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

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD By September 9, 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 should certainly be proud of yourself.

Most people who suffer from addiction have tried many times without success by themselves. And many of them have found their attempts unsuccessful. Addiction a powerful illness that should be taken seriously. Just as you wouldn’t try to fight cancer by yourself, you shouldn’t expect to fight addiction without a professional either.

The challenge is in finding the right type of professional help you overcome addiction. There are several programs out there and it can be difficult to determine which one will be helpful for your situation. 

Two main types of treatment for addiction include outpatient and inpatient treatment programs. If you’re deciding between inpatient vs outpatient rehab, here’s what you need to know.

What is the Difference Between Outpatient and Inpatient Treatment?

When it comes to addiction treatment, it’s important to keep in mind the fact that each approach to treatment and offers different benefits. These different approaches to addiction treatment make it possible for people to find the type of program that best meets their needs. This is one of the reasons why so many people have been successful in ending addiction. 

Again, inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment are two types of programs that can help people to overcome substance abuse. There are a few main differences between these two kinds of treatment programs. 

Inpatient Treatment: Sometimes referred to as residential treatment, inpatient addiction rehab programs offer individuals treatment in an intensive setting. Normally, people who enroll in a residential program live at their rehab center for the duration of their treatment program.

This allows them access to 24/7 care and medical attention. It also provides a safe place, away from distractions. In these programs, individuals are less likely to have access to drugs or alcohol. So, those in residential or inpatient care can get the help they need without being influenced to use alcohol or drugs.

In inpatient programs, individuals attend therapy on a regular basis, may share living quarters with other peers, and participate in various activities throughout their stay. Those in treatment may attend various types of therapy, including individual and group therapy meetings.

Some of the types of therapy a person may receive while in an inpatient treatment facility might include the following:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Talk Therapy
  • Trauma Processing Therapy
  • Art Therapy
  • Focus Therapy
  • Processing Group

CBT works to help patients identify and improve negative, harmful thinking processes. This type of therapy is literally meant to bring attention to the processes and behaviors of the mind. Often, thoughts precede actions. So, if a person has harmful and unhealthy thoughts, it’s likely that he or she will engage in harmful and unhealthy activities or behaviors. But, through cognitive behavioral therapy, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of their negative thoughts and how to replace them with positive, healthy thoughts.

Often, people who are working to recover from addiction suffer from a relapse because of the triggers, stressful situations, and challenges they encounter. This is due to the fact that the individuals were used to coping with obstacles by turning to alcohol or drugs. So, in order to deal with challenges in recovery, people often resort to substance use. Dialectical behavioral therapy is designed to help individuals to develop coping skills that can help them to avoid relapse.

Many people who struggle with addiction have had traumatic experiences in the past. These occurrences often play a role in the development of substance abuse problems. So, those who are suffering from substance abuse may find it helpful to address the trauma in their lives as it may be an underlying cause of addiction. This is where trauma processing therapy comes in.

Talk therapy provides people with a secure space to speak about their challenges, struggles, needs, and desires. They can feel safe about talking through their feelings and emotions. During these therapy sessions, the patient speaks with a therapist and receives meaningful guidance and advise.

Art therapy uses artistic activities to help individuals get in touch with and work through their emotions and the challenges they’re facing in recovery. Focus therapy and processing groups both encourage individuals to speak with and listen to their peers, discussing their journeys through recovery from addiction.

Outpatient Treatment: This type of treatment is different from inpatient treatment in that individuals may continue to live at home or at a sober living home while getting treatment for substance abuse. Instead of spending 24 hours every day at their rehab center, people in outpatient treatment may only spend a few hours every day or a certain amount of hours every week at the rehab facility. For example, an individual may go to treatment 5 days out of the week rather than 7 days. 

Normally, people in outpatient programs still go to therapy sessions and attend group meetings. So, many of the therapy approaches that are included in inpatient programs are also included in outpatient programs. 

Through therapy, individuals in an outpatient program can gain relapse prevention skills and develop coping strategies in order to deal with stresses, triggers, and challenges in a healthy way. 

Therapy, especially in a group setting, can also help individuals to develop skills for interacting with others while in recovery. Communication skills are often lost while living with an addiction. But, those in recovery can regain healthy techniques for interpersonal communication and interaction.

Finally, therapy can boost self-esteem. Individuals in outpatient addiction rehab may sometimes struggle to “fit in” to their newfound lives of sobriety. But, while learning more about themselves and coming to an understanding of the effects of addiction in their lives, individuals can become more comfortable with themselves and who they are becoming!

Identifying the 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. But, that temptation is far less intense when you’re surrounded by sober people.

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

More Treatment for Underlying Issues

While in an inpatient program, you’re dedicating all of your time to your sobriety. This gives you more time to deal with the reasons you developed an addiction. Identifying and addressing the underlying causes of your addiction problem can help you and your therapists to determine the best way for you to work toward sobriety.

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.

Some 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 often more affordable for those who are seeking help in ending addiction.

If you choose to go with an outpatient program, you won’t be paying for housing and food at the facility. You also won’t have to pay 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 is 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 in regards to choosing between inpatient vs outpatient rehab. This is because it’s best to take each individual’s needs into account when selecting an approach to addiction treatment. Every person is unique, and different choices work for different people.

With that being said, if you’re looking for the right choice for your treatment or the treatment of a loved one, you need to weigh your options and find the option that feels right for you. Professionals can help you to navigate through your choices and determine the best kind of program for your journey to an addiction-free life. 

It’s commonly believed that outpatient treatment is much less intensive than inpatient rehab and is, therefore, less effective. But, the truth of the matter is that, although there is often less possibility for relapse for those in residential treatment, it 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 requires dedication and commitment. So, while in your treatment program, it’s important for you to keep focused on the goal of becoming free from substance abuse. In order to get that freedom, you may need to deal with some challenging situations and address some serious matters in your life. But, it will all be worth it when you’re finally living on the other side of addiction!

Recovery is an accomplishment in which you have to play an active role. It may be helpful if you take other steps, such as 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 recovery and regain control of your life, we here at Discovery Institute can help! You can simply contact our drug and alcohol rehab for more information about our treatment options and how we can work with you in order to help you find your way to a new and better life!

References:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-use-addiction

https://www.addictioncenter.com/treatment/inpatient-outpatient-rehab/

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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