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Which Choice Is Better? How to Choose Between Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD By May 20, 2019

If you’re reading this, you’ve made the choice to take a step toward recovering from addiction or you’re supporting a loved one in their recovery journey. Congratulations! These are accomplishments not everyone achieves, and you need to be proud of yourself.

Most people with addiction have tried to get sober many times by themselves without success. It’s a powerful illness. You wouldn’t try to fight cancer by yourself, and you shouldn’t expect to fight addiction without a professional either.

The challenge is finding the right type of professional help. If you’re deciding between inpatient vs outpatient rehab, here’s what you need to know.

Benefits of Inpatient Rehab

During inpatient rehab, you live in a dedicated rehab facility for weeks or months. Your sobriety is your full-time job, so you spend much of your time in therapy or other sessions that will help your recovery. This environment offers several advantages.

Care for the Detox Period

When you first start your recovery, your body will go through withdrawal. It’s used to using your drug or drink of choice to function, and it falters when that crutch is gone.

The detox stage is a crucial part of your recovery because it’s difficult to avoid a relapse. It’s also important to have medical care during your withdrawal to watch for dangerous side effects. Medical professionals may be able to reduce your withdrawal symptoms too.

Inpatient rehab facilities have a way to handle your withdrawal safely. Some have dedicated detox care while others partner with a detox center where you’ll start your journey.

Less Temptation to Relapse

Whether you’ve been sober for a day or a decade, there is always some temptation to relapse. That temptation is far less when you’re surrounded by sober people.

During inpatient relapse, you’re in a complete environment of sobriety. The temptation is as low as it could be, so your chances for relapsing before you complete your program are low.

More Treatment for Underlying Issues

During an inpatient program, you’re dedicating all of your time to your sobriety. That allows far more time to deal with the reasons you developed an addiction.

Most or all people have reasons they started using drugs or alcohol. It may be to numb old wounds that haven’t healed or to self-medicate mental health challenges.

In an inpatient program, you have the necessary time to get to the root of your addiction. By dealing with those underlying problems, your long-term chances for success are better.

Gaining Life Skills

In addition to learning about your own mental health, inpatient rehab gives you time to learn the skills you need for sober living.

Counselors can help you develop sober strategies for dealing with stress and pain. They can also help you take steps to get your career on track so you feel more fulfilled and less in need of a high.

Benefits of Outpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehab has plenty of advantages, but it isn’t for everyone. Outpatient rehab, in which you keep living at home but attend rehab therapy sessions, has its own benefits too.

Lower Cost

it should be no surprise that the more intensive experience of inpatient rehab is more expensive.

Outpatient rehab is more affordable. You aren’t paying for housing and food, nor are you paying for as many hours of therapy. Outpatient rehab can be a great option for people who can’t afford inpatient treatment.

Life Doesn’t Get Put on Hold

During inpatient rehab, you leave your normal life behind and your sobriety becomes your life for several weeks or months. For people who have families to support, this isn’t always an option.

With outpatient treatment, you can continue to work, care for your family, and fulfill other responsibilities while getting treatment. You also don’t have to worry about whether or not your job will be waiting for you when you return from rehab.

No “Rehab Bubble”

As we mentioned above, during inpatient rehab, it’s like you’re draped in sobriety. There is little temptation because you’re in a different environment than the one in which you used to use drugs or alcohol.

The problem is that this makes for a hard transition when you leave rehab. You don’t know how to soberly deal with that old environment. This why so many people enter sober living homes after inpatient rehab.

With outpatient rehab, you learn how to be sober while balancing family, work, and responsibilities from the start. You don’t have the sudden dropoff of support that can make other people prone to relapsing.

Easier Entry

Some people mistakenly think inpatient rehab is the only real option. They know how expensive it is and they’re afraid of leaving their families and lives behind. As a result, they don’t seek any treatment at all.

Outpatient rehab is a way to bridge that gap. It isn’t as daunting as inpatient rehab because you can continue to be you, but a sober you.

Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab: The Bottom Line

When it comes down to it, there’s no one right answer between inpatient vs outpatient rehab. Every person is unique, and different choices work for different people.

You need to weigh your choices and find the option that feels right for you. Inpatient treatment is the more comprehensive choice, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to get sober.

Whether you choose inpatient or outpatient treatment, remember that your rehab center can’t do all the work for you.

Recovery is an accomplishment in which you have to play an active role. Take other steps like bringing your family into family therapy and avoiding the people and settings that encourage you to relapse.

If you’re ready to get started on the journey to take back control of your life, we can help. Contact our drug and alcohol rehab for more information about our treatment options.


Article Reviewed by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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