Choosing Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehabilitation Treatment Programs

Comparing Inpatient vs. Outpatient Drug Rehabilitation and Recovery Options

Most drug rehabilitation programs can be classified into 2 broad categories: inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment. A comparison of inpatient rehab vs. outpatient rehab programs requires you to understand the definitions, benefits and potential drawbacks of both types.

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Why Get Addiction Treatment?

A modern view of drug addiction holds that it is a complex condition arising from the interplay of genetic, environmental and behavioral factors. Chronic substance abuse can affect many signaling pathways in the brain, including those that play a role in reward and motivation.

Many addictions manifest as intense cravings for a particular drug and the accompanying compulsive drug-seeking (and using) behavior. Drug use may begin voluntarily, but an addict’s ability to abstain from future use is eventually compromised due in part to the changes that the drugs may have on the user’s brain – including the reinforcing or rewarding effect alluded to earlier.

Many people who develop a substance use disorder find it very difficult to stop using without professional help. If you have decided to seek treatment, you’ll need to decide on the type of treatment that’s right for you.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehabilitation Treatment Programs

“Your needs and addiction severity will determine the right program for you”.

You may be wondering, ‘what are the differences between inpatient and outpatient treatment centers and programs?’ Before you make any decisions about your treatment program, it’s helpful to learn the difference between inpatient and outpatient rehabs:

  • Inpatient programs require you to live at the treatment facility.
  • Outpatient programs generally entail some amount of daily treatment at a clinic or outpatient treatment facility and allow you to return to your home or other living arrangement during non-treatment hours.

You may be wondering, ‘what is the definition of inpatient rehab treatment?’ or ‘what is outpatient drug-free treatment?’ Perhaps you are wondering what inpatient vs. outpatient detox programs are like, or inpatient vs. outpatient therapy. Outpatient programs tend to be less expensive than inpatient programs. (Learn more about the cost of rehabilitation). However, the around-the-clock you receive during inpatient programs may provide a more immersive treatment experience, and you are completely removed from everyday distractions and triggers while focusing exclusively on recovery. Honestly assessing your needs and the severity of your addiction will help you determine which type of treatment is right for you. You may also want to speak to an addiction counselor or another treatment professional to help you decide which type of drug rehab center is the best fit.

Inpatient Drug Treatment Programs and Facilities


Inpatient treatment is the preferred option for those looking to get away from their current temptations and focus completely on sobriety with no distractions. Inpatient, or residential, treatment offers a number of benefits.

Features of Inpatient Drug Rehab Treatment Programs

Inpatient drug rehab programs offer 24-hour-a-day care that allows you to focus solely on recovering from your alcohol or drug addiction and your newfound sobriety. Inpatient drug or alcohol addiction treatment often includes at least:

  • Supervised detoxification.
  • Administration of medication, if appropriate.
  • Group and individual therapy.

Inpatient programs vary and may include a number of other features, ranging from family therapy and life skills training to yoga and meditation. To learn more about inpatient programs and to find the one that will help you return to a healthy and happy life, call American Addiction Centers (AAC) for free at .

Types of Inpatient Rehab Treatment Programs

The most common types of inpatient recovery programs include:

  • Residential. These are live-in programs where you stay for the duration of treatment. You attend individual and group therapy sessions, receive medical care and engage in other activities with residents.
  • Luxury. Luxury programs offer many of the same services as residential rehab centers do. However, they include other amenities and treatments such as massage therapy, swimming, horseback riding, fine dining and private accommodations. They may also be located in desirable settings such as beaches or mountains.
  • Executive or CEO. These programs are very similar to luxury rehab programs, but they offer special features for executives or CEOs such as private meeting rooms, Internet access and work spaces.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Detoxification Programs

Detox is generally the first phase of the drug rehabilitation process. You begin taking less of the drug than your usual dosage, which causes withdrawal symptoms. Detox may consist of completely ceasing drug use or gradually reducing the dosage, depending on the program and the severity of the addiction. Detox can occur in inpatient or outpatient rehab settings, but many structured detox programs are offered in an inpatient setting and can provide additional comfort and safety measures. The primary purpose of this monitoring is to ensure that withdrawal symptoms don’t become life-threatening.

Medication Administration

Medications are currently available for addiction to certain drugs. The medical aspect of alcohol or drug treatment becomes more complex for serious addicts, since they are often addicted to more than one drug. As a result, this treatment often must be performed in an inpatient drug treatment setting.

A few medications are currently used to manage some risky forms of acute substance withdrawal (e.g. for alcohol and sedative withdrawal). A handful of FDA-approved pharmaceutical treatment options (termed medication-assisted treatment) is also available for treating specific types of substance addiction.

Therapy for Substance Abuse and Addiction Recovery

In an inpatient rehab setting, you’ll often find various types of therapies, both individual and group.

Because you’ll be living at the facility, you’ll be able to take part in these therapies without having to worry about other commitments, so that you can focus solely on the reasons behind your addiction and on moving forward with a healthier mindset and lifestyle.

Benefits of Inpatient Treatment Programs

Program lengths vary. Inpatient treatment programs often require you to live at the facility full-time for a fixed period of time – typically between 30 days, 60 days and 90 days.

While some may see staying in an inpatient program for an extended amount of time as a drawback, in terms of recovery, it can be a huge benefit. Inpatient treatment:

  • Allows you to get away from your normal environment, which is likely rife with the temptation to use, and to focus on your sobriety without distraction.
  • Puts you in a healthy environment with alcohol and drug addiction treatment professionals and others who are focusing on recovery.
  • Provides ongoing skills training and education.
  • Is typically associated with higher success rates.

Programs with longer durations are often known as therapeutic communities and usually last at least 6 months. These programs provide very comprehensive and long-term care and are great for providing individuals with the necessary skills they need to transition back to their life with the tools they need to stay sober.

What Are Outpatient Treatment Programs Like?


Outpatient treatment includes a variety of programs in which you visit the facility for treatment at regular intervals. This treatment typically consists of some type of counseling, which may be in the form of individual or group sessions.

Features of Outpatient Drug Rehab Programs

Like inpatient programs, the features of outpatient addiction rehab programs will vary among programs. Typically, however, the focus will be on therapy in order to help you focus on your recovery and sobriety.

The specific types of therapy available in an outpatient setting include the following:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy – This therapy helps you recognize thoughts and behaviors that may be unhealthy and contributing to drug or alcohol use.
  • Contingency management – You receive positive reinforcement that motivates you to abstain from drug use. This can take the form of movie tickets or gift cards for attending therapy sessions or providing a negative urine sample for a drug test.
  • Motivational interviewing – A therapist helps you identify and overcome any hesitation or ambivalence to treatment.
  • Matrix Model – This type of therapy combines several different approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, drug testing and contingency management. It is primarily used to help people addicted to stimulants stop using drugs and remain abstinent.
  • Multidimensional family therapy – This therapy is a method of improving family functioning (commonly used for adolescents).

You may also have access to education programs, skills training, mental health care and more.

The major drawback to outpatient treatment is that you will not be fully removed from the everyday temptation to use and put into a completely alcohol- and drug-free environment. For these reasons, outpatient treatment typically works better for those whose addictions are not as developed or severe.

Benefits of Outpatient Addiction Treatment Programs

While you may not get the same level of immersive, 24-hour care in outpatient treatment, it does let you:

  • Live at home while getting care.
  • Continue working or going to school.
  • Remain close to a supportive network of friends and family.
  • Learn the skills you need to live a sober and drug-free life through therapy and education.

How to Find Inpatient or Outpatient Treatment Programs Near Me

You may be wondering where to find the best inpatient or outpatient rehab program near you. Perhaps you want to find outpatient drug detox facilities or inpatient alcohol rehab centers. Each recovery program will have varying features, therapy types and price points. It pays to do some research and find the inpatient or outpatient drug treatment program that is best suited to your own needs. You may be able to pay for rehab treatment with your health insurance coverage.

Please call American Addiction Centers (AAC) for free today at to learn more about your inpatient vs. outpatient rehab options. You can also verify your insurance online with AAC or use the form below to determine whether your insurance will cover treatment.

Insurance Providers That May Cover Addiction Treatment

Learn more about rehab with these addiction treatment insurance providers: