Residential Treatment Center: Inpatient vs. Outpatient

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Substance abuse and drug addiction are complex issues. For many, drug or alcohol addiction is a chronic struggle, and relapses occur even after long periods of sobriety.1 Some people might be able to break a cycle of addiction on their own, but many will fare much better after seeking treatment of some kind.1 Successful treatment needs to address a number of issues that have been disrupted in the patient’s life.1

Many factors will determine just what type of addiction treatment is sought, including:2,3

  • The need for detox (medically assisted or otherwise).
  • The need for ongoing medical treatment, such as treatment of medical complications arising from drug overdose.
  • The need for skills training for reintegration into a healthier family, work or social environment that will promote sobriety.
  • The need for additional therapy to address any concurrent or dual diagnoses, such as major depressive disorder, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.
  • The need for a thorough plan of aftercare to reinforce the progress made throughout early treatment.

Residential Inpatient vs. Outpatient

Many different addiction treatment modalities can be utilized on an outpatient basis.3 For some people, this is a great start in addressing a substance abuse problem. However, a real advantage that residential rehab centers have lies in their ability to incorporate some or all of the different treatment components in a single setting.

Furthermore, a residential or inpatient rehab program is able to provide care and administer a specialized treatment plan in a structured environment, 24 hours a day.3 Patients in residential addiction treatment centers are able to dedicate their full energies to recovery for the prescribed treatment duration. Ongoing progress assessments and treatment adjustments can be made, including an extension of treatment duration, should it be warranted.2

Another factor to consider is the cost of each type of treatment. Inpatient, which can cost $200 to $900 per day, tends to be more expensive than outpatient, which can cost $100 to $500 per treatment session.4 The increase in cost accounts for the higher level of care provided by an inpatient program, as well as the housing, food, and amenities provided. Longer inpatient programs will tend to have a lower cost per day to make the overall price more affordable.4

If you or someone you love suffers from debilitating drug or substance abuse, residential treatment can help.

Benefits of Staying in Treatment for an Adequate Period of Time

Relapse rates by treatment length


Those seeking residential treatment don’t usually meet the criteria for hospital admission but are committing to an extended stay in a facility that provides intensive services. These services are focused on a population of people with similar (but not identical) issues and, as such, can provide a tight-knit, supportive environment unlike that which might be experienced in an outpatient setting. Inpatient treatment programs provide a number of unique opportunities for individuals to explore the psychological issues and medical problems associated with drug abuse.

Those seeking residential treatment receive both traditional and innovative treatment options including the following:2,3,5

Girl by the water

  • Thorough medical and psychological evaluation at the intake stage.
  • Detox services with possible medical assistance to help patients through a period of withdrawal.
  • Medical intervention, in some cases, to address the addiction itself, as well as any other medical or mental health concerns.
  • Dual diagnosis treatment for those who are suffering from more than one substance abuse disorder, behavioral addictions, or psychiatric conditions.
  • Private, safe living environment, free of the potential situational and environmental triggers that may have been reinforcing addiction.
  • Targeted group and individual therapy.
  • Nutritional counseling.
  • Holistic treatment from some specialized residential treatment centers.
  • Family therapy and skills training to make sure a patient has the most supportive environment possible when he or she leaves treatment.
  • Aftercare treatment options including sober living arrangements, scheduled monitoring, regular continued counseling, and participation in recovery groups and/or meetings.

Finding the Right Residential Treatment Center

Finding a supportive and effective inpatient rehab center is key to a successful outcome in the recovery of drug or alcohol addiction.

Finding a supportive and effective residential treatment center is key to a successful outcome. When deciding upon the best center it is important to find an environment that can cater to your unique, individual needs.

Once you settle on a specific program, you will be evaluated, and a specific treatment program will be designed for your unique physiological, social, and psychological needs.

Questions to Ask Before Choosing Treatment

  • Is it appropriately licensed? Are there treatment center reviews available to the public?
  • Will my insurance coverage pay for treatment (in part or full)?
  • Does it provide 24-hour medical supervision with qualified medical professionals?
  • Are there extensive multi-faceted, specialty services?
  • Are there accommodations for distinct demographic variables (e.g. male or female only, adolescent and teen programs, LGBT, etc.)?
  • Does the staff respect each patient’s individual needs?
  • Are private rooms available?
  • Is executive treatment available (access to cell phones and computers)?
  • Is it close to home? Is travel necessary or, in some cases, preferred?
  • Does it provide a safe treatment environment?
  • Do you take my insurance?

Prioritizing Treatment Searches

Research sourced by Recovery Brands in 2016 found that individuals leaving treatment valued a treatment program’s offerings (such as amenities, food, recreational activities, and the quality of housing) significantly more than when they entered treatment.

When searching for the right program, be sure to ask about the recreational options and other amenities that a program has in addition to the financial policies set in place. Find the right program now at 1-888-744-0069 .


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction: The Basics.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Effective Treatment.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Types of Treatment Programs.
  4. American Addiction Centers. 2017.
  5. Aletraris, L., Paino, M., Edmond, M. B., Roman, P. M., & Bride, B. E. (2014). The Use of Art and Music Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment Programs. Journal of Addictions Nursing25(4), 190–196.
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Patrick Condron, M.Sc., M.A.C., is an addiction specialist and drug and alcohol counselor. He is Executive Director of Lazarus House, Inc., a transitional residential program for men and women who continue to work on their recovery towards independent living.
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