Asana Recovery

Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab - How to Decide

people gathered together at an Inpatient RehabToday, the National Survey on Substance Use and Mental Health indicates that some 43.7 million Americans over the age of 12 need substance use treatment – or rehab. For many of us, going to treatment is a long and complex process, often involving research as we learn what treatment options are available, what they are for, and what kind of treatment we need. Whether you’re looking for yourself or for a loved one, making those choices can be difficult – especially if many of the words and therapy options are new to you.

Choosing between inpatient and outpatient rehab can be one of the first choices you have to make. And, while your admissions advisor will help, it’s important that you be able to make an informed decision.

What’s the Difference Between Inpatient & Outpatient Rehab?

Inpatient and outpatient rehab are exactly what they might sound like:

  • Inpatient – Residential or inpatient care is held on-location and the patient stays on-location at a rehab center or clinic for the full duration of treatment.
  • Outpatient – Outpatient treatment is held on-location but the patient does not stay at the location. Instead, they visit the clinic 1-7 days a week for sessions and go home or to a sober living facility between care.

Of course, differences are more complex than that, as time spent on location impacts your daily life, what treatment you have access to, your exposure to peers, and your exposure to staff.

Why Go to Inpatient Rehab

When most people think about rehab, they picture inpatient care. The classic “28 day” program of the 90s is also inpatient care. Today, rehab is much more versatile, with treatment options ranging from 14 days to over 18 months depending on the type of treatment.

However, all programs have one thing in common – you stay on location at the clinic, enabling 24/7 medical monitoring, constant contact with therapists and counselors, and removal from triggers and potential relapse during the initial recovery period.

Inpatient Care offers:

  • people in recovery during a group therapySober Environment – Choosing to stay in a rehab program means that you can ensure that you are living away from exposure to drugs and alcohol. Anyone who goes into the rehab is checked for contraband. In addition, patients are not allowed to leave on their own – which means you’ll have no access to drugs and alcohol for the treatment period. For longer treatment programs, like a 90-day residential stay, that can help patients through most of the early stages of recovery without the risk of relapse.
  • Personalized Treatment – Daily exposure to therapists and counselors means you’ll have more one-on-one time with those experts. This enables them to better-customize your treatment plan and to adapt it as you move through the program. Most outpatient programs will try customization as well, but with less direct access to you, they have fewer opportunities to do so.
  • Activities – Inpatient rehab programs almost always include a range of activities in between therapy. This often involves complementary therapies such as exercise, nutritional therapy, music therapy, meditation, etc. It may also involve hiking, swimming, painting, or other activities to relax, get to know your peers, and to enjoy being around them. Often, part of residential treatment is to help you to relax, recover, and focus on treatment.
  • Access to Peers – Most residential treatment programs require social living and communal dining. This means you’ll be sharing a room with someone. You’ll also eat together, wake up at the same time, exercise together, and otherwise go to therapy and treatment together. That social setting gives you room to better understand how addiction affects others, how your programs come from addiction, and to be able to learn how to share about addiction with your peers. You will get some of that in an outpatient setting, but without living and dining together, you will miss most of the non-therapy contact.

You may also get:

  • Pet care
  • Family care
  • Relaxation and amenities
  • A detox clinic on-site
  • Prescription medication

Of course, these options vary significantly from treatment center to treatment center. So, it’s always a good idea to specifically ask what’s included in inpatient care at your facility.

Get Your Questions Answered


  • Stepping away from triggers and stress
  • Medical detox is normally available
  • Child-care and pet-care are often available
  • Days are planned to maximize the effectiveness of treatment
  • Customized programs


  • More expensive than outpatient care
  • Adapting to life outside of treatment when you leave
  • Taking 30-90 days off of work

Why Go to Outpatient Rehab

man thinking about the pros and cons of inpatient rehabOutpatient rehab normally involves staying at home or in a nearby sober living facility while going to treatment. Here, you’ll normally receive 12+ weeks of daily or 5 days per week sessions. These sessions are either during the day (9 AM to 3 PM) or at night (6 PM to 10 PM) but usually designed to allow you to either attend while children are at school or after you get off work.

That makes this treatment option more accessible if you can’t get away from responsibilities for the duration of treatment or, for example, if you can’t afford a leave from work.

With outpatient treatment, you attend therapy at a clinic or facility, which typically involves going to that facility 5 or more days per week for the full duration of the program. In addition, it includes everything from inpatient care but normally minus the amenities, social living, and close supervision and customization of inpatient programs.

  • Accessibility – Outpatient programs allow you to go to work, school, or take care of family while you go to rehab. That can make it significantly harder to focus on rehab. However, it does mean you won’t have to put your life on hold while getting treatment, which can make that treatment much more accessible.
  • Intensive Programs – Outpatient rehab varies significantly and many offer programs where you receive an intensive program of therapy in 3–4-hour blocks per day – rather than spread out across a full day. This makes it easier to go to treatment around work or other responsibilities – because you’ll only need a few hours a day.
  • Affordability – Outpatient programs are cheaper than inpatient programs because you don’t have to pay for meals and accommodation at the same time. In addition, your insurance will likely cover a larger percentage of outpatient care than inpatient. This means that you may be able to afford outpatient care more easily.

Outpatient programs can be significantly customized, may have outings with peers, and may significantly involve group peers.


  • More affordable
  • More accessible
  • Detox is still available where necessary


  • More access to drugs and alcohol
  • More exposure to stress and triggers
  • Can be overwhelming if you don’t cut other life responsibilities to make room for treatment.

Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab

male client consulting an admission counselor about inpatient and outpatient rehabMost people can choose between inpatient and outpatient care based on their needs, addiction, and budget. For example, if you have tried and failed in outpatient rehab before, it’s probably a good idea to go to rehab in an inpatient setting. If you have children who are in school and no options to have someone else take care of them for the duration, you may prefer outpatient care. Here, outpatient care is comparable to inpatient care for light to moderate addictions – meaning there may be no reason to go with inpatient care, unless you specifically want the extra support and removable from relapse options.

However, inpatient care offers detox, ongoing medical monitoring, and it does keep you in a sober living facility with your peers. That means more support, fewer options to relapse, and more opportunities to learn from therapists and counselors and from your peers.

In many cases, inpatient care can be the superior option, especially if you’ve had issues relapsing in the past, have a severe addiction, or show severe seeking behavior. If you still aren’t sure, you can ask the counselor at your chosen rehab center for more advice.

Going to rehab is a big step but it is one that will improve your life. That’s true whether you choose inpatient or outpatient care, because both will give you support, counseling, and skills to deal with cravings. In addition, many people choose to go to inpatient care first and then to outpatient care as part of ongoing aftercare, to extend the amount of time you have in treatment.

Eventually, choosing between inpatient and outpatient care depends on you and your situation. Good luck getting into treatment.

Asana Recovery is located in Orange County, California. and offers detoxresidential, and outpatient addiction treatment services in our modern and comfortable addiction treatment facilities. Please contact us today to speak with one of our experienced addiction treatment team if you have any questions about our programs.