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How to Choose Between Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab

  1. When you finally decide to get drug-recovery help, your next hurdle is to choose between inpatient and outpatient rehab. These are the two substance recovery programs you can get. Both are beneficial, but you can’t possibly engage both at the same time.

Inpatient and outpatient rehab have different treatment approaches. However, they both start with the same process of detoxification.

The differences between inpatient and outpatient rehab don’t mean that one is better than the other. In fact, in several cases, you have no choice but to adhere to a therapist’s recommendation.

This recommendation, most times, reflects your needs and the severity of your addiction problem. The content of this page, however, is for you if you are at liberty to make a choice.

In other words, your doctor’s outright prescription supersedes the decision-making that this article aims to help you through. Only your situation and your doctor will determine which is best between inpatient and outpatient rehab for you. This blog post will explore the differences between the two, and help you realize the best option.

Everything to know about Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehabilitation is just as the name suggests. It is a treatment whereby the patient resides in the facility till the drug rehab is complete. Hence, through the duration of the drug (substance) recovery treatment, the patient will not go back home.

This, just like outpatient rehab, has several upsides and downsides. First, we will take a look at everything inpatient treatment entails.

What does Inpatient Rehab Entail?

When it’s time to choose between inpatient and outpatient rehab, you may get overwhelmed. This occurs frequently when, probably, the doctor tells you inpatient treatment is best for you.

There is no need to be scared. Inpatient rehab loosely translates to residential treatment. It requires you to check-in and remain in the facility throughout treatment. This way, you get unlimited all-day access to medical and emotional support.

Inpatient rehab is mainly for you if your drug problem is severe. It also becomes critical to take this treatment form if your addiction elicits mental issues. This form of treatment offers a better-controlled environment, where temptations and triggers are greatly reduced.

Hence, if you follow the rules and have your resolve, you can overcome your addiction without any relapses along the way. Of course, the recovery process is not going to be linear all through. However, the inpatient program makes your recovery as linear as possible. Your streak has a better chance of not stalling in this environment.

Also, the staff of an inpatient facility is usually deliberate about the health of the environment. They work to make sure the environment is right for you, to help you get rid of the addiction problem.

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Why does the environment count during in-patient rehab?

According to research, the environment plays an active role in the development of addiction. This is why it is necessary that even when you complete your inpatient program, family and friends need to go the extra mile to keep your primary home (space) as clean and devoid of triggers, as possible.

Addiction recovery services that look to offer inpatient programs also need licensing. This allows them to perform 24-hour support and intensive care. Generally, inpatient rehab facilities leverage a three-phase recovery program. The program begins with detox, then reflection, and finally, growth. These facilities have the primary focus of helping you come back to a natural lifestyle.

According to Research Gate, the duration of these programs depends has several influencing factors. For some people, a duration of 30 days is enough to get them back to normalcy. However, for some persons, it can extend well beyond 90 days. Only an addiction recovery expert gets to decide how long your inpatient program will be, based on diagnosis and observation.

Earlier, we established that it is important to have a healthy environment to go back to post-inpatient-rehab. The reality is that it is near-impossible for your family support to replicate the kind of conditions in treatment facilities. These facilities have dedicated individuals keeping everywhere clean and healthy. At home, your family, friends and you, have jobs to work, and other responsibilities.

For this reason, most addiction recovery centers have a step-down after-care treatment approach. This occurs towards the end of your recovery. It aims to help you transition back to the community. This is not a direct switch back to normal life. Instead, you are handed over to individuals or groups outside the facility to keep up with your recovery.

Timeline for inpatient rehab

Now, there are two types of inpatient facilities. The difference between these two types is “duration.” Some facilities allow only short-term stays for patients. This is usually between three to six weeks. Other facilities allow patients that need to stay for between six months to one year.

Whatever length of time you are staying at the facility, the detox process marks the commencement of your treatment. Detoxification is the process of getting elements of the abused substance out of your body. This process helps you have a less painful withdrawal process.

Once detoxification is complete, the facility focuses on helping you get stable. This is followed by withdrawal, then the development of coping skills, counselling, therapy, and continuous education.

How to prepare for Inpatient Rehab

Whichever you choose between inpatient and outpatient rehab, preparation is vital. Though slightly different in the two cases, preparation for rehab is premised on putting things in order. For inpatient treatment, you will be gone for a while.

Hence, you need to prepare for the longer-term (because treatment can extend beyond the initial proposed treatment time). Here is a breakdown of how you can efficiently prepare for your inpatient treatment program.

  • Your necessities: You shouldn’t pack too heavy as you get into rehab. Your baggage should only include toiletries, comfortable clothing, and a couple of entertainment props. Your life in the rehab center will be as minimalistic as possible. Hence, you don’t need to pack as though you are going camping. The amenities and features of inpatient rehab are sufficient for your staying period.
  • Inform your workplace: Another important aspect of preparation is communicating with your place of work. You can’t just disappear into thin air. Though talking to the company may not guarantee your job when you are back, it’s the right thing to do.
  • Sort your family financially: If you are the breadwinner in your family, you shouldn’t leave them out to dry. Though, in this case, outpatient rehab may be best. But if your situation is chronic and in-house treatment is a must, then sort finances for your family. Part of your treatment is to be at peace mentally. You’ll probably not achieve this if you are worried about how your children are faring. Take them to someone you can trust, and put enough money in the bank for when you leave for rehab.
  • Find out what the facility has to offer: This is a basic need. You should do your due diligence by knowing what to expect from the treatment facility.

How to enjoy family support in inpatient rehab

Support is a major part of rehabilitation. Even though the primary support of inpatient treatment is the staff of the facility, family support is critical. Frequent contact with family, either via calls or in person, provides a huge psychological and emotional boost for addiction recovery.

However, you should note that inpatient addiction rehab facilities have different communication policies between patients and families. You may want to find out more before checking in either yourself or the family member going to rehab.

Also, some facilities offer to counsel the family of patients. It is advisable that you – the family of the patient – take this class. It helps to understand how you can better aid the recovery of your family member. Unsuspecting family members can encourage triggers, which may cause relapse in the patient.

What does daily life during inpatient rehab look like?

When you choose between inpatient and outpatient rehab, you are certainly forgoing some alternatives. One of the alternatives you forgo is normal daily living as you know it. Once the inpatient treatment starts, your movement suffers restriction. This way, you’ll be able to focus on getting sober and free, on time.

The typical daily activity of the inpatient program is scheduling and accountability. There is always a recovery-focused activity for every one of your waking hours. Frequently, counsellors, psychologists, and psychiatrists have meetings with patients. These meetings can be individual or in groups. These meetings also serve as a guide to faster recovery.

During the first few days of detox, the specialists monitor the patient. During this process, patients are known to have severe cravings. At this stage, constant medical care is critical, to prevent relapse. There is also the administration of medication to manage the effect of detox and withdrawal.

The treatment process in inpatient programs is always personalized. This is because individual brains react differently to the presence of addictive substances. The withdrawal process, in response, always has varying symptoms for individuals. But, generally, it’s not an easy process. This is why patients need all the support they can get. Medical attention is enough to be the deciding factor for better inpatient vs. outpatient rehab.

Related Article: How Long Does Addiction Treatment Take?

What is the cost of Inpatient Rehab?

Primarily, the cost of inpatient rehab – and outpatient rehab – vary from one facility to another. Several factors influence this pricing. Some of these factors include; location, amenities, duration of stay, etc.

For some inpatient rehabs, the cost can be anywhere between $6000 and $30,000. However, reputable, luxury inpatient rehab centers can be about $20000 for 30 days. The major difference in this pricing range is the amenities available to patients. Hence, before you choose between inpatient and outpatient rehab, you should research the specific pricing of the facility in question.

If your stay will extend to about 60 or 90 days, the cost will average between $12,000 and $60,000. Whatever price point your treatment may be, in most inpatient treatment centers, it already includes the cost of detoxification.

Benefits of Inpatient Rehabilitation

The following are the advantages that inpatient rehabilitation centers offer.

  • You enjoy a stable, healthy, and sober environment
  • You get access to round-the-clock medical and psychological attention
  • There is a reduction in the risk of relapse
  • You have all-day access to a support group of specialists and fellow patients
  • There is a reduction in your exposure to triggers
  • You get an ample amount of therapy
  • You enjoy special treatment services, which may, however, add to the overall cost
  • There is a higher probability of fast recovery.

Remember that inpatient recovery solutions are best for you if you have a severe addiction issue. It may cost more than outpatient treatments, but it’s worth it.

Disadvantages of inpatient rehabilitation

While mulling over the question of “is inpatient rehab right for me?”, consider these downsides.

  • You don’t get access to the outside world. This technically stalls your life activities. Business, education, relationships; you have to put them on hold.
  • Your finances will take a hit, as you are not actively working.
  • The cost of treatment can be on the high side, though necessary for severe addiction cases.

The bottom-line to inpatient treatment is that there is a stage you get to and it becomes necessary. No matter how difficult and inconvenient it may seem to your daily life, you should go through with it.

Everything You Need to Know about Outpatient Rehab

In the inpatient or outpatient rehab for addiction recovery debate, the latter has its benefits. The outpatient treatment is less restrictive, unlike the inpatient recovery treatment. Doctors prescribe this treatment for patients who suffer from mild addiction.

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Outpatient Detox Program

This is the form of addiction treatment where you don’t have to reside in the facility. You can stay in your home and come in for treatment per appointment with your doctor. Per week, this type of treatment amounts to about 10 to 12 hours.

The main focus of these sessions is education on drug abuse. Specialists achieve this either in individual or group counselling sessions. The teachings help people better understand how to cope without their substances.

The second scenario where outpatient rehab is key is for long-term addiction treatment. Due to the brevity of each session, outpatient programs last anywhere between 3 to 6 months. While this is somewhat similar to what you sometimes have in inpatient rehab, it is different. Inpatient rehabs treat folks with a severe addiction in that time frame. On the other hand, outpatient addiction rehab is for mild addictions. There are also cases where the outpatient rehab sessions extend to about a year.

Since the patients are those with mild drug addiction issues, detox is always easier. Here, the detox is for the mild withdrawal symptoms they experience. Hence, an outpatient detox program is always faster than inpatient detox.

Though, during the detox process, it is better than the patient spends slightly more time at the facility. This aids effective monitoring and response. Also, since detox always calls for the prescription of medication, doctors administer that on-site. This is because symptoms from the withdrawal process include; increased heart rate, anxiety, and depression.

Social support during Outpatient Rehab

When the latter is what you choose between inpatient and outpatient rehab, you need to be careful. You get to go home. Hence, you are exposed to family and friends. Then, there are intermittent meetings with the specialist. This meeting can be early in the morning, or later in the evening.

One common social tool that’s used to aid outpatient treatment is the twelve-step groups. Some of these groups are Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The AA started in 1935 in Ohio and currently has about 2 million members across the world. The community has about a hundred and thirty recovery programs that are premised on the original 12 steps that Wilson and Smith put forward.

The success rate statistics show just how efficient this community is. These various programs have seen AA enjoy a 50% success rate in members. Another 25% of its members suffer relapse but find their way back.

As we said earlier, outpatient treatments are generally less costly than inpatient. The 24-hour medical care available to inpatients, alongside psychotherapy, accounts for this cost difference. Be aware that cost difference shouldn’t factor in your reason to choose between inpatient and outpatient rehab. You should solely base that decision on the severity of your addiction.

What is the cost of Outpatient Rehab?

Outpatient treatments are generally less costly than inpatient treatments. Though, depending on how long the treatment continues, the range can overlap. Outpatient rehab programs are about $5000 for a three-month program.

Though, this depends on the treatment facility you are at. With top facilities, the price can climb to about $10,000. One major determinant of price in outpatient treatments is the frequency of your consultations.

Why you should consider outpatient rehab

An expert should be the one to recommend this treatment, depending on how deep in the addiction you are. Outside these, however, there are other reasons why outpatient treatment is a good idea.

  • You don’t get to put your whole life on hold to get the treatment. This way, you can continue to fend for your family while you get treatment. This is particularly advantageous when there’s no one you can commit your family to. However, you’ll also need your family to reciprocate by providing you with the best support they can.
  •  The cost is generally lower, but can also pile up if there is an extension. Hence, be sure that you are going according to plan, and not relapsing. Relapse makes the recovery process longer.
  • You get to choose what works for you. This is possible because your addiction condition is mild. You can choose between any of the programs available. Especially if you are in a support system like the AA, you don’t have to go through the 130 programs they have. Choose what works best for you and your schedule.
  • You can choose your appointment at any time of the day. This degree of flexibility is important.
  • Some outpatient facilities can also treat mental complications. E.g. eating disorder, post-traumatic stress, depression, bipolar disorder, etc.

Outpatient treatments may not be as intensive as inpatient treatments. But if you do it right, you’ll enjoy the effectiveness of it in your addiction recovery journey.

Why you should not consider outpatient rehab

Before you choose between inpatient and outpatient rehab, there are also some downsides to note.

  • It’s difficult to avoid temptations and triggers. In this system, you don’t get the 24-hours support you get with inpatient treatments. Also, the environment is not controlled. Hence, you can’t avoid temptations and triggers even if you wanted to.
  • You may not be able to show up to group sessions unaided. As much as it sounds easy that you can. The inertia is always great. It is hard work to show up for group sessions, and the truth is, the success lies in these sessions.

Hence, if your addiction is chronic, or you see that the outpatient program is not working, you should make a switch.

How to Choose Between Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab

The decision to choose between inpatient and outpatient rehab is not up to you. First, you need to visit an expert, who will listen to you, and make a diagnosis. Post consultation, the expert will be able to determine the severity of your addiction. The severity automatically determines which of these treatments is right for you.

For mild to moderate addiction, it’s best to take the outpatient treatment route. This is different for chronic addicts that need intense withdrawal and close-up monitoring.

However, in the case where you have a choice, you should consider the various factors we have talked about for the different treatment approaches. Know what you are gaining and losing with the treatments, to inform your decision. Whichever you decide, seek further advice from your doctor.

Related Article: Holistic Addiction Treatment: Is it Effective?

Final Take

Having to choose between inpatient and outpatient rehab is not easy — especially if you are new to the whole concept of addiction treatment. You should do your due diligence during research.

Ask questions from your doctor and talk to people around you. With addiction, it’s near impossible to overcome it yourself. You also need massive support from professionals, family, and friends. Good luck!


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