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6 Key Differences Between Inpatient And Outpatient Treatment

It is important to know the difference between inpatient vs outpatient treatment. Inpatient drug rehab involves addicts remaining at a substance addiction treatment center 24 hours a day  for up to 90 days. Outpatient drug rehab allows the person to remain at home while receiving treatment. However, those participating in outpatient drug rehab must visit the addiction treatment center daily, every other day or several times a week, depending on the severity of their addiction.

Good candidates for outpatient drug rehab programs are those who have never been in rehab and relapsed, are currently employed or in school and have a strong family support system they can depend on for achieving recovery goals.

The biggest difference between outpatient and inpatient drug rehab is the fact that outpatient rehab participants are not kept sequestered from the environment or people that encouraged their addiction. They must attend counseling sessions, group therapy and take any medications prescribed without the constant supervision provided by inpatient rehab.

Outpatient drug and alcohol rehab therapists counsel substance abusers about the following subjects:

  • Addiction as a biopsychosocial disease, not a chosen lifestyle
  • How drugs effect the body and brain
  • Identifying “trigger” situations that could lead to relapse
  • Using stress management techniques to take control of potential “trigger” situations
  • Setting goals and structuring time productively
  • Learning relaxation strategies to avoid feeling angry or upset, two emotions strongly associated with relapse


In addition to psychotherapy and addiction counseling, outpatient participants are frequently prescribed medications to alleviate detoxification symptoms and regulate abnormal neurotransmitter levels in the brain. Psychiatrists prescribing these medications will continuously monitor the patient’s response to medications by ordering blood tests, thyroid and kidney tests and medical imaging evaluations to ensure their recovery is not being adversely affected by anti-addiction medications.

What to Expect

Inpatient rehab takes place in residential treatment centers equipped with single living units, cafeteria, indoor and outdoor recreational areas and a medical facility designed to accommodate detoxifying patients.When you enter an inpatient facility, your stay may be as short as 28 days or as long as four months. Repeat drug relapsers and chronic alcoholics benefit the most from inpatient rehab stays.

Psychiatric Services

Many patients are committed to inpatient rehab while in highly agitated states that require emergency psychiatric services. These services provide immediate help to patients who are experiencing suicidal ideation, psychotic episodes or violent behavioral changes due to severe drug abuse. Once a patient is stabilized following emergency psychiatric services, they can be transferred to an area within an inpatient rehab center that provides additional medical and psychological services.

Mental Illness

Inpatient rehab addiction psychiatrists specialize in determining whether an addict warrants a diagnosis of substance abuse and a mental illness. Psychiatric symptoms frequently affect inpatient rehab clients who are detoxing from drugs or alcohol, such as delusions, hallucinations and severe depression.Receiving an accurate diagnosis by addiction psychiatrists is vital to developing personalized treatment programs for inpatient rehab participants.

Psychotherapy and Counseling

Beginning with medical detoxification, inpatient treatment programs generally consist of:

  • Individual behavioral/psychotherapy counseling
  • Group therapy sessions
  • Anti-addiction medications to reduce cravings for alcohol and/or drugs
  • Mental health services (nearly eight million people suffer from addiction and one or more psychological disorders)
  • Long-term support services for preventing relapse following completion of inpatient rehab treatment

Inpatient rehab facilities also over a variety of experiential and holistic services such as art therapy, equine therapy, Eco-therapy and spiritual counseling to reinforce the effectiveness of counseling and psychotherapies.

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