Last Updated on June 7, 2024 by Dr. Alberto Solà

If someone is seeking treatment for addiction, there are two options: inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment. Both of these types of treatment can be effective, but when choosing between them, there are many factors to consider. Many people wishing to enter recovery from addiction have tried both, and either can be effective – however, neither will be effective if the individual is not ready or willing to do the work. There are pros and cons to either type of treatment, and often, both types will be required for long-term, lasting success.

Are you wondering which type of treatment is best for you or a loved one? Read on to learn more about both options, so you or your loved one can move forward on the best path for you or them.

Understanding Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehab is what most people think of when they think of addiction treatment. Inpatient drug rehab facilities exist in most places in the United States, although they are few and limited in many rural areas – which, unfortunately, are sometimes places that need them the most. When an individual attends inpatient addiction treatment, he or she will live full-time at the addiction center. They will have to move out of their own homes and into treatment. As a result, they will have to find care for their homes, children, or pets if they have them and will have to take a break from their jobs.

In an inpatient rehabilitation center, the patient’s entire day and focus will be on breaking free from addiction. He or she will be surrounded by two groups of people: people who are also working on the same goals and professionals who are there to help them reach those goals, such as doctors, therapists, psychologists, and counselors.

Inpatient rehab can be very effective if one is ready for it and is willing to fully participate in it. Patients or clients in these facilities will have access to group and individual therapy on a very regular basis – usually multiple times a day – and he or she will be completely separated from his or her normal life, triggers, and substances so the focus can remain on breaking free from addiction, getting better, and learning how to live life as a clean and sober person moving forward. 

However, inpatient alcohol rehab or time spent at an inpatient drug rehab center can be very intense. Although many people who spend time at an inpatient addiction treatment center find success, others leave voluntarily before they find that success and return to old habits. Many people who struggle with addiction find that they must enter an inpatient rehab hospital or program numerous times before they truly break free from their active addictions.

Understanding Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient drug rehab is vastly different from inpatient rehab. When someone struggling with addiction opts for outpatient rehabilitation, he or she must voluntarily attend meetings and therapy sessions at a facility in which no one lives. Still, these addiction treatment centers are staffed by professionals who want to help people learn to live a life that is free from alcohol and drug use, and for the right person, outpatient addiction treatment can be very effective.

When someone enrolls in outpatient treatment, they continue on with their regular, everyday lives. They go to work and raise their children and sleep in their own beds at home. They socialize with friends and run errands and so on. It’s likely that you know or work with someone who goes to an outpatient addiction treatment program and don’t even know it.

This upside of outpatient rehab is also a downside, though. Because the individual is only in treatment for a small part of his or her day or week, he or she will need to stay focused on recovery during all of the hours and days outside of the program. He or she may be exposed to triggers or to things like friends offering him or her drugs or alcohol. Because of these temptations and life’s general challenges, some people in outpatient treatment find it difficult to remain clean and sober in the short and long term.

Key Differences Between Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab

The key differences between inpatient and outpatient rehab are vast but obvious. For one, patients stay at the facility all day every day in most cases, often for a 28-day period – but often for much longer if needed. They eat, sleep, socialize, go to therapy, and participate in support groups at the addiction treatment center. Usually, they have little to no contact with the outside world while they direct every bit of their time, energy, and focus on overcoming their addictions.

On the other hand, people who participate in outpatient rehab continue to live their everyday lives for the most part but go to their outpatient treatment center daily or several times a week to participate in groups, meet with therapists and psychologists, and to work on strategies to overcome their addictions. Because outpatient rehab is generally less vigorous, people who choose outpatient treatment as their path will likely attend treatment in this manner over a longer period of time. 

Further, most people who participate in an inpatient treatment program continue their treatment in an outpatient program after their inpatient stay is complete. The combination of the two types of addiction treatment – inpatient treatment followed by ongoing outpatient support – are very helpful for people who are serious about their long-term recovery.

How to Choose Between Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab

Choosing between inpatient and outpatient rehab can be a difficult decision. There’s no one answer, and there’s no way to know for sure which will be better for each individual. Everyone who struggles with addiction is an individual, and their needs and desires vary.

Of course, there are factors that can help make the decision easier. Many people choose outpatient drug rehab centers because they are unable to take a complete break from their busy lives. They need to care for their children and go to work. Outpatient addiction treatment can fit into anyone’s schedule and may be the only viable option for some.

Also, inpatient rehab can be very expensive. Although some programs are covered by insurance, and some are subsidized by local, state, or federal government programs, it can be difficult to find a spot in an inpatient addiction treatment center that is affordable for most. This is another reason that some people choose outpatient rehab over inpatient programs.

If you are someone who has been struggling with addiction for a long time, inpatient addiction treatment will probably be the most effective option for you. The focus and intensity of inpatient programs cannot be beaten, and people who really wish to get better often find success in these programs.

There’s nothing wrong with trying both if you are able. The battle to break free from addiction is a long and difficult one, and the more help you get along the way, the better.

Clear Sky Ibogaine

Clear Sky Recovery is a short-term residential program and we are standing by to help people break free from their addictions so they can move forward on a life focused on recovery. Our innovative ibogaine treatment helps our clients get to the root of their addiction; once they end their active addiction with us, the work can continue on an outpatient basis. If you are interested in learning more about our methods, our staff, or our facility in Cancun, Mexico, please give us a call. We can’t wait to hear from you.