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If you’re considering seeking treatment for substance abuse, it’s helpful to know how therapy is structured so you can select the option that’s best for you. Your primary choice will be between inpatient vs. outpatient treatment options.

Inpatient Treatment

Being a resident in an inpatient recovery program means that you are living full-time at a residential center for the duration of your treatment. Your stay at an inpatient facility can last anywhere from 30 to 90 days or more. You can readily take part in on-site services, such as group and individual counseling and medication assistance.

As a residential patient, you will be helped through the detox process if necessary, with medications and other treatments to help alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal. Inpatient clients receive 24-hour care and supervision.

In a residential treatment environment, you will be living with other people who are going through issues like your own. Being surrounded by others who understand what you’re going through can reduce the experience of stigma and judgment from those who may not understand the disease of addiction.

You will also be separated from family, friends, school and your job, so opting for inpatient vs. outpatient treatment means that you will lose most of your access to the outside world. However, you will be living in a sober, stable atmosphere with decreased or nonexistent exposure to stressors and triggers and a reduced risk of relapse.

Outpatient Treatment

When deciding whether to opt for inpatient vs. outpatient treatment, consider that outpatient therapy is more suitable for those who cannot take a leave of absence from a job or family obligations to live in a residential facility. Outpatient treatment involves going to a treatment center for a few hours a day for therapy sessions.

Intensive outpatient programs are an excellent option for those who do not need around-the-clock support to achieve and maintain sobriety. You can remain living at home and schedule treatment sessions that fit your schedule.

Intensive outpatient treatment programs can be similar in effectiveness to inpatient treatment types.1 Counseling and group therapy sessions are available to outpatient clients, as is ongoing support to maintain recovery and prevent relapse.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Treatment Differences

Outpatient treatment for substance abuse can be more affordable.2 When compared with residential facilities, consider that as an outpatient you are not paying for room and board, which increases the cost of treatment.

The length of therapy overall can be similar in terms of the number of weeks or months spent in inpatient vs. outpatient treatment.

When deciding between inpatient vs. outpatient treatment, if you suffer from a mild to moderate substance disorder, you may benefit greatly from seeking outpatient therapy. This is especially true if you have ongoing responsibilities to attend to at home or work. When participating in outpatient therapy, you will have the opportunity to rehearse the relapse prevention techniques you learn during treatment while living in the real world.

Regardless of which therapy option you choose, addiction treatment can change your life for the better.


  1. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Elizabeth_Evans14/publication/8476768_Relationship_Between_Drug_Treatment_Services_Retention_and_Outcomes/links/00b4953bafa131702a000000/Relationship-Between-Drug-Treatment-Services-Retention-and-Outcomes.pdf
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360883/
Inpatient vs. Outpatient Treatment: What Are the Differences?
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