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Inpatient vs. Outpatient Care: What’s The Difference?

Inpatient vs. Outpateient - Dedicato Treatment Center

Determining inpatient vs. outpatient needs is based on various factors. Talk to a licensed therapist of psychiatrist to learn more.

Accepting you have a substance use disorder and seeking the right treatment program are significant steps in recovery. It takes courage to ask for help. Those who do find there are multiple levels of treatment, including inpatient and outpatient services.

Understanding the difference between inpatient vs. outpatient and the various programs can help you make the right treatment decision. First, let’s define them.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Care Defined

Inpatient programs typically occur in a hospital or residential environment where you can access medical and psychological care around the clock. There are multiple types of inpatient programs. Detox helps those with severe withdrawal symptoms that interfere with the ability to participate in treatment and may lead to a relapse.

Inpatient rehab is structured and filled with individual and group classes and therapy. Medication management can continue if needed.

Outpatient programs take place at the treatment facility, a branch, or a partner facility. Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) provide ten or more hours of group and individual therapy and recovery activities each week. Partial hospitalization is one step up from IOP in that it allows for 20 or more hours of treatment each week.

With both IOP and partial residential, you live at home and take care of personal responsibilities when not in treatment.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) established criteria for each level of care.

Inpatient and Outpatient Criteria for Admission

There are six dimensions that help providers choose the right level of care plan. The dimensions focus on intoxication and withdrawal, biomedical conditions, mental health issues, readiness to change, relapse potential, and recovery environment.

  • Level of care 4, or inpatient detox, is a medically managed program for those experiencing withdrawal symptoms and highly likely to relapse. They may also have medical and mental health symptoms that make it hard to stay sober.
  • Level of care 3, or inpatient rehab, is for those with withdrawal symptoms but are manageable with intensive support from staff and peers. Level 3 also removes someone from unhealthy environments that do not promote recovery.
  • Level of care 2, intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization, is recommended for those with lower risk of severe withdrawal symptoms but still need extra support from professionals and peers through multiple hours of individual and group therapies each week.
  • Level of care 1, outpatient counseling, is the lowest level and is recommended for those at risk for withdrawal symptoms and have a low risk for relapse. They also have a positive support system and are taking care of themselves physically and emotionally.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Activities

Both inpatient and outpatient programs offer treatments to support recovery. The same types of therapies are offered but at different levels of intensity. You can participate in group educational classes, individual and group therapy, family therapy, 12 Step facilitation groups, and aftercare planning.

Individual counseling 

Individual counseling and help is an integral part of treatment at any level. It helps to work one-on-one with your therapist to discuss your progress in the program. You can also address challenges and work on co-occurring conditions. Your treatment team may recommend you for alternative treatments like art or music therapy, fitness, nutrition, or personal safety. In inpatient treatment, individual counseling occurs several times a week, and in outpatient programs, it happens once every two or three weeks.

Group educational classes 

Group educational classes or psychoeducation groups are essential for learning more about the disease of addiction and early recovery skills. Knowing how drugs and alcohol affect your brain and body can help you understand why you developed a substance use disorder. You can also learn how recovery skills teach you to recognize cues to avoid relapse. In inpatient counseling, group education happens every day, and in outpatient, they happen two or three times a week.

Group therapy 

This is an essential part of any level of treatment because you give and receive feedback from your peers. You learn you are not alone in the recovery process. Skills enhanced in group therapy include communication skills, social interactions, co-occurring issues, and relapse prevention skills. Therapies often used in individual counseling include cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, trauma therapy, and motivational interviewing. In inpatient counseling, group education happens every day, and in outpatient, they happen two or three times a week.

Family therapy 

Family therapy is necessary for recovery because the entire family is affected by a substance use disorder. Families can learn boundaries, helping versus enabling, establishing a supportive environment, and other ways to aid recovery. Family therapy occurs randomly in both programs.

12 Step and other Support Groups 

These groups are recommended for additional social support and guidance from peers, work through obstacles, and celebrate successes. Support groups are recommended daily in early recovery and at least once a week after a year.

Inpatient and Outpatient Length of Stay

There are no one-size-fits-all treatment programs for substance use disorders. Each person has different physical, psychological, biological, and environmental needs for recovery. Therefore, the length of stay in inpatient and outpatient treatment will vary.

The longer you stay in a treatment program, the higher your chances for life-long sobriety.

Inpatient detox programs often last between seven and ten days. For some, it may only take a few days to detox, and for others, it may take two weeks. The preferable length of stay at an inpatient rehab program is 90 days. Most programs start with a 28-day plan and reassess treatment needs at the end of each month.

Intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization programs run for a minimum of six weeks, with outpatient counseling continuing longer.

Inpatient and Outpatient Programs: Getting Started

One of the most critical steps of inpatient vs. outpatient treatment is a bio-psychosocial assessment completed and scored by a licensed therapist or psychiatrist. The results of the evaluation help determine which level of care is best for you, based on your specific treatment needs.

If you are interested in learning more about inpatient and outpatient program options, give us a call. [626-921-0113] We can help you make the best treatment decision for you or your loved one.