Deciding what type of treatment facility will best suit your needs or the needs of your loved one can be daunting. With more than 14,000 substance abuse treatment facilities in the United States, each of which provides different programs and services, knowing what to look for requires research and guidance. One of the most important things to know in your search is the difference between inpatient and outpatient rehab.

In short, inpatient rehab refers to residential treatment centers where clients reside for a certain period of time depending on their treatment needs. Outpatient rehab, on the other hand, offers treatment sessions scheduled throughout the week for clients who do not live on-site. Although clients live elsewhere, they are required to check into their outpatient treatment program at scheduled times for counseling and medication.

Here at Solution Based Treatment & Detox, we offer residential treatment, an intensive outpatient program, and a partial hospitalization program, which is our highest-level outpatient treatment program, as well as clinically-supervised drug and alcohol detox and professional intervention services. After helping thousands of people recover, we know from experience that clients should only choose between inpatient and outpatient rehab after careful consideration and research into what both programs offer and which will better fulfill their needs.

To help start the research process, we’ve put together a brief guide about the differences between inpatient and outpatient treatment programs.

What is Rehab Treatment & What Makes It Effective?

Although it’s natural to want to jump into the specifics of inpatient and outpatient rehab, the first and perhaps most important step is knowing what to look for in a rehab treatment program more generally. Make sure you understand the basic components of an effective treatment program, including:

  • What services do they offer?
  • Do they provide standard treatments or customized treatment plans?
  • Are they only focused on reversing the damage caused by addiction or do they assist with their clients’ total wellbeing?
  • Do they look for, address, and treat co-occurring disorders?
  • What kind of aftercare do they provide?

While a multitude of different treatment programs with different methodologies, activities, and philosophies exist, the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide identifies certain key components you should always look for when seeking any type of rehab treatment.

These requirements ensure a treatment that is holistic, credible and helps position clients for a successful, effective recovery. According to these guidelines, treatment programs should:

  • Incorporate methodologies and activities that work to restore brain functionality as much as possible because addiction, though treatable, affects the way the brain works.
  • Provide customized treatment plans because addiction is a complex issue that affects each person differently and there is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment program that will work for everyone.
  • Ensure that treatment is available when needed.
  • Guarantee that treatment programs will attend to the client’s total needs (medical, social, psychological, vocational), not just their addiction recovery.
  • Make sure that individuals are in treatment for an adequate amount of time.
  • Include behavioral therapies such as family, individual and group counseling as part of an individual’s treatment plan.
  • Provide effective and appropriate medication and clinical care
  • Make sure that they assess and reevaluate client treatment plans and services to fit their changing needs.
  • Check for and treat co-occurring disorders.
  • Incorporate social skills training and aftercare activities.
  • Encourage participation in support groups.
  • Boost client motivation.

While the goal of any rehab treatment program is to empower individuals to successfully recover from addiction, it’s no secret that treatment programs based on the principles outlined above help clients successfully recover from addiction more effectively.

Inpatient Treatment: What You Need to Know

Smiling woman in casuals standing in office

Whether you’re staying at a hospital, detox clinic, or rehab center, inpatient treatment requires clients to reside at the location where they are receiving treatment. While the average stay is generally 30 days, some inpatient programs last up to 90 days or even longer depending upon the severity of the addiction, the existence, and likelihood of co-occurring conditions, and whether or not the client has been in a previous treatment program.

Because they are residential, an important facet of inpatient treatment is the accommodations offered to clients. Some facilities provide standard accommodations such as shared rooms, cafeteria-style food, and recreational activities like pool, ping-pong, air hockey, and board games. More luxurious facilities generally accommodate their clients with private suites and gourmet meals prepared in-house and often include a swimming pool, spa, or gym.

Even though inpatient treatment can be costly, the advantages include:

  • Clients receive 24-hour care and are never alone as they work toward recovery.
  • Clients feel a sense of community as a result of residing on-site. Instead of feeling isolated and alone, clients are surrounded by others who are dealing with similar struggles.
  • Clients have fewer everyday distractions and worries while they are in treatment.
  • Clients spend dedicated time every day focused on recovery and wellness.

With benefits like this, it’s easy to see why many opt for inpatient rehab. But there are some downsides to inpatient treatment, as well.

Some drawbacks of inpatient treatment include:

  • Clients have somewhat limited independence and may not be free to come and go as they please.
  • Clients are separated from family and friends for an extended period of time, which can be particularly difficult for parents who need childcare during their treatment.
  • Clients who are employed need to take a leave of absence from their job.
  • Inpatient treatment can be expensive and is not covered by not all insurance plans.

Here at SBT&D, the length of our inpatient program ranges from a few weeks to several months depending upon our clients’ needs. In addition to individual and group counseling, our comprehensive treatment includes nutritional wellness and physical activities. We also ensure that when our clients leave our residential program, they are provided with an aftercare plan that includes relapse prevention techniques and, when needed, referrals to our outpatient program.

Outpatient Treatment: What You Need to Know

Unlike inpatient treatment, outpatient programs allow clients the freedom to continue working and caring for their families while in recovery. Where inpatient treatment is usually recommended for severe addictions, outpatient rehab is ideal for individuals with less severe substance abuse problems or people seeking to maintain their ongoing recovery after a relapse.

Often, these individuals are self-motivated to stop using substances but need a program that is able to work around their day-to-day schedule. While there are several different kinds of outpatient treatment facilities, the most common are day programs, intensive outpatient programs (IOP) and continuing care.

  • Day programs are generally structured around meetings several times a week at an outpatient location for multiple hours each day. During this period of time, clients participate in therapy, group counseling, and other therapeutic activities such as yoga and music and art therapy. Afterward, clients return home or to a sober living home of their choosing.
  • IOPs are structured around a treatment plan with quantifiable and measurable milestones. When a milestone is met, the client’s weekly time commitment decreases. Similar to the day program, IOPs require multiple weekly sessions where clients experience counseling, group and family therapy, relapse prevention education, and participation in a support group.
  • Continuing care is generally used for those who have been in inpatient care but can still benefit from ongoing support. Some of the most popular forms of continuing care are Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. These groups tend to meet weekly.

Like inpatient care, outpatient rehab has several advantages, including:

  • Clients are able to continue their daily lives and activities while receiving treatment, avoiding “putting their lives on hold.”
  • Counseling sessions are typically held in the evening and on weekends so clients can still go to work and care for their families.
  • Clients are able to immediately start applying what they’re learning in real-life situations because they are not living on-site at the treatment facility.
  • Outpatient care is generally more affordable and is covered by insurance.

Some potential obstacles that can occur with outpatient treatment include:

  • Because they often live at home, clients are at risk of being exposed to the same behaviors and influences that might have triggered substance use in the first place.
  • Clients may still have access to drugs and alcohol.
  • Clients may become distracted by day-to-day obligations.
  • Clients have limited access to counselors and, thus, less time to build a supportive network.

At SBT&D, our intensive outpatient program is administered within a group therapy session, though our clients also meet with their therapist individually on a weekly basis. With less than ten people in our IOP group therapy sessions, individuals are able to express their struggles, build bonds with each other, and receive clinical guidance and advice in a safe environment.

Like inpatient rehab, the primary focus of outpatient treatment is helping individuals recover. Both options can be successful and both have advantages and disadvantages. In other words, one form of treatment is not better than the other, although one may be preferable based on an individual’s specific circumstances and needs.

Questions to Consider Before Choosing Between Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment

Consider the following when you’re choosing between inpatient and outpatient rehab programs:

  • How severe is the addiction?
  • Does the individual have family support if they were to stay at home and receive treatment?
  • Has the individual been in rehab before?
  • Is the individual experiencing other physical or mental health problems?
  • What is the individual’s home environment like?
  • What type of addictions does the program treat?
  • What types of therapies does the program provide?
  • What credentials and licensing does the facility have?
  • What sober living activities options are available?

Making the Choice Between Inpatient or Outpatient Rehab

Like most aspects of recovery, choosing between inpatient and outpatient rehab isn’t easy. It requires a lot of research and thought. But once you’ve completed your research and gathered your thoughts, we recommend two more steps.

  • First, determine your needs. What do you or your loved one need most? Do you need 24-hour care or can you maintain your sobriety while living at home? Can you put your life on hold for months at a time or do you need to integrate treatment into your day-to-day routine? List out what you need and then match your needs with what inpatient and outpatient treatment offers.
  • Second, talk to an expert. Here at Solution Based Treatment & Detox, our recovery experts are willing and able to help walk you through the decision making process. Recovery isn’t an easy journey but it is attainable. Getting the right treatment is the beginning of that journey. We are available 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. Call us today at 833.999.1941.

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