Is Inpatient or Outpatient Treatment Right for Me?

Addiction treatments must be highly individualized to work, so choosing the right setting is particularly important. A person with a severe, long-term addiction or addiction to multiple drugs may benefit more from inpatient treatment while someone with a less severe addiction may only need outpatient treatment.

Benefits of Inpatient Treatment

Addiction treatment facilities with round-the-clock care options and in-house living arrangements give a person the opportunity to go through detox and psychological treatments without outside distractions. Inpatient facilities work best for people who need high levels of support or people who have tried outpatient treatments with limited success. Addiction is a complicated disease that affects a person physically and psychologically and damages his ability to be productive at work and have a fulfilling social life. Not everyone suffers with the same symptoms or experiences multiple symptoms. Individuals who have many symptoms, such as physical dependence, psychological problems and the inability to maintain healthy friendships and employment, need the more intensive treatment offered in an inpatient setting.[1]

The well-known 28-day rehab stay is actually the least amount of time a patient spends at a residential facility. Current research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows month-long stays aren’t as effective as much longer stays. The time spent in treatment is highly dependent on an individual’s needs, but longer stays lasting from six months to 12 months are more effective. Leaving treatment too soon is a risk factor for relapse. Inpatient stays offer many advantages for people struggling with serious symptoms of addiction. One valuable advantage is the strong sense of community available during inpatient treatment. During the stay, patients spend time in individual therapy sessions as well as group sessions.[2]

When needed, many residential facilities offer medically-supervised detoxification services along with a variety of behavioral treatments. Medically-supervised detox is recommended for patients who have been taking certain substances for long periods of time. Substances such as alcohol, opioids (OxyContin, heroin) and benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium) produce uncomfortable and serious withdrawal symptoms that could lead to seizures, coma or even death. The possibility of such serious symptoms is why physicians and treatment centers warn patients to wait until beginning treatment before stopping these substances.[3]

Inpatient stays also give patients an environment dedicated to staying sober. Since change is a difficult process, facilities with evidence-based treatments begin the process by involving the patient in goal setting. The process often begins with Motivational Interviewing (MI), a technique that uses positive encouragement to help a person make better decisions and move away from a negative lifestyle.[4]

Sometimes the best treatment choice depends on an individual’s living situation and social support system. Someone without family support or strong community supports benefits from the community available in an inpatient facility. Many staff members at residential facilities are recovering addicts who offer counsel and advice on living a sober lifestyle. All of the people in the facility work together to influence positive changes in clients by teaching coping skills and offering healthy alternatives to negative beliefs and lifestyle choices.

Benefits of Outpatient Addiction Treatment

For individuals with less severe addictions who need a treatment option with greater flexibility, outpatient facilities are a good option. Outpatient treatment programs range from intensive to less intensive and offer the option to continue working or handle caretaking responsibilities.

A person with a less severe addiction, such as someone who is addicted to only one substance, maintains regular employment and has strong family supports, can benefit from more flexible options. The choice is also an option for someone who doesn’t require medically supervised detox.1

Intensive outpatient treatment programs offer many residential services minus the 24-hour supervision, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Intensive programs last around 12 to 16 weeks before sending patients on to a less intensive therapy. A typical program schedules three hours of treatment on three days or evenings a week while some may have meetings five days a week. Patients participate in individual or group counseling sessions that include educational meetings and sessions to promote skills development.[5]

Outpatient treatment is a lower cost option and often recommend for people seeking treatment for the first time. Outpatient care is the least intensive effective therapy, which is a factor insurance companies may require when approving care. A person who experiences a relapse after going through outpatient care then qualifies for more intensive treatment, such as a residential stay.

Need Help Finding Addiction Treatment?

There are several effective treatments for addiction, and the best response is to get help as soon as possible. The most effective programs combine psychological services with practical solutions to handle daily problems.

If you or a loved one suffers from addiction, reach out today for help. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at our toll-free helpline to guide you toward the best treatment options. Don’t spend another day suffering with addiction. Call today, and get the help you need.


[1] Samet, S., Waxman, R., Hatzenbuehler, M., & Hasin, D. S. (2007). Assessing Addiction: Concepts and Instruments. Addiction Science & Clinical Practice. Retrieved Nov. 6, 2015 from

[2] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2009). Drug Facts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction. Retrieved Nov. 6, 2015 from

[3] Jaffe, Adi, PhD. (2010). Alcohol, Benzos, and Opiates—Withdrawal That Might Kill You. Psychology Today. Retrieved Nov. 6, 2015 from

[4] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Motivational Enhancement Therapy (Alcohol, Marijuana, Nicotine). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). Retrieved Nov. 6, 2015 from

[5] Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2006). Chapter 3. Intensive Outpatient Treatment and the Continuum of Care. Substance Abuse: Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 47. Retrieved Nov. 6, 2015 from