Inpatient or Outpatient Rehab: What’s Best For Your Addiction Recovery Needs?

Inpatient or Outpatient Rehab

Making the decision to seek rehabilitation for an addiction is a difficult but courageous first step. It is often said by those who have found success that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, which is certainly true when it comes to overcoming addiction. After one decides to seek help, the decision of what type of rehabilitation program to enter becomes the next big challenge. Many people wonder “is inpatient or outpatient rehab better for my condition?” There are many factors to weigh when making this decision. By having a comprehensive understanding of inpatient and outpatient programs, you can make an informed decision about what is best for you.

What Is Inpatient Addiction Treatment?

Inpatient rehabilitation, also known as residential treatment, is a live-in addiction treatment program. Inpatient rehab programs vary in length of stay, but most last around 30 days. Treatment in an inpatient setting takes place 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This intensity of care is necessary for those who require more support to detox and abstain from substances.

Inpatient rehabilitation programs provide a high level of structure and support. There are typically three main components to inpatient treatment: detoxification, counseling, and aftercare planning.

  • Detoxification is the biological process of ridding the body of drugs and alcohol. This can be a difficult and uncomfortable process, which is why it is often best done in a medically supervised setting. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe and sometimes dangerous.
  • Counseling is a vital part of inpatient treatment. It provides an opportunity to address the underlying causes of addiction and develop tools to cope with triggers and cravings.
  • Aftercare planning is an important part of inpatient treatment. It ensures that you have a solid plan in place for continued support and care after you leave the program.

Overall, inpatient treatment is a highly structured and intensive form of care that many find to jumpstart their recovery successfully.

What Is Outpatient Addiction Treatment?

Outpatient rehabilitation, also known as outpatient treatment, is a less intensive form of care than inpatient treatment. However, some outpatient programs are nearly as intensive as inpatient programs, and are referred to as intensive outpatient programs, or IOPs. Regardless of the type, outpatient programs allow those in recovery to live at home and participate in a treatment program during the day or evening. Outpatient programs typically last for a few months, although some can last up to a year.

Outpatient treatment is traditionally best suited for those with a strong home support system and do not require 24-hour care. It is also a good option for those who have already completed an inpatient program and are looking for continued support. Outpatient treatment typically includes individual and group counseling and other evidence-based therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

Like inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment should also include a solid aftercare plan to help you maintain your sobriety after you leave the program. When done correctly, outpatient treatment can be a successful step in your recovery journey.

What Type of Issues Do Inpatient and Outpatient Programs Address?

Inpatient and outpatient programs both address substance misuse, substance abuse, dependency, and addiction. The substances most often involved in addiction include:


Alcohol abuse is one of the most common problems addressed in rehabilitation programs. Alcohol addiction can lead to serious health problems, including liver disease, heart disease, and cancer.


Opioid abuse has become a severe problem of the United States. Opioids are a pain medication that can be very addictive. Common opioids include oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl.


Stimulant abuse is also a growing problem in the United States. Stimulants are drugs that increase energy and alertness. Common stimulants include cocaine, methamphetamine, and Adderall.

Inpatient and outpatient programs can address addiction to these substances and more. The type of program best suited for you will depend on the severity of your addiction, your personal circumstances, and your treatment goals.

With either type of program, you can expect to receive a comprehensive evaluation upon arrival. This evaluation will help the treatment team determine what level of care you need and what program will best meet your needs.

Pros and Cons of Inpatient and Outpatient Addiction Treatment

Pros and Cons of Inpatient and Outpatient Addiction Treatment

Inpatient treatment has many advantages, including:

Around-the-Clock Care and Support

Inpatient treatment provides 24-hour care and support, which can be vital for those in early recovery or those with a severe addiction that need close monitoring.

Structure and Routine

Inpatient treatment programs are highly structured and provide a much-needed sense of routine. Everything is planned out in an inpatient setting, from wake-up times to bedtimes, mealtimes, and therapy sessions. This can be helpful for those who need structure to stay on track.

Intensive Counseling and Therapy

Inpatient treatment programs offer intensive counseling and therapy, which can be very beneficial in addressing specific underlying causes of addiction. The face-to-face time with counselors and therapists can help to build a strong foundation for recovery.

However, there are also some disadvantages to inpatient treatment, including:


Inpatient treatment can be costly, especially if you need to stay in a program for an extended period of time.

Time Commitment

Inpatient treatment programs require a significant time commitment, which can be difficult for those with work or family obligations.

Limited Freedom

Inpatient treatment programs can feel very restrictive, as you are not able to come and go as you please. This can be difficult for those who are used to having a great deal of freedom.

Outpatient treatment has the following advantages:

More Affordable

Outpatient treatment is typically more affordable than inpatient treatment. This is because you are not paying for around-the-clock care or paying to stay in a facility.

More Flexible

Outpatient treatment is also more flexible than inpatient treatment, as you can schedule appointments around your work or family obligations.

Less Restrictive

Outpatient treatment is less restrictive than inpatient treatment, as you can come and go as you please. This is a great option for those who need more freedom in their treatment program.

However, outpatient treatment also has some disadvantages, including:

Less Intensive

Outpatient treatment is not as intensive as inpatient treatment, which means that you may not get the same level of care and support.

Requires a Strong Support System

Outpatient treatment requires a strong support system at home, as you will not have the same level of support that you would in an inpatient setting. This could make a recovery difficult for those who do not have a robust support system in place.

Requires Self-Discipline

Outpatient treatment also requires a great deal of self-discipline, as you will be responsible for attending appointments and completing treatment on your own. This can be difficult for those who are struggling with addiction.

Can Be Difficult to Stay Motivated

The nature of outpatient treatment can make it difficult for some to stay motivated, as you are not in a structured environment. This can be a challenge for those who need structure to stay on track.

Regardless of your preferred treatment option, it is important to remember that addiction is a chronic and relapsing disease that demands ongoing treatment and support. While inpatient and outpatient treatment each have their advantages and disadvantages, the most important challenge is discovering your own needs. Then, find a treatment program that gives you the best chance at meeting those needs.

How Effective Is Outpatient Rehab?

Outpatient rehab can be just as effective as inpatient rehab, depending on the severity of the addiction, the level of support available, and the individual involved. In some cases, outpatient rehab may be more effective, as it allows the person to continue working and living their life while receiving treatment. This can help to make the transition back to a sober everyday life easier.

Certain inherent factors of the program make outpatient care highly effective, including:

A Focus on Long-Term Recovery

Outpatient programs typically focus on long-term recovery rather than just getting the person through detox. This is because the goal of treatment is to help the person learn how to live a sober life, rather than abstain from drugs or alcohol for some time.

Individualized Care

Outpatient programs also offer individualized care, which is important for those who have unique needs and may feel like just another number in a hospital-like inpatient setting. This allows a person to receive the specific care and treatment they need, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

A Team of Professionals

Outpatient programs also have a team of professionals, including counselors, therapists, and doctors, who work together to create a comprehensive treatment plan. This team of professionals can help ensure that the person gets the best possible care, even if they are not in an inpatient setting.

Tips To Make Outpatient Treatment More Effective

There are a few things that you can do to make outpatient treatment more effective, including:

Attending All Appointments

One of the most important things you can do is to attend all your appointments. This demonstrates a commitment to your treatment and will help ensure you get the most out of your effort.

Following Through With Aftercare

Aftercare is an important part of outpatient treatment, and it is important to follow through with it. This may include things like attending support groups, alumni groups, or therapy sessions on a regular basis.

Cutting Ties With Triggers

It is important to avoid behaviors, activities, and people that are a threat to your sobriety. This will help to prevent relapse and ensure that you are getting the most out of your treatment.

Asking For Help

If you feel like you are struggling, don't be afraid to ask for help. This may mean reaching out to your therapist or counselor, or even checking in with a friend who is in recovery. Your support system can single handedly be the difference between success and failure in an outpatient program.

How Much is Outpatient Drug Rehab?

Outpatient drug rehab can range in cost, depending on the program type and the treatment length. Some programs may be covered by insurance, while others may require private payment.
Factors that can influence the cost of outpatient rehab include:

The Type of Program

The type of program can influence the cost, as some programs may be more intensive than others. For example, you could incur additional costs if the program offers individualized care with specific therapists or if there is a higher staff-to-patient ratio.

The Length of Treatment

The length of treatment can also influence the cost, as outpatient programs typically last longer than inpatient programs. This is because outpatient programs focus on long-term sobriety, so understanding exactly how long you think you'll need to be in treatment is important.

The Location of the Program

The location of the program can also play a role in the cost, as programs in major metropolitan areas typically cost more than those in smaller towns. This is because the overhead costs associated with running a program are typically higher in larger cities.

Insurance Factors

Insurance coverage can also influence the cost of outpatient drug rehab. Some insurance plans may offer to pay the entire cost of treatment, while others may only cover a portion. Check with your insurance provider to see if they cover outpatient drug rehab.

Outpatient drug rehab can be an effective treatment option for those who are struggling with addiction. It is important to understand the factors that can influence the cost of treatment to help make the best decision for your situation.

How Do I Choose Between Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment?

How Do I Choose Between Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment?

There is no universal answer to this question. The best way to decide if inpatient or outpatient treatment is right for you is to speak with a treatment professional. They will assess your individual needs and make a recommendation based on what they believe will be most successful for you.

Be prepared to answer personal questions about your substance use history, mental health, and current situation. It is also important to be honest about your willingness to commit to treatment and follow through with aftercare. These factors will all play a role in deciding whether inpatient or outpatient treatment is right for you.

About Christine Todd, MS, LPC, CAADC

Clinical Director Christine Todd is a Licensed Professional Counselor and an Advanced Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor who enjoys working directly with a population that struggles with addiction and mental health disorders. Christine brings many years of clinical experience to the team at Recovery Cove, where she is currently the Clinical Director. In her role, she oversees the clinical department as a leader, educator and mentor, designing programming and protocols for a diverse client population. Learn More About Christone Todd, MS, LPC, CAADC