Why Choose Residential Rehab Over Outpatient Treatment
If you are trying to wean yourself off of alcohol or narcotics and you want or need support, a rehabilitation programme should be at the top of your list of considerations. Residential rehab is often considered the most effective options for those seeking to beat addiction and begin living a sober life. 
Of course, before you can begin rehab you need to decipher which treatment option is best for you. But there are a variety of choices in the recovery community today, ranging from intensive outpatient, residential rehab, hospitalisation, or day programmes.
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Each option has its own benefits, and you need to carefully look at the pros and cons of each choice. Some may enable you to carry on working or look after your children: other programmes may be the only option, especially if you require a full medical detox and 24-hour observation.
But most importantly, it comes down to you deciding whether you want an inpatient or outpatient programme. In this post, we will weigh up the benefits and disadvantages of each option in order to help you reach a positive and effective conclusion about your recovery.
Residential Rehab Vs Outpatient Treatment
Rehab programmes are incredibly sophisticated and can be tailored to suit your specific situation and addiction. Because of this, you will have to make many choices before you enter a rehab programme – the most important of all is whether you want an inpatient or outpatient programme.
Inpatient programmes mean residential rehab, full-time. It takes place in secure, controlled, and supportive environments which patients achieve sobriety and to develop the skills to maintain it. When you choose an inpatient programme, you will live within the centre for a minimum of 14 days (though some programmes can last up to 90 days). 
Outpatient programmes are by contrast undertaken on a part-time basis and will allow you to stay at home and continue your life as normal. This means that outpatient programmes help you to achieve and maintain sobriety through a range of supportive classes, groups, and resources. They come in three main forms: partial hospitalisation, intensive outpatient treatment, and fully outpatient treatment.
Partial hospitalisation programmes require a patient to be on site 40 hours per week, and most commonly run from 9 to 5. During treatment hours no mobile phones are allowed and any medications needed will be parcelled out.
Intensive treatment programmes require patients to be onsite for 9 to 15 hours out of the week. The classes, therapy sessions, and groups can be held during the day or at night to allow patients to maintain regular employment.
Finally, a fully outpatient programme requires 3 hours of treatment per week (on average.) It will mostly consist of a group meeting or therapy session. These treatments are most commonly taken one after the other as an evolving treatment.
Residential Rehab vs Outpatient Treatment: Pros and Cons
Choosing the right type of programme for you is the very first step on the road to recovery. There’s no shame in seeking help, after all. Of course, if you are unsure you should speak to your doctor first and foremost; they will be able to give you their medical opinion.
Certainly, inpatient programmes are more effective for certain addictions, especially those which pose a risk to health and wellbeing during the withdrawal process.
Residential Rehab: Pros
- 24-hour supervision and support from the medical staff
- The option of medically assisted detox
- A sober and supportive environment
- An in-built community striving for the same goal
- Restricted access to narcotics and alcohol
- A rigorous and diverse programme of therapy and skill-building classes to prepare you for long-term sobriety outside the centre 
Residential Rehab: Cons
- Once you enter the clinic you must stay until the end of treatment
- It is impossible to maintain ‘life as normal’
- An incredibly structured environment
- Not always covered by insurers
- Residential programmes can be expensive
Outpatient Rehab: Pros
- Structured routine and can work around many of your daily activities once you progress to full outpatient treatment
- Stay in your own home
- You can apply what you learn to a ‘real world’ setting immediately
- Support from healthcare staff and likeminded individuals seeking sobriety
- Generally covered by insurance companies and considered the more affordable option 
Outpatient Rehab: Cons
- If your social circle/home life is a factor in your addiction you will be at higher risk of relapse as a result of continued contact
- You have to work harder to avoid drugs and alcohol due to easier access.
- Limited access to healthcare professionals and counsellors
- The distractions of daily life can make achieving and maintaining sobriety harder (especially in the early stages of recovery)
- There is less opportunity to bond with your therapists and peers
Things to Consider About Each Rehab Option
The most obvious thing you need to prepare for when it comes to inpatient programmes is the separation from normality that it requires. When you choose an inpatient programme, you will need to take time away from work, education, your friends, and even your family.
The highly controlled and structured environment can feel oppressive at first, but all rules are in place to give you the best chance of a strong start to recovery. This commitment is huge but is worth the sacrifices required in the end.
Detox is one of the riskiest stages of recovery, meaning it can actually pose a risk to your life. But outpatient programmes offer very limited detox support; if you are committed to an outpatient treatment you should consult your doctor to ensure that you detox safely.
If you have trouble in motivating yourself or enforcing a schedule on your own, outpatient programmes may be harder for you. Because of this, you should enlist a family member to help you if you think it would help.
What Life is Like in Rehab?
For many people, the fear of the unknown is a huge factor in avoiding rehab. Due to this, they have misconceptions about what rehab will really be like. Of course, the specifics do vary from programme to programme, but there are general structures to all rehab programmes.
1. Life in Residential Rehab
Inpatient, or residential, programmes require the most drastic changes to your lifestyle. But this is the price you pay to be in an entirely sober and supportive environment during early recovery.
The first step of inpatient rehab is detox; your involvement in the main programme of rehabilitation will vary depending on how intensive your detox is and the complications which arise. You will then be expected to adhere to the full days’ schedule after your detox.
An average day in residential rehab includes a set alarm and breakfast time, morning therapy, followed by lunch. After lunch are usually group sessions, and there is allocated free time in the evening as well as a set ‘lights off’ time. This routine is crucial to developing healthy habits and most people cite it as being very helpful in recovery.
2. Life in Outpatient Rehab
Outpatient rehab programmes allow for a degree of normality which some people find helpful and many find challenging. For those who have a strong and supportive family network outpatient programmes can be incredibly helpful, but those who have social circles which include many drug users or heavy drinkers it can be tough.
Depending on your programme you may spend anywhere from 3 to 40 hours per week in a clinic. These programmes can be tailored to suit your employment and education needs and so there is no real ‘daily routine’ that can be generalised.
Nonetheless, outpatient programmes will generally consist of at least one personal counselling or therapy session and one group session per week. These programmes can last anywhere from 3 to 12 months.
The Role of Therapy and Counselling
Therapy and counselling have hugely important roles in the rehabilitation process. That’s why group and individual sessions feature heavily in both inpatient and outpatient rehab programmes. An addiction counsellors’ job is to:
- Offer emotional support
- To undertake periodic drug testing
- To provide a personalised, person-led therapeutic experience
- Provide a realistic idea of aftercare support and resources
1. Counselling for Inpatients
For those undertaking residential rehab counselling and therapy sessions are a daily occurrence and as such take on many forms. Individual sessions tend to focus on personal experiences and past traumas in order to understand the root cause of addiction. On the other hand, group sessions help patients understand how day to day life presents a danger to sobriety and instils healthy coping mechanisms.
2. Counselling for Outpatients
Outpatient programmes tend to use therapy as a way to build coping mechanisms and a sober network that patients can lean on for support. The exception, of course, is partial hospitalisation outpatient programmes which see patients spending up to 40 hours per week in the clinic.
In intensive and partial hospitalisation courses there will be a mix of person-centric and behavioural therapy. Here you can undertake a full outpatient programme the focus will be on whichever your therapist deems is most important to your recovery.
Is Residential Rehab More Effective?
Yes and no; recovery is a very personal process. Because of this, inpatient programmes are incredibly beneficial to those struggling with opioid addictions, repeated relapses, or prolonged, severe alcohol and narcotics abuse. Likewise, anyone who needs a medically supervised detox or whose social circle presents a danger to their recovery, an inpatient programme is a more supportive and effective choice. 
Some people have responsibilities that cannot be put on hold, for example, single parenting. For them, an outpatient programme is the best choice because it allows for the continuation of day-to-day life to a certain extent.
In the end, your recovery is all about your situation and needs; the best rehab programme is the one that’s right for you. In light of this, let us help you on your journey forward.
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About the author:
Jon writes for ADT Healthcare and a number of other websites. Jon graduated with a degree in psychology in 1992. Jon has been in recovery for 19 years.