Making the decision to change your relationship with drugs or alcohol is the first step towards recovery. From there you may be considering what treatment options are available to you. With so many available treatment options, it can be difficult to decide what will fit your life the best. 

Treatment for substance use disorders is often broken down into two broad categories: Inpatient Rehab and Outpatient Rehab. Within these larger categories there are multiple distinctions such as detox, short-term residential, partial hospitalization, or intensive outpatient. Your personal needs and the severity of your substance use will help treatment professionals determine which level of care is most appropriate for you. 

Both outpatient and inpatient rehab are equally focused on providing therapeutic interventions to help you discontinue use and begin a new way of life. Neither type of program is better or more effective than the other. Each offers substantial benefits that can set you or your loved one on the path to long-term recovery. 

Inpatient treatment

Inpatient rehab programs, also known as residential treatment centers, offer 24 hour care in a controlled environment. Participants check themselves into the facility for an extended amount of time to receive therapeutic, medical, and behavioral health care. Participants reside within the facility for the duration of their stay and often have access to a variety of recovery support services including medical detoxification, medication management, and case management. Inpatient rehab can be effective for anyone experiencing substance use issues, but it is especially effective for those living with a severe dependence or significant impairments in their daily living.   Residing within the facility reduces the risk of relapse and mitigates the effects of the daily stress that can trigger substance use

Licensed inpatient facilities offer 24-hour medical support and intensive therapeutic programming. Most programs will offer three distinct residential treatment options: detox, short-term residential treatment, and long-term residential treatment. Medically monitored detoxification is recommended for individuals experiencing physical dependence on a substance. Those with a potential for withdrawal will often complete a medically monitored detox protocol prior to transitioning to either short-term or long-term residential treatment. 

Both short-term and long-term inpatient programs incorporate group therapy, individual counseling, and educational lectures as part of the daily schedule. Many facilities will also offer mental health care for those that have a co-occurring diagnosis. Patients typically stay at long-term residential facilities from three to six months, while short-term facility stays last about three to six weeks.

Inpatient Overview:
  • Inpatient treatment programs are designed manage withdrawal, provide stabilization, and prepare you for life after treatment.
  • Residential facilities provide 24 hour integrated care in a non-hospital, controlled setting.
  • Treatment is highly structured and focuses on addressing all aspects of your substance use disorder. This might include social factors — such as relationships and lifestyle — and psychological factors related to your personal history and situation.
  • Residential or inpatient rehab requires a large time commitment. 
Items for Consideration Regarding Inpatient Rehab:
  • Inpatient rehab requires you to step away from your daily life. This may mean finding care for your children, pets, or other dependent family members. You may also have to request a leave of absence from work or school to enter an inpatient treatment program.
  • You will have little contact with the outside world while in treatment. Most treatment programs do not allow use of cellphones, tablets, or laptops. This means that you will need to be comfortable with disconnecting during your stay.
  • Treatment is highly structured. The schedules within most facilities are pre-planned and leave little room for flexibility. Some people find it hard to adjust to the intensity of treatment that makes inpatient care effective.
  • Costs are often higher for inpatient rehab versus the alternatives. Just remember the cost of treatment is always less than the cost of addiction.
Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient rehab involves regularly scheduled therapeutic sessions at a clinic or facility. The frequency and duration of outpatient sessions varies based on the provider and the individual’s needs. Outpatient treatment usually consists of a combination of group therapy and individual counseling sessions. Outpatient programs are generally less restrictive than inpatient programs and allow participants to attend treatment while continuing to work, go to school, or manage other aspects of their daily lives. Individuals in outpatient treatment can continue to live at home as they recover or may choose to live in an alternative sober living environment. 

Outpatient rehab focuses on providing participants with the skills necessary to begin or maintain their lives in recovery. Sessions often include a combination of therapeutic and educational interventions designed to bolster coping skills and reduce the risk of relapse. Outpatient programs can be a good stand-alone option for individuals with a mild to moderate substance use disorder who do not require medical care. They are also a recommended step-down option for individuals who have completed detox or inpatient treatment. 

Outpatient treatment programs offer flexible schedules, with many programs offering full-day, morning, or evening hours. Average length of stay in an outpatient program can range from two months to four months. Many programs will also offer continuing care to those that have successfully completed their outpatient program.