 to 90 days or more. Individuals stay at the rehab center throughout treatment. The length of stay is contingent on factors that include the type and severity of the addiction and any co-occurring mental health disorders. Treatment plans are personalized and based on an initial evaluation and assessment.

Most people begin treatment with supervised detoxification to streamline the drug or alcohol withdrawal process. FDA-approved medications reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and continuous care mitigates the likelihood of complications or relapse. After tackling the issue of physical dependence, ongoing treatment targets the psychological aspect of addiction.

Alcohol and opioid addictions respond positively to MAT (medication-assisted treatment) throughout ongoing inpatient treatment. You can also engage with psychotherapies like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), enabling you to create healthy coping mechanisms for sober living.  Many top-rated inpatient rehabs offer a blend of holistic and adventure therapies in addition to conventional evidence-based treatments.

In inpatient rehabilitation facilities, you can expect a highly structured daily routine. Nutritious, well-balanced meals will be provided, along with encouragement to stay hydrated and exercise within your capabilities.

Family visits may be allowed at some treatment centers, while others prefer that people remain exclusively within the treatment environment.

Fortunately, outpatient treatment is also highly effective, with studies showing that  intensive outpatient programs are just as effective for treating most substance use disorders as inpatient rehab.

What Is Outpatient Rehab?

If you’re dealing with a mild or moderate substance or alcohol use disorder, outpatient treatment could be a good choice for you. That said, it’s not right for everyone. To benefit from outpatient treatment, you need to have a supportive home environment and be truly dedicated to your recovery.

Outpatient rehab doesn’t require you to stay at a treatment center. Instead, you’ll go to scheduled sessions during the week and go back home afterward. This approach doesn’t offer the same level of support and structure as residential rehab, but it allows you to keep up with your daily life and is usually more budget-friendly.

There are three main kinds of outpatient treatment:

  • Traditional outpatient program: This involves attending a few short therapy sessions every week.
  • IOP (intensive outpatient program): In an IOP, you’ll get at least 9 hours of treatment each week.
  • PHP (partial hospitalization program): PHPs are almost full-time, with around 30 hours of treatment per week, but you still live at home.

You can also participate in ongoing support programs, like 12-step groups, as part of your recovery.

No matter the type or intensity of the outpatient program, you’ll have access to similar services and therapies as inpatient treatment, but it will cost less.

an image of someone representing difference between inpatient and outpatient rehab

Residential (Inpatient) Rehab vs. Outpatient Rehab

How do residential and outpatient rehab programs compare, then?

Both inpatient and outpatient treatments typically offer similar therapies (like CBT, DBT, and group therapy), but the setting and time commitments differ. Benefits of inpatient rehab include intensity and suitability for severe addictions or co-occurring disorders. Benefits of outpatient rehab include affordability and flexibility. Here’s how inpatient treatment vs outpatient treatment compares.

Treatment environment

  • Inpatient rehab: Provides a structured and controlled environment within a residential facility.
  • Outpatient rehab: Enables individuals to remain in their home environment while attending scheduled treatment sessions.

Intensity and focus of treatment

  • Inpatient rehab: Offers an intensive treatment program with around-the-clock care and support.
  • Outpatient rehab: Provides less intensive treatment, with a focus on balancing therapy with daily life responsibilities.

Duration of treatment

  • Inpatient rehab: Typically requires a stay of 30 to 90 days, depending on individual needs.
  • Outpatient rehab: Varies greatly, from a few hours per week in traditional outpatient programs to around 30 hours in partial hospitalization programs.

Support and supervision

  • Inpatient rehab: Continuous supervision and support are provided, especially beneficial during detox and early recovery.
  • Outpatient rehab: Limited supervision –  relies more on the individual’s self-motivation and support network.

Cost and accessibility

  • Inpatient rehab: Generally more expensive due to housing and intensive care.
  • Outpatient rehab: More affordable, offering a cost-effective alternative for treatment.

Suitability based on severity of disorder

  • Inpatient rehab: Better suited for severe substance use disorders and for those who need a break from their current environment.
  • Outpatient rehab: Ideal for individuals with mild to moderate disorders or those who have strong support systems at home.

Lifestyle and responsibilities

  • Inpatient rehab: Requires a significant time commitment and a break from usual responsibilities.
  • Outpatient rehab: Designed to accommodate work, school, or family responsibilities.

How Do I Know if I Need Inpatient or Outpatient Rehab?

Deciding between inpatient vs outpatient rehab is a significant step in your journey to recovery. Here are some considerations to help you determine which type of rehab is more suitable for your situation:

  • Assess the severity of your substance use disorder: If you have a severe addiction, especially if it’s accompanied by co-occurring mental health disorders, inpatient rehab may be more appropriate. Among the leading benefits of inpatient drug rehab or alcohol rehab, it offers a structured environment and intensive care. For milder forms of substance use disorder or if you’ve already completed an inpatient program and are seeking continued support, outpatient rehab might be sufficient.
  • Consider your home and social environment: Inpatient rehab is beneficial if your home environment is not supportive of your recovery or if it’s filled with triggers that lead to substance use. If you have a strong support system at home and your environment is conducive to recovery, outpatient rehab can work well.
  • Evaluate your daily responsibilities: If you can take time off from work, school, or family responsibilities, inpatient treatment provides a chance to focus solely on recovery. If you cannot afford to take extended time off, outpatient rehab allows you to continue with your daily obligations while receiving treatment.
  • Personal motivation and discipline: Inpatient rehab provides more direct supervision and structured support, which can be helpful if you find it hard to stay motivated on your own. Outpatient rehab requires a high level of personal commitment and discipline since you’ll manage your recovery largely on your own.
  • Financial considerations: Inpatient programs are normally more expensive due to the comprehensive care and accommodation provided. Consider your insurance coverage and financial resources. Outpatient programs are generally more affordable and may be covered by insurance.
  • Look at your treatment history: If previous outpatient treatments haven’t been successful, inpatient rehab might offer the intensive care needed. If you’re new to addiction treatment, starting with outpatient rehab and then escalating to inpatient care if needed can be a strategy.
  • Consult with a healthcare professional: It’s always advisable to seek advice from a healthcare professional or addiction specialist who can assess your specific situation and make a recommendation based on your unique needs. Remember, the goal is to choose a treatment path that offers the best chance for a successful and sustainable recovery. Your personal circumstances, the severity of your addiction, and your support system play central roles in this decision.
an image of the Renaissance Recovery logo representing learning about inpatient treatment vs outpatient treatment

Get Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab at Renaissance Recovery

If you require addiction or mental health treatment in Southern California, we can help you with this at Renaissance Recovery in Huntington Beach, CA.

Whether you need inpatient or outpatient treatment, connect with care at an appropriate level of intensity at our beachside treatment center.

When you address drug addiction, alcoholism, or mental health issues at Renaissance, you will receive personalized treatment that may include any of the following therapies:

Reach out to Renaissance for evidence-based addiction treatment in Southern California by calling 866.330.9449.



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.

Close this search box.

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.

Text a Recovery Expert

Text our team to get the help you need ASAP.

Close this search box.

Use Our 24 Hour text line. You can ask questions about our program, the admissions process, and more.