Detailed Pros and Cons of Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment- What Should You Chose?

Detailed Pros and Cons of Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment- What should you chose?

One of the first steps towards recovering from drug or alcohol abuse is making a choice. Unless and until you decide to make a change in your life, you will be unable to drag yourself out from the deep pit of addiction. However, you must remember, recovery is a process and will follow its own course. In order to make this course successful, there are a number of rehab programs that will hold your hand and take you out of darkness into light. There are a number of treatments available for treatment of substance addictions. These treatments, include various therapies, detox programs and counseling sessions.

Usually treatment of addiction is a long process and apart from detox programs it includes rehabilitation of the addict, so that he or she again functions as a functional member of the society.  Mainly there are two types of treatment procedures: inpatient rehab and outpatient rehab.

After assessing the needs and the severity of the condition, best suited treatment plan is decided. Both these plans help in getting rid of substance abuse habit and enables the patient to get back to life. These programs are also try to make sure that you do not slip back into using addictive substance again after recovery.

You must remember that both treatment options are equally beneficial. Choosing one out of other will only depend on your situation.


Here, we have compared both treatment facilities so that you understand how and why a particular care plan is suggested for you.

What is Inpatient Treatment?

In inpatient treatment facility, the patient is kept at a live-in facility where 24-hour care is provided to him. This treatment care includes both physical as well as psychiatric health assistance. In most of the cases, patients stay at the inpatient care facility for several months at a stretch. Before this treatment option is made available to a patient, a number of assessments are made.

One of the differences between inpatient and outpatient treatment facility is the amount of attention that is paid on a patient. Patients who are in inpatient treatment facility are given constant medical attention. Along with it, detoxification facility is also made available to the patients at such facilities.

If a person has an eating disorder, it will be beneficial to admit him in an eating disorder residential program where all the positive and negative effects of the treatment plan will be assessed. If it is observed that the health of the person is deteriorating, his treatment plan can be altered according to the needs of the person.

These programs typically last for a minimum of 28 days. Patients voluntarily enter a secure and safe facility in which de-addiction is the goal of the patient and all those around him.

Often people who have already been treated in different outpatient treatment plans but have relapsed are suggested inpatient treatment plan. [1]

Those patients who require detoxification due to the dangers of withdrawal symptoms are admitted in an inpatient program. Detox programs are an essential part of the inpatient programs and require constant monitoring. After detox, the patient is put on a treatment regime in which medicines are given for supporting the process of deaddiction in an immersive and supportive environment.

Inpatient treatment programs give a safe and structured environment in which patients are kept away from stressed environments that increase the urge to use drugs.  Since negatively influencing factors are no longer present in the patient’s environment, he can focus on rebuilding his life that has been ripped from him due to addiction.

Many inpatient treatment plans promote family participation and focus on educating the family as a part of the treatment plan. Along with this, the patients benefit from the therapeutic community that works together to build a support system for everyone involved. Along with the intensive treatment regimen, patients benefit from empathy and shared experience provided by these support groups.

This treatment plan is more effective as it offers a very detailed and structured atmosphere where the patient forgets the distractions of life and can easily focus on getting better and moving on in life. Some of the popular addictions for which inpatient facilities are made available are as follows:


  • Intensive care
  • Help from therapeutic community
  • Continuous monitoring
  • Destressed environment, away from trigger factors
  • Higher success rate
  • Provision for detoxification


  • Expensive
  • Lack of privacy and anonymity
  • Cannot hide your treatment from the society
  • Not feasible for people who have families to support or need to go for work or to school

What is Inpatient Treatment?

What is Outpatient Treatment?

Outpatient treatment is a type of care that is useful for people who need to continue school or work. Only after completely assessing the needs of the patient, he is suggested outpatient treatment facility. However, the patient is supposed to come to the facility for a few hours a couple of times every week. These programs give patients more freedom to move around while continuing their treatment.  Since the patients are free to go home after their session, these patients enjoy a lot of privacy and anonymity. They do not need to explain their prolonged absence to their social circle and extended family members.


However, these patients do not get the safe and destressed environment which can help them in leaving their habits of abuse behind. After the session, patients return to their negative environments that motivates them to use drugs and other substances of abuse. Here, it is important that the patient exercises a strong will power to stay away from substances that he is addicted to.

However, the advantage offered by an outpatient program is that the patient gets support from immediate family and close friends. For this to happen, outpatient programs have family therapy sessions in which they are told how to be supportive to the patient. People in outpatient treatment plans are made to join support groups and group therapy for   adding a positive element in the patient’s life for facilitating long term recovery process. [2]

A more involved outpatient treatment plan might involve both individual and family therapy programs along with a specialized therapy like music or art.

Outpatient treatment, unlike inpatient treatment, does not often address nutritional needs and medical conditions. One of the advantages with inpatient treatment facility is that everything is provided at one location. Outpatient treatment plan might be preferred by people due to its flexibility. Adults who have children cannot afford to leave their families and register in an inpatient facility. It is also favored by people whose insurance does not cover inpatient treatment care. Outpatient treatment plan can be a very good option for such people.


  • Flexible
  • Less expensive
  • More privacy
  • Anonymity
  • Patients can continue working, study and look after their families


  • A lot of dedication and strong will required
  • Lack of supportive environment
  • No address to other conditions that might lead to addiction
  • Cannot undergo detoxification
  • Low success rate
  • Relapse rate high

What is Outpatient Treatment

Which is best for you?

You and your counseling or medical team are best equipped to determine which treatment program will be ideal for you. You need to be honest with yourself about how much dedicated you can be if you are enrolled in an outpatient program. You need to assess whether the stresses from daily life, acquaintances, friends and lack of social support in your journey will be an issue in your treatment journey. [3]

If you are still stuck, here are a few questions that you can ask yourself before making the decision:

How much can you afford to spend?

Outpatient treatment is less expensive than inpatient treatment plan since housing is not provided and there are lesser therapy sessions.

How much can you afford to spend?

Are you willing to put in the extra work required of outpatient treatment?

When you are put in an outpatient treatment plan, you are not under constant supervision and live at home. Those people who are a high risk of sipping back into old habits of abusing drugs, especially in the early days of treatment should prefer opting for inpatient treatment facility.

If you attend inpatient treatment, what support will you be given when you leave?

If you opt for an inpatient treatment plan, you must inquire about the facilities that will be provided to you. Treatment plans, number of therapy sessions and all the other information should be clear. Also, you must be aware of the follow up care that will be provided to you after you leave the facility so as to avoid a relapse.

Is your condition severe?

If your condition is severe, outpatient treatment plan might not be an option for you. This is because these people will require special care and continuous medical monitoring that cannot be provided at home.

While deciding your treatment plan, talk to your counselor about your personal circumstances so that the best decision can be taken for you. Although both treatment plans are life altering in nature and will have huge impact on your life, but you need to decide which will be best for you.