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Choosing Between Inpatient vs. Outpatient Treatment

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

November 17, 2023

Table of Contents

When you’re ready to seek help for a substance abuse problem, maybe from an addiction hotline, you’ll want to weigh the differences between inpatient treatment vs. outpatient treatment. Just making the choice can be stressful. Each type of program has pros and cons. Considering all aspects of recovery treatment as well as your own personal needs is necessary to be successful in your recovery.

What is Inpatient vs. Outpatient?

Many inpatient and residential programs incorporate a structured detox program into their treatment protocol. In either type of detox setting, medications will be frequently be used to assist with the withdrawal process, especially in cases of severe dependency or addiction to more than one substance. However, medication isn’t used in all instances of detox. You’ll want to discuss this with program staff if you have questions about their detox process.

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After detox is complete, treatment must continue. The focus moves from removing substances from the body (and stabilizing the person throughout the withdrawal process) to developing the skills to stay sober long term. This is done through counseling, addiction therapy services, and education about addiction and recovery. This includes outpatient programs.

Making the right choice depends on many things, including personal preferences, severity, and duration of the addiction, and last but not least, the participant’s financial position.

Inpatient Addiction Rehab vs Outpatient

A popular option for those looking for recovery from addiction is an inpatient rehab program. The distinguishing characteristic of inpatient addiction rehab is that the person resides at the facility for the duration of treatment. Most of these residential-type of treatment programs last about 30 to 90 days, depending on the specific needs and preferences of the individual.

The first step in the recovery process, participants will go through a period of inpatient detoxification (detox) prior to starting the long-term addiction treatment process. In most cases, the initial detox program will occur in a different facility from the participant’s continuing-treatment location, such as at an intensive outpatient program (IOP) facility or a sober living home.

Outpatient Programs vs Inpatient

In contrast to inpatient rehab, some forms of outpatient programs allow participants to live at home outside of treatment hours, allowing them to continue engaging with work or school and the ability to fulfill other personal responsibilities. Recovering individuals will attend group and individual therapy sessions each week, and if needed they can meet regularly with a psychiatrist for medication to manage withdrawal, cravings, and any existing mental health issues. The treatment provided in an outpatient facility is similar to that provided in an inpatient treatment center but is somewhat less intensive.

Outpatient programs might utilize one or more of the following types of therapy:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy — helps participants become aware of unhealthy thoughts and behaviors and provides strategies to change them to healthier ones
  • Contingency management — provides specific incentives or rewards to help people develop regular behaviors such as attending therapy or maintaining sobriety
  • Motivational interviewing — works to identify and modify any feelings that might be barriers to treatment
  • Matrix Model — allows therapists to act as both teachers and coaches, with the focus of treatment being on empowering the addicted individual through positive self-image and confidence, originally developed for stimulant use disorders
  • Multidimensional family therapy — works to help families function better, especially in cases involving adolescents with drug or alcohol problems

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehab: Which is the Best Option for You?

Getting help for addiction is one of the most important choices you can make. The challenge of choosing a program can seem overwhelming, but it must be done only after careful consideration.

Several factors need to be considered when looking at inpatient vs. outpatient treatment options. Understanding the differences and how they might affect your treatment are important considerations. Some honest introspection and self-assessment are necessary. Simply put, you should ask yourself some basic questions before committing to a rehab program:

  • Are you exposed to drugs or alcohol in your environment?
  • Is your living environment stable and supportive of sobriety?
  • Do you have family members who drink or use drugs around you?
  • Do you have a strong support network that will help motivate you to stay sober?
  • Can you leave your job, school, or home duties for a specified period of time?
  • Do you have any other medical or mental health issues that require specialized treatment for co-occurring disorders (dual diagnosis)?
  • Can you commute from your home to the facility several times a week?
  • Do you need specialized services, such as handicap-assisted or gender-specific rehab?

Financial Considerations

It’s no secret that celebrities have greater resources at their disposal. They often opt for “celebrity-focused” rehab facilities. These facilities offer resort-like settings, usually near a beach or at a secluded mountain retreat. Interestingly, there’s zero data to support the notion that these types of facilities have any greater success than other facilities.

For most of the population, these expensive facilities aren’t an option — and that’s not a bad thing.

The reality is that any facility one chooses should be free of distractions. Participants aren’t there for a vacation, they’re there to focus solely on recovery.

Rehab, detox, and sober living facilities range in services and amenities. As a result, costs differ widely. Some types of facilities can leverage your family’s healthcare plan to help pay for services. In other cases, Medicare and Medicaid both offer limited coverage for inpatient or outpatient treatment, so you should investigate that, too. There are even companies that provide low-interest loans specifically for recovery.

Outpatient Rehab at Renaissance Recovery

Ultimately, as you ponder the question of inpatient vs. outpatient treatment, it’s best to consider all the options and all of the requirements. Recovery comes first. Choose the option that you think will have the best chance for success given your particular issues and circumstances.

Renaissance Recovery provides many programs to fit your needs, including:

Contact Renaissance Recovery by calling us to speak with a specialist to see if inpatient or outpatient programs are right for you.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.

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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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