The Difference between Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment

When it comes to ongoing substance abuse and addiction, treatment is a necessity.

Without professional care, the effects on one’s health, career, relationships, and finances can be devastating. Thankfully, there are many treatment options available to those in need.

The two basics types of addiction treatment are inpatient care and outpatient care. There are pros and cons to both types of treatment, though people can be just as successful in either form of care. The decision of which is best comes down to an individual’s needs.

Outpatient Treatment

doctor and therapist discuss with patient the importance of the residential treatment program at laguna

The majority of people who seek treatment for a substance abuse disorder do so under outpatient care. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration accounts for 81.6 percent of all people in treatment in 2013 opting for outpatient care. Outpatient care can be just as effective as inpatient care when rendered properly to the right clients.

Some of the pros of outpatient treatment include:

  • The ability to keep a job or continue schooling while seeking treatment
  • Continued ability to care for children or other dependent family members
  • Typically less expensive than inpatient rehab options
  • The ability to maintain other life commitments while in treatment
  • The chance to practice newfound skills in daily life

Learn More

While inpatient treatment offers the most comprehensive and all-inclusive approach to treatment, it’s not an option for everyone. Many people simply can’t take a chunk of time off from their lives, due to work, family, or other responsibilities. As a result, outpatient treatment simply presents the more practical approach.

With outpatient treatment, anyone can attend rehab and do so on a schedule that fits their needs. Some outpatient treatment programs offer more set schedules, whereas others offer more flexible programming that can accommodate virtually any schedule. Most programs are willing to work with clients to ensure they get the care they need in a manner that works for their lives.

Outpatient treatment does generally cost less than inpatient care, per the Alcohol Health and Research World Journal. This is, of course, due to the fact that clients don’t reside on site, so food, lodging, and 24-hour staffing do not need to be factored into the overall cost.

Outpatient rehab also allows clients to start getting better at home. They can immediately put the things they learn in therapy into practice in everyday life. While the risk for relapse is higher with outpatient rehab, due to the temptations of daily life when not in treatment, these clients do get the opportunity to immediately strengthen their footing in recovery in real-life situations. As a result, it’s recommended that those who undergo outpatient treatment have a strong support system in place and a safe home environment.

Inpatient Treatment

laguna treatment hospital inpatient bedroom with two twin beds There are times when more immersive treatment is needed. These cases include individuals who have been in outpatient rehabilitation before and relapsed afterward, and people who suffer from co-occurring mental health disorders that may pose harm to their wellbeing if not monitored closely. Also, those who are dealing with serious addictions, such as those to heroin, alcohol, or crystal meth, often necessitate inpatient treatment.

While outpatient care is arguably more accommodating for most people, inpatient treatment offers things that outpatient care doesn’t, such as:

  • Intensive treatment for mental health disorders
  • Hospitalization when needed
  • Round-the-clock access to therapists and other treatment professionals
  • Removal of outside influence and environmental distractions
  • Stronger rates of treatment attrition
  • More intensive treatment
  • Family involvement, if desired

Some people suffering from addiction have co-occurring mental health issues that occur alongside their substance abuse issues, and these people require more specialized treatment. Many people seeking addiction treatment may not even be aware that they have other mental health issues in addition to addiction. A thorough assessment upon intake will help to identify such issues, and inpatient rehab centers are likely to require this type of assessment. Around 29 percent of people with mental health disorders also have issues with addiction, per Psych Central.

  • In some cases, people with issues, such as anorexia or bulimia, will need hospitalized care to help them put on weight and learn about adequate nutrition again. If people are dealing with addiction to benzodiazepines or alcohol, they will need to undergo physician-supervised withdrawal to ensure their safety throughout the process. These clients require round-the-clock medical care that just isn’t available in an outpatient treatment center. In addition, supportive psychological care is also available 24/7 for emergency situations.
  • One of the biggest perks of inpatient care is that it separates clients from the negative influences of the outside world that can lead to relapse. Old friends that clients used to get high with can’t stop by. There’s no chance that clients will run into someone who offers a hit of something or a few pills to get through the day. Clients run zero risk of passing by their old haunts or being tempted by commercials for alcohol or benzos. This removal of temptation is incredibly helpful as clients gain their initial footing in recovery.

Due to the immersive style of treatment, many are able to progress more quickly in inpatient treatment than outpatient treatment. That being said, completion of an inpatient addiction treatment program is not the end of care. Most often, those who complete inpatient rehab continue into an outpatient program. This way, they are able to move home, or to a sober living home, while still receiving care on a more relaxed schedule. Continued aftercare reduces the likelihood of relapse.

Making the Decision

laguna treatment hospital entrance surrounded by palm trees, green plants and a water fountainIt can be tough to decide which type of treatment is the best option. The person’s treatment team will make a recommendation based on individual circumstances, and the client and family make the final decision.

Family is an integral part of rehab. In one sample of clients noted by University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, the treatment completion rate among people who reported having their family’s support during treatment was 77.3 percent, compared to 45.5 percent among clients without family involvement. Whether family is visiting their loved one in inpatient treatment or participating in family therapy in an outpatient or inpatient program, their support is critical for the person in recovery.

Making the choice between outpatient and inpatient care can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Many treatment facilities offer both options and help interested clients decide which option is best for them based on a thorough intake interview. An initial screening process will evaluate incoming clients for mental health disorders and other issues, such as polysubstance abuse, that might make inpatient care a bit more of a necessity. In the end, the recommendation will be made after all information is gathered, making for the most informed decision.

Issues Affecting California