Inpatient rehab requires staying in a rehab facility, and outpatient rehab is done while living at home. Both are powerful tools to help you change your relationship with addictive behavior.

For many people, participating in a rehab program is an important step in their addiction recovery. Inpatient and outpatient recovery are two different models that can help people get started.

Inpatient rehab is a supportive environment where you can get 24/7 care as you detox. Outpatient rehab is a more flexible program you can attend part-time, often without missing work and other obligations.

The right option for you depends on your situation. Let’s look deeper at the differences between them.

The most important difference between outpatient and inpatient rehab is that inpatient rehab is an around-the-clock program that requires staying in the rehab facility overnight.

During an inpatient program, a person’s complete focus is recovery from addiction. Supportive staff is always available to help people during their withdrawal. Inpatient programs offer education, support, and counseling, and they help develop strategies to help manage their recovery.

Outpatient rehab is a day program. People attending outpatient rehab return to their homes in the evenings and overnight.

Outpatient programs are typically less intensive than inpatient programs. They have all the same programs, including education, individual counseling, group counseling, and family counseling, but sessions might be less often and less structured.

Although outpatient rehab programs only take up a few hours a day, they typically last longer than inpatient rehab programs.

While they often contain similar elements, there are many pros and cons to inpatient and outpatient rehab approaches.

Pros of inpatient vs. outpatient rehab

There are benefits to both inpatient and outpatient rehab. Both can be the right choice depending on your life, your situation, and other factors.

Pros of inpatient rehab programs

  • ability to be away from potential temptations and triggers
  • treatment for any mental health conditions that might co-occur with addiction
  • around-the-clock medical and mental health support during detox
  • high level of accountability
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Pros of outpatient rehab programs

  • ability to keep working during treatment
  • ability to keep a flexible schedule
  • less likely you’ll need to travel outside your local area to receive treatment
  • often more affordable
  • online options are available
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Cons of inpatient vs. outpatient rehab

No program can fit every need. Inpatient rehab is not right for everyone, and neither is outpatient rehab. Both types of rehab have drawbacks.

Cons of inpatient rehab programs

  • the need to take time off work or school
  • not always covered by insurance
  • can be high cost
  • might not be a local option
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Cons of outpatient rehab programs

  • less support than inpatient rehab
  • easier to access substances and relapse
  • can be around daily stressors and other triggers and temptations
  • less assistance with mental health management
  • less medical support during detox
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For many people, the cost can be an important factor affecting their choice between inpatient and outpatient rehab. As a rule, inpatient treatment programs cost significantly more.

Inpatient program costs can begin at $2,000 and run as high as $40,000. Insurance might not cover the cost.

Many outpatient treatment programs are designed to be much more affordable. Outpatient programs may have a total cost of less than $1,000, even if you do not have insurance.

The length of stay depends on the person, their needs, and their addiction history. In many cases, inpatient programs are at least 30 days long. However, people with severe addiction or past relapses often benefit from longer stays.

Outpatient programs typically last at least 2 months but can continue for several months if needed.

Sometimes someone will start their recovery journey with a stay at an inpatient recovery facility and then move on to outpatient treatment.

For instance, someone might have 30 days of intense treatment at an inpatient rehab program and then 3 months of treatment at an outpatient program. Longer treatment times are linked to a more successful addiction recovery process.

You’re not alone

Taking the first step on your recovery journey can be overwhelming, but you do not have to do it alone. When you’re ready, there are resources you can turn to for help.

You can reach out to:

  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): SAMSHA offers free services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in both English and Spanish. You can call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to reach their helpline or visit them online for a live chat. Either way, they can help match you with services in your area that will help meet your needs.
  • Smart Recovery: Smart Recovery is an online platform where you can get the tools and support you need to begin your journey and for every step along the way.
  • Women for Sobriety: Women for Sobriety welcomes all women and offers support to those who are on their recovery path from drug or alcohol addiction.
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM): You can use ASAM’s database to find a physician who can help you medically detox and recover.
  • LifeRing: If you’re looking for a support group, either online or in person, LifeRing can help you find one.
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Choosing the right recovery program can help you start your addiction recovery path. This additional support can also help increase the chances of a successful recovery path.

Both inpatient and outpatient recovery offer benefits and drawbacks. The right rehab program for you depends on your situation, addiction history, finances, insurance, and more.

Sometimes people begin treatment by staying at an inpatient program for a few weeks and then continue treatment by attending a few months of outpatient programming.

No matter which program is right for you, rehab is often the right first step on your recovery journey. Rehab programs can help people successfully navigate their addiction recovery and help prevent relapses.