Substance Abuse Therapy: Inpatient vs. Outpatient Therapy

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, there is help available. Substance abuse therapy assists clients with understanding the reasons why they turn to drugs or alcohol and teaches coping skills so that clients are less likely to try to deal with emotions by drinking or using drugs. Both inpatient and outpatient therapy can be helpful for substance abuse therapy clients; the type of therapy that will be most effective depends on the client’s individual needs.

What These Therapies Are?

The major difference between inpatient and outpatient therapy for substance abuse has to do with where the therapy takes place. Inpatient therapy requires clients to live at the treatment center. Clients usually live with other recovering addicts and have the opportunity to attend daily therapy sessions and support groups.

Outpatient therapy for substance abuse, on the other hand, allows clients to continue living at home and engage in their daily activities. Clients visit the treatment center for therapy and other treatments, then return home after their treatment.

Similarities Between Inpatient and Outpatient Substance Abuse Therapy

Both inpatient and outpatient substance abuse therapy offers the same type of therapy. Clients in both of these programs can take advantage of individual and group therapy sessions. In addition, both outpatient and inpatient programs offer the opportunity to go to 12-step groups and other support groups.

In addition, inpatient and outpatient groups often have similar rules and expectations. For example, clients in both of these groups usually must remain sober while participating in therapy. They must also attend therapy sessions and other recommended treatments on a regular basis and may have to show proof of attendance to their therapist in order for therapy to continue.

Duration of Program

Both inpatient and outpatient programs may last for a specific amount of time. Inpatient programs generally last for 30 to 90 days, although some programs may last for as long as a year. The length of the program depends on the client’s particular needs and whether or not the client has made sufficient progress. Inpatient programs sometimes are extended for clients who are receiving some benefit from the program but haven’t yet made enough progress to leave the rehabilitation center. For example, a client and his or her therapist may decide towards the end of a 30-day program that the client would benefit from another 30 days of inpatient treatment and extend the program.

Outpatient programs tend to be more open-ended. The client lives at home, so he or she doesn’t have to finish the program quickly in order to return to normal life. Clients in outpatient programs usually attend therapy at least once a week and decide in conjunction with their therapists when to cut back or stop treatment.

Advantages of Each Type of Program

Inpatient programs tend to be more intense than outpatient programs. Clients in these programs receive several benefits, including:

  • Access to therapy on a daily basis. Clients in rehabilitation programs usually see a therapist at least once a day and participate in group therapy as well as individual therapy. There are usually therapists available to talk to these clients in the event of an emergency or if a client has a strong desire to use.
  • Interaction with other people who are recovering. Clients in inpatient programs are surrounded by other people who are trying to overcome substance abuse problems. This allows them to feel less isolated, which can help them overcome their desire to drink or use drugs.
  • Meals are taken care of. Most rehab programs include meals for clients. Clients who are in their first, fragile weeks of sobriety don’t have to worry about preparing food for themselves. Food served at these programs usually is healthy, which helps clients’ bodies heal from substance abuse.
  • Lots of structure. Structure helps newly sober people feel secure and remain off drugs. People in rehab usually have to follow specific schedules and engage in productive activities throughout the day, which helps distract them from the desire to drink or use drugs.
  • Statistically, those who dedicate more than 30-days at an inpatient programs nearly double their rate of success for long-term sobriety, and are not nearly as prone to relapse.

The disadvantage of an inpatient rehab program is, obviously, that clients have to live at the center rather than at home. Although this can be helpful in terms of getting support, clients usually need to take a leave of absence from their jobs and will only see their families on designated visiting days while they are in rehab.

Outpatient programs can also be beneficial to some clients. Some of the advantages of outpatient programs include:

  • Clients who attend outpatient substance abuse therapy programs can still engage in daily activities while getting treatment. This type of treatment is less disruptive because clients can still go to work and spend time with family and friends.
  • Clients may feel less free while in rehab programs because they must follow certain rules or report directly to a therapist about their activities. Outpatient programs can be more effective for clients with a strong independent streak. In addition, being able to stay sober while staying independent can help clients feel stronger and more in control of themselves.

Which Program Should I Choose?

Every person who suffers from drug or alcohol addiction is different. Some clients respond better to outpatient treatment, while others respond better to inpatient treatment. Studies show that those attending extended stays in inpatient treatment programs are much less likely to suffer relapse. For this reason, clients should discuss their needs with an intake counselor at any rehabilitation program and determine together what type of treatment plan would work best for them. Many clients begin with an inpatient program and then follow up with an outpatient program, although some clients do better by attending outpatient substance abuse therapy from the beginning. It doesn’t matter which type of treatment you use as long as your treatment plan is effective. Both inpatient and outpatient therapy can help drug and alcohol users stop using substances appropriately.

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