Addiction is a powerful disease that typically requires professional treatment to overcome. Generally, there are two types of addiction treatment: inpatient and outpatient. Inpatient rehab is where a client resides 24 hours a day in a supportive therapeutic environment for a usual minimum of 28 days. Outpatient rehab is where clients attend treatment daily or weekly, but return to their own home each day. Both types of treatment can be highly effective, but understanding the differences and speaking to an addiction specialist is necessary in order to decide which is right for you.

inpatient vs outpatient rehab

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Treatment: What is the Difference?

Both inpatient and outpatient rehab facilities offer a dedicated treatment approach to addiction recovery that includes a combination of group and individual counselling aimed at addressing underlying psychological issues, learning about the disease of addiction, and creating new life skills and a sober support network.

Many types of therapies are employed in both inpatient and outpatient rehab, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, family therapy, and mindfulness-based CBT. These therapies are often integrated with a modified 12 Steps programme — the acclaimed approach used in community AA and NA groups.

But while outpatient and inpatient rehabs have many similarities, they also have many differences. To properly understand what those are, it is best take a look at the key characteristics of each type of addiction treatment centre and compare.

Benefits of Inpatient Rehab:

  • Residential facilities

    When attending an inpatient rehab centre, clients are required to reside within the treatment centre 24 hours a day. This safe and supportive environment removes people from their using environment, away from triggers that have been fuelling their addiction.

  • 24-hour medical care

    Inpatient rehabs are equipped with medical professionals who monitor withdrawal symptoms and provide medication management when necessary. Withdrawal symptoms occur when people suddenly stop using a drug they have become physically addicted to. Withdrawal from long-term use of some drugs such as opiates and alcohol can be life-threatening and require medical attention — which is when inpatient treatment is absolutely necessary.

  • Intensive therapeutic programmes

    In residential treatment, all daily activities are focused on recovery from addiction. This includes daily group therapy work where clients learn from one another about how their personalities and lifestyles have led to addictive behaviours, and support one another in focusing on the strengths each person possesses. One-on-one sessions with an addiction counsellor allow clients to do more work processing inner emotions and external factors contributing to addiction. Clients are also introduced to and practise sober activities that can be continued after rehab such as journaling, exercise and meditation practice. These therapeutic programmes are integrative and individually tailored to address the complex disease of addiction.

Benefits of Outpatient Rehab:

  • Group and individual therapy

    Similar to the therapeutic programme within inpatient treatment, both group and individual therapy are important and central focuses of outpatient treatment. Through these therapies clients support one another, learn about their disease and what skills they need to manage it, and do in-depth emotional work with experienced counsellors.

  • Flexibility

    Outpatient treatment centres offer clients more flexibility as they do not have to reside at the centre, but attend intensive therapeutic sessions and then return home. Outpatient rehabs generally offer treatment at convenient times and locations so clients can uphold work and home responsibilities while entering treatment. In this way clients do not have to take (or explain) long absences from work or home.

Who Benefits from Outpatient Rehab?

For many addicts, especially high-functioning addicts who have not yet “lost it all”, outpatient rehab is a great option. Clients are able to receive intensive care, but at the same time can usually attend to work and family responsibilities. Outpatient rehab provides many of the same benefits as inpatient treatment, while offering the clients more freedom. Because clients return home each day after attending group or counselling, this type of treatment does require more diligence on the client’s part to abstain from their addictive drug or behaviour.

Often, outpatient treatment is the first course of action for individuals who are struggling with addiction. Outpatient rehabilitation services provide emotional support, education about the disease of addiction, cognitive-behavioural or other therapies, support groups and assistance in building the life skills necessary to enter long-term recovery. Family therapy is also often a focus of both outpatient and residential rehabs.

When is Inpatient Treatment most Suitable?

There are some situations where inpatient rehab is more suitable than outpatient rehab (and sometimes the only real option). When drug or alcohol use has been extensive over many years, withdrawal symptoms can be severe. The first step of drug or alcohol rehab is detoxification and if this process is medically concerning, then attending an inpatient treatment centre is necessary. Having medical and counselling support through this process and then immediately entering an intensive therapeutic programme within a safe residential space can be highly effective.

Some addicts have tried and failed many times to get sober. If you have already attempted outpatient treatment several times without success, then the more structured and intensive treatment provided within inpatient programmes may be required. For those addicts who have completely hit ‘rock bottom’, or who want a more comprehensive and intensive therapeutic programme to battle their addiction, inpatient rehabilitation can also be the first (and best) choice.

What is Right for You?

There are benefits to both inpatient and outpatient rehab, which have been listed above. However, each addict’s case is different, and it is imperative that you work with a qualified addiction counsellor or medical professional to determine which level of treatment is best for you.

At The Cabin Hong Kong outpatient rehab clinic, we can provide an initial assessment. If necessary or desirable, clients will be referred to our acclaimed residential addiction treatment centre The Cabin Chiang Mai.

Recovery is the greatest gift you can give yourself, but deciding between residential and outpatient rehab can be difficult on your own. We can help you determine which type of rehab is right for you, depending on your lifestyle and addiction history. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, contact our team today.