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Outpatient vs. Inpatient Programs: Which Should You Choose?

Deciding to pursue recovery is a huge accomplishment, but it’s only the first step in a long healing process. Recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) takes time, commitment, and support from many external sources. You can’t do it alone.

To achieve sobriety, you’ll need to enter a rehabilitation program. These programs can guide you through an established process of detoxing, therapeutic treatments, and learning to lead a sober life. They’ll provide help through doctors, mental health professionals, and peer support.

There are many different recovery programs, which may feel overwhelming when you first start your search. Every treatment center has different specialties and programs. It’s crucial to pick one that’s best suited to your needs. 

What Does Outpatient vs. Inpatient Mean?

The two major types of recovery programs are outpatient and inpatient. The first choice you’ll need to make is which type you want to attend.

The main difference between outpatient and inpatient is where you live while undergoing treatment:

  • Outpatient programs – Generally considered less restrictive, outpatient programs let you live at home during treatment. You’ll still commit significant time to your treatment, but you can continue working and living as you normally would.
  • Inpatient programs – More intensive in structure, inpatient programs require you to live on-site at the rehabilitation center for the duration of your treatment. They provide around-the-clock support but will require you to take leave from work if applicable.

Read on for an in-depth comparison of both types of programs to determine which makes the most sense for you.

What Are Outpatient Programs?

Outpatient programs allow you to continue your regular activities while attending treatment. Typically, you’ll live at home and travel to the program’s physical location for treatment multiple times a week, though it depends on the program.

There are multiple levels of care in outpatient programs:

  • Partial hospitalization programming (PHP) – Outpatient programs that utilize PHP will start out with residential treatment. You’ll live on-site and receive treatment for around 5 to 6 hours a day, 5 to 6 days a week. After some time, you’ll move to a less intensive level of care.
  • Intensive outpatient programming (IOP) – IOP is a non-residential level of care. Some programs may start you out this way or move you to this stage after a period in PHP. You’ll live at home and attend treatment for around 3 hours a day, 3 to 4 days a week. You’ll be able to continue working and tending to family duties if needed, but you’ll need to fully commit to your treatment sessions to be successful.
  • Outpatient detox – It is possible, though not always recommended, to detox at home and attend treatment fewer times a week. You might receive treatment or medical advice from a clinician at a hospital or other medical facility. 

Outpatient programs may be appropriate for people with a robust support system or those experiencing only mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms. If you feel you need a higher level of supervision and care, outpatient may not be the best choice for you.

What Are Inpatient Programs?

Inpatient programs involve living on-site at a residential center to receive treatment. They are more intensive than outpatient programs, provide 24/7 supervision, and may be better equipped for severe SUDs.

A typical inpatient program lasts 1 to 6 months, depending on your needs. You’ll take time off work and away from family and friends to attend high-touch treatment. Here’s what to expect from daily life in an inpatient recovery program:

  • Medically assisted detox – The first stage of your program will involve detoxing or ending your substance use habit. Many inpatient programs employ doctors who can prescribe medication to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. This stage may last for a few days or over a week.
  • Individual therapy – You’ll see a mental health counselor regularly throughout your program. They’ll help you process what you’ve gone through and build resilience for the future.
  • Support groups – Support groups are a vital element of any recovery journey. Your inpatient program will connect you with a support group of people going through a similar experience. You’ll usually be able to attend the support group even after the inpatient portion of your program has ended.
  • Return to life preparation – Your inpatient program will help you prepare for re-entering the world. It’ll teach you healthy coping mechanisms and offer resources you can turn to in the future.

Inpatient programs are appropriate when you need significant support throughout and after detox. The higher level of care you receive, the less likely you are to relapse.

Choosing Between Inpatient and Outpatient Programs

Both inpatient and outpatient programs have advantages and disadvantages. Exploring their benefits and downsides can help you decide which is best for your needs.

Benefits of Inpatient Programs Downsides to Inpatient Programs Benefits of Outpatient Programs Downsides to Outpatient Programs
24/7 supervision Required to take time off work or away from family Allows flexibility with life and commitments Less access to support
Medically assisted detox Higher cost More affordable than inpatient programs More likely to slip into old habits or routines
Access to doctors, mental health professionals, and peer support at all times Involves a transition period back to real life Insurance more likely to cover outpatient treatment Detoxing and withdrawal may be more difficult
Structured daily routine   Access to treatment on your schedule Less accountability
Support for severe withdrawal symptoms and cravings   Ideal for less severe withdrawal  

While both inpatient and outpatient programs have their ups and downs, only you can decide which one is appropriate for your situation. Explore your local recovery programs and ask questions about what they offer. 

Ultimately, either choice is excellent. It means you’re seeking help and ready to recover. No matter which program you pick, you’re making a positive decision for your health.

Ready to Recover? Start Your Journey Today

If you’ve done your research and selected your preferred program option, it’s time to take the next step. Jackson House Addiction Recovery and Treatment Centers have both inpatient and outpatient programs. We’re here to support, guide, and encourage you throughout the recovery process.

You deserve everything that a sober life can give you. Choose recovery and reach out to start your journey today.

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