Differences Between Outpatient Rehab and Inpatient-Residential Rehab Programs

Are you seeking out rehabilitation treatment for yourself or a loved one? Choosing to seek treatment for your addiction is a crucial first step. You should feel proud that you’re doing what’s right for your physical and mental health.

There are plenty of treatment options available to people who want to overcome their addictions. They break down into two primary categories: residential rehab (otherwise known as inpatient rehab) and outpatient rehab

Both of these options are valid, and one isn’t better than the other. Some patients may find more success with one over the other.

We’re here to talk about the differences between residential rehab vs. outpatient rehab so you can make an informed decision about your recovery.

Keep reading to learn more about the factors you should consider.

Cost and Accessibility

Cost is often a primary concern for people who want to seek out rehabilitation. Treatment can often be cost-prohibitive. This is a huge roadblock for people in lower-income brackets or who need to continue working to pay for treatment and their other responsibilities. 

Many insurance plans cover different kinds of rehabilitation. Make sure that you discuss this with your treatment center before you get started. If cost is the primary concern, this could tilt your decision one way or the other. 

We can’t talk about cost without talking about accessibility. As we mentioned, people who need to continue working may not be well-suited for inpatient rehabilitation. This is also true for people with full-time outside responsibilities, like taking care of children or other family members. 

People who have enough support from friends and family that they’re able to leave their responsibilities in the hands of someone else are perfect candidates for inpatient treatment. People who need to attend to their responsibilities are better candidates for outpatient treatment. 

Outside Stressors and Temptations

On the topic of responsibilities, many people have outside stressors that contribute to their addictions.

Someone who is constantly burnt out from work may turn to alcohol as a result. What starts as a glass of wine with dinner can turn into heavy drinking several times per week. It may be better for this person to go to residential treatment to avoid that stressor until they’re able to recover. 

This is also true for anyone who has friends who tempt them with drug or alcohol use. Even if this temptation is unintentional, someone early in their recovery may have difficulty maintaining their sobriety.

Your friends and family probably don’t want you to relapse into your addiction, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t contribute.

When you’re in residential treatment, this isn’t a concern. You’re separated from the rest of the world for the duration of your treatment, so the normal stressors are out of reach. 

Social Support

Many people are concerned about social support when they’re in recovery. A strong and supportive social network is crucial for anyone trying to recover. This looks different depending on whether you choose inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment. 

When you choose inpatient treatment, you know that you’re getting support from people who understand what you’re going through. This comes in the form of group therapy and the fact that you’re only surrounded by medical professionals and other patients. 

While this support might not be as comfortable as the support from the people you know, it does come with the security of knowing that these people won’t judge you. 

On the other hand, many people need their friends and family to recover. Someone with strong family bonds may feel stifled or stressed if they’re isolated from them. For them, outpatient is a great decision. 

People in intense outpatient programs (IOP) still get to go to group therapy sessions. They often get the best of both worlds as far as social support goes. 

Overall, this depends on your outside support network. 


One of the biggest differences between inpatient and outpatient rehab is the intensity of the programs. While outpatient rehabilitation programs are intense, they don’t have the same around-the-clock care and work that inpatient programs offer.

Inpatient programs are full-time therapy and treatment sessions. These are great for people who need extra full-time help that outpatient treatment programs can’t provide. 

Outpatient programs are great for milder cases. While all addiction is serious, some people require less outside help than others. While you’ll still see therapists and doctors, this program doesn’t watch over you 24/7. 

Should You Do Both Programs? 

So why not go through both forms of rehab?

Some people benefit from a combination of residential rehab and outpatient rehab. Oftentimes, people with moderate to serious addiction problems start their rehabilitation with detox. Detox is inherently an inpatient process. 

They could transition to outpatient after this. If they choose to start with inpatient, outpatient isn’t going anywhere, and they can still choose it later.

People can also transition into a high-intensity outpatient treatment that we like to call “partial hospitalization” treatment. This allows people to either live in a sobriety house or at their own homes and go to treatment for several hours per day while still slowly returning to normalcy. 

After your intense treatment is over, outpatient treatment is a great way to transition to a sober lifestyle. 

Residential Rehab or Outpatient Rehab?

At the end of the day, you’re the only person who can decide. Choosing a rehab program isn’t easy. It’s all about what’s best for you. Keep in mind that both residential rehab and outpatient rehab are valuable programs, and both will help you on your path to recovery. 

Are you looking for a rehabilitation center so you can start your recovery journey? We want to help you take your life back. Contact us at Safe & Sound Treatment to get in touch with our admissions specialists today.