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4 min read

Inpatient or Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment? Pros and Cons

Willliamsburg Therapy Group Woman in Brooklyn Holding head in hands looking sad and upset

Drug and alcohol addiction knows no boundaries. Addiction can affect individuals regardless of ethnicity, educational achievements, work careers, financial status, geographical location, race, or religion. It poses a formidable challenge for anyone, regardless of age or gender, and impacts anyone who may be close to them, including family, friends, and co-workers.  

The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics shows just how prominent addiction is within our communities:

  • “Among Americans aged 12 years and older, 37.309 million were current illegal drug users (used within the last 30 days) as of 2020.”
  • “59.277 million or 21.4% of people 12 and over have used illegal drugs or misused prescription drugs within the last year.”
  • “138.522 million Americans 12 and over drink alcohol … 28.320 million or 20.4% of them have an alcohol use disorder.”

When trapped in the confines of addiction, it can feel like there is no way to break free of those chains. That’s where inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment comes into the picture. When it feels like all hope is lost and overcoming addiction is out of reach, receiving professional guidance and medical support in a treatment program setting could be the answer.


What's the Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment?

Knowing the difference between an inpatient vs outpatient substance abuse treatment program is the first step toward determining the right fit for an individual battling addiction. 


The Parameters of an Inpatient Treatment Program 

Inpatient treatment goes by several titles, such as residential treatment, inpatient addiction recovery, or inpatient rehabilitation. Inpatient treatment is a program where patients stay 24/7 in a controlled environment surrounded by a multidisciplinary team of professionals that provide around-the-clock care and support. Every element of the treatment program takes place in-house, and the length of stay varies depending on the specific needs of an individual. Some programs last only a few weeks, while others extend several months. 


How Outpatient Treatment Works 

Outpatient rehabilitation takes place in a non-residential setting. Onsite living is not part of an outpatient treatment program, which allows participants to carry on with their daily life outside of the program requirements. Every outpatient treatment program operates differently, but most incorporate a variety of therapy modules, such as group therapy, family therapy, and individual therapy. An outpatient program can be a short-term commitment or a long-term arrangement, with particular programs lasting more than a year. 


Is an Inpatient or Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment the Right Choice?

Addiction plays out differently for every individual. A program that is the perfect fit for one person may not be the best match for another. Treatment outcomes for inpatient versus outpatient substance abuse vary widely, so determining the right type of treatment program is critically important to the success of an individual working to overcome an addiction. 


When Part of an Inpatient Treatment

An inpatient treatment program is an all-hands-on-deck approach as a patient follows a highly-structured regime. Treatment begins with a medically-assisted detox, which can be a complex process considering that some withdrawals can turn fatal if not properly managed. Being surrounded by a medical team of addiction specialists during the detox period of treatment is one reason why a person might select an inpatient setup. 

On the other hand, inpatient rehabilitation means that the aspects of everyday life come to a stop. For many, the inability to work that results in lost income is a significant drawback. Furthermore, some people might be the sole caregiver for their children, parents, or other family members, and entering residential treatment would require new living arrangements for those individuals.


When Part of an Outpatient Treatment 

An outpatient treatment program is designed to let participants carry on with their busy lifestyles throughout the treatment program. Since living full-time in a rehabilitation facility is not part of an outpatient program, a participant can continue to hold down a job, go to school or college, and see friends and family. This does not mean an outpatient program is not a serious time commitment, though. Certain outpatient programs are more time-consuming than others. 

When researching program options, potential participants should verify how a program is structured. Researching different possibilities can help prospective participants learn whether a particular outpatient program will fit their wants and needs. For example, The Program at Williamsburg Therapy Group utilizes Motivational Interviewing (MI) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) as two methods to help program members overcome addiction. For some, these sorts of components are of utmost importance. 

Furthermore, many want to know how withdrawal symptoms are managed as part of an outpatient program. Will physicians be available to administer on-site medications to help patients manage the detox period? Will participants have access to mental health specialists to battle the onset of anxiety and depression? For these types of reasons, learning how a program is structured should be a top priority for any involved parties.


Time to Decide! Inpatient or Outpatient?

Perhaps you are seeking treatment options for yourself, or maybe it’s a close friend or loved one that is grappling with addiction. No matter who, what, when, where, or why, the process of determining the best fit can be overwhelming. Researching the pros and cons of inpatient vs outpatient treatment for substance dependence is an empowering way to begin the process. 

Here at Williamsburg Therapy Group, we understand the difficulties families and individuals face when comparing inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment programs. Just like no two people are exactly alike, no two programs will be identical. That’s why our intensive outpatient treatment program - The Program - combines together several therapy styles to target addiction in numerous ways. 

From Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), we make sure to offer our participants a wide variety of therapy choices to help them successfully overcome their addiction. In addition to individual therapy, The Program includes skills-based group therapy, mindfulness-based meditation, and bodywork. Our objective is to provide tailored support that is customized to the needs of every patient.

If you or your loved one are ready to address an addiction, our team would feel honored to be a part of that healing journey. Check out more details about The Program to discover whether our outpatient program is the right fit.






Naomi Ben-Ami, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist




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