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What Is the Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment?

inpatient treatment with doctor

For centuries there was a stigma associated with addiction, which in turn, limited the available treatment options to those in need. Now that addiction is more accurately recognized as a mental health disorder, and is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), there has been a significant increase in available treatment options. Prior to attending a substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment program, a young person that has struggled with substance abuse must complete detox. Detox is the process one’s body goes through to cleanse and rid itself of all foreign substances. This step is integral to one’s recovery process, as one’s physical body must begin to learn to function without the presence of drugs and/ or alcohol. Substance abuse and addiction treatment programs are generally divided into two categories: inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment. Within each category there are additional specialized treatment programs available. 

Inpatient Treatment

An inpatient treatment program offers a young person a fully immersive treatment experience. Inpatient treatment programs require its participants to reside at the treatment facility for the duration of the program. Inpatient programs often integrate a more holistic approach to treatment as all areas of one’s life are addressed. Addiction affects all areas of one’s life, which is why it is helpful to review and adjust certain areas that were negatively impacted during one’s active substance use. Every inpatient treatment program will have clear residential rules as well as transparent expectations of its participants. Inpatient treatment programs emphasize the importance of developing and practicing healthy daily habits including following a daily schedule, implementing daily relaxation techniques, regular exercise, nutritious diets, and obtaining ample nightly sleep. Inpatient treatment programs are an excellent option for people struggling with severe substance abuse issues and are able to reside away from home for a period of time. However, the cost of inpatient treatment programs is often greater than outpatient programs, as in addition to paying for treatment you are also paying for the cost of room and board. 

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment programs are structured in a way that enables a participant to continue to reside at home while simultaneously attending treatment. While the specific requirements of each outpatient treatment program will differ, a participant will be required to attend a certain number of program hours, daily. Outpatient programs can be a great option for teens that are unable to temporarily relocate, and/ or have mild substance abuse issues. Although outpatient treatment programs often address the need and importance of practicing healthy daily habits, enforcing them remains solely in the hands of the participant. Often outpatient treatment programs are less expensive than inpatient treatment programs. Outpatient treatment programs can be held in clinics, hospitals, and/ or treatment centers. The duration of out patient treatment programs range from fourteen days long to three months long, and in some cases longer. 

There are a plethora of different substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment programs available to those in need. Some options will be better suited for some individuals than others. While there are many differences between inpatient treatment programs and outpatient treatment programs, they share the same primary objective, which is to help an individual learn to live a sober life. Most inpatient treatment and outpatient programs will create tailored treatment plans for its participants, as each person will have unique needs. Treatment plans often include some combination of various psychotherapeutic methods, group therapy, and creative arts therapies. Regardless of which type of treatment you select, the conscious choice to commit to your path of recovery by attending a substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment program will be invaluable to your continued success.

For Information and Support 

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at or through our contact form.

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