Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehab: How Do They Compare?

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Inpatient vs outpatient addiction treatment is one of the first choices you’ll need to make when choosing the most appropriate springboard for recovery.

Data from NSDUH 2020 indicates that of the 40 million U.S. adults with substance use disorder, only 10% seek treatment. For anyone with an addiction, whether to alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs, it is vital to understand how you can engage with the most effective treatment for your needs. 

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With inpatient rehab, also known as residential rehab, you remain at the treatment facility for the duration of the program. Outpatient rehab offers you access to broadly similar services and treatments during schedule weekday sessions. Between sessions, you return home or to a sober living community. 

How do residential and outpatient rehab programs compare, then? 

To illustrate this, we’ll highlight the core components of each type of treatment so you can determine whether inpatient or outpatient rehab is right for you. 

Understanding Residential Rehab

Inpatient rehab is the most intensive form of treatment available on ASAM’s continuum of care. 

Most treatment centers offer the following types of inpatient treatment: 

  • 30-day inpatient rehab
  • 60-day inpatient rehab
  • 90-day inpatient rehab

Most people with moderate or severe addictions find the intensity of inpatient treatment is the optimum setting in which to undertake the challenging phases of detox and early recovery. 

Inpatient rehab is also typically recommended for those with co-occurring mental health conditions. Dual diagnosis treatment requires coordination and integration, best achieved in an inpatient setting. 

Anyone with a volatile or unsupportive background may also benefit strongly from residential rehab.

Both inpatient and outpatient treatment allows your treatment team to create a personalized treatment plan drawing from these interventions: 

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Psychotherapy
  • Counseling

Inpatient programs also provide a variety of holistic therapies for a whole-body approach to addiction recovery.

Before committing to an inpatient treatment program, though, you should consider the following aspects: 

  • Time commitment
  • Cost
  • Intensity
An image of two men discussing the discussing inpatient vs. outpatient rehab

Time Commitment

An outpatient programs allows you to attend scheduled therapy sessions around your existing personal and professional commitments. With inpatient rehab, by contrast, you’ll need to block off anywhere from 30 to 90 days or more. You must remain at the treatment center for the duration of residential rehab. 

If you find such a time commitment challenging, a PHP (partial hospitalization program) is the most intensive form of outpatient treatment, bridging the gap between outpatient and residential rehab.


Residential rehab costs significantly more than a traditional outpatient program, with prices varying from rehab to rehab to reflect the quality of the services, accommodation, and amenities on offer. 

Most major health insurance providers will cover at least part of the cost of residential rehab, making it more affordable for those with coverage. 

The uniqueness of each addiction and the individualized approach to treatment means you will need to contact the rehab centers on your shortlist for an accurate estimate of costs.

More Intensive

Although you will have access to the same therapies in inpatient and outpatient rehab, the intensity of treatment is significantly greater in a residential setting. 

Inpatient programs also typically provide more access to individual counseling, giving you the opportunity to probe the specifics of your addiction working closely with a therapist. 

For those with more severe substance use disorders and co-occurring disorders, the intensity of treatment offered in an inpatient setting is one of its primary benefits.

Outpatient Rehab and IOP

Research shows that most mild addictions respond just as well to intensive outpatient treatment as to residential rehab. 

The major difference between inpatient vs outpatient rehab is that you return home between therapy sessions when attending an outpatient program rather than remaining at a residential facility. 

You will find that most reputable rehabs offer the following outpatient programs: 

  • OPs: outpatient programs provide a few hours of therapy sessions each week.
  • IOPs: intensive outpatient programs provide up to 15 hours of therapy sessions each week.
  • PHPs: partial hospitalization programs provide up to 35 hours of therapy sessions each week.

While outpatient treatment is not the most effective route to recovery for many people with severe addictions, there are several benefits to this type of rehab, including: 

  • Intensity
  • Affordability
  • Step down from residential rehab

More Time Lenient

There is no need to allow a busy schedule to prevent you from engaging with the addiction treatment you need. 

As outlined above, you can choose from three main forms of outpatient treatment depending on the level of time commitment and structure you require. 

For anyone looking for a more time-lenient road to sobriety, consider an outpatient program.


Outpatient treatment is much more affordable than inpatient rehab as you will not need to pay for accommodation or food. 

Beyond this, most health insurance policies will cover the cost of outpatient treatment for alcoholism or drug addiction since the enactment of the ACA (Affordable Care Act). 

As with inpatient programs, the cost of outpatient treatment also varies substantially, so reach out to the rehabs on your shortlist to discuss the likely cost.

Step Down from Inpatient

While many people choose to engage with a standalone outpatient program, others step down to outpatient treatment from inpatient rehab. 

If you feel that a residential treatment program has given you insufficient grounding to move directly back into sober living, stepping down to a less intensive form of treatment can smoothen the transition and minimize the chance of relapse.

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Inpatient Rehab at California Detox

Here at California Detox, we offer treatment for addictions and mental health conditions at all levels of intensity, including inpatient rehab. 

Before commencing with substance abuse therapy sessions at our luxury beachside treatment center, you must first detox. If you choose an inpatient program, this begins with a supervised medical detox, allowing you to withdraw from alcohol or drugs as comfortably and safely as possible.

If you have an addiction and co-occurring mental health condition, address both conditions at the same time with one of our dual diagnosis treatment programs. Integrated dual diagnosis treatment is proven more effective than treating each condition separately.

All California Detox inpatient programs draw from a combination of EBTs (evidence-based treatments) and holistic therapies, such as:

  • Psychotherapy (CBT or DBT)
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Counseling (individual and group)
  • Family therapy

When you complete inpatient treatment, you may step down to an intensive outpatient program – either a PHP or an IOP. Alternatively, you might be ready to transition directly back into daily life after completing a lengthy residential program at California Detox. Either way, your treatment team will equip you with relapse prevention strategies and an aftercare plan to maximize your chances of long-term sobriety without relapse.

To kickstart your recovery today, reach out to California Detox by calling 949.567.8790 today.


Everyone’s situation is different, but insurance should cover the cost of addiction treatment. You may have to make a deductible payment of your own but our team can walk you through all the details.
The quickest way to understand the difference is that inpatient is a live-in facility and more intensive while outpatient is a facility you travel to and from for treatment.


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