Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehab: Understanding the Difference

Last Updated: November 9, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

If you’ve decided that it’s time to seek treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction, there are multiple options available to you. Some people begin by going to their doctor and asking for a referral to an addiction specialist, whereas others may seek out a local support group for addiction. When people make the choice to enter a formal treatment program, there are typically two overarching categories of rehab: inpatient and outpatient care.

Article at a Glance

  • The difference between inpatient vs. outpatient rehab
  • What to expect from inpatient rehab
  • What to expect from outpatient rehab
  • How to choose which option is best for you
  • The anticipated cost of inpatient and outpatient treatment

The Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab

While outpatient and residential/inpatient programs both tend to provide services like individual and group addiction counseling, there are some key differences between these two types of treatment programs:

  • Inpatient programs, also referred to as residential treatment, require patients to live on site at a rehab facility while receiving services. Meanwhile, people in outpatient care remain at home and travel to an office or clinic several times per week for appointments.
  • Inpatient programs tend to be structured, with patients following a set schedule each day, whereas outpatient programs are more flexible. Patients in outpatient care are free to go to work and take care of personal matters while coming to appointments at times that fit their schedules. 
  • Inpatient programs are suitable for people who have severe addictions or who do not have a stable living environment. Outpatient programs are better suited for those who have a supportive home environment and a less severe addiction.

It is common for patients to begin with a residential or inpatient treatment program after detox and then transition to outpatient service once they’ve completed an inpatient program. 

Inpatient Treatment

During inpatient or residential rehab, you live on site at a treatment facility while undergoing treatment. This gives patients access to around-the-clock medical care and supervision. Residential treatment provides a home-like environment, offering patients access to amenities like fitness rooms and yoga classes. The inpatient program at The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper is residential and does not involve a hospital stay. 

What To Expect from Inpatient Rehab

While in an inpatient rehab program, you can expect to stay at a treatment center for a set amount of time while receiving services. During treatment, you will receive needed medical care and participate in both individual and group counseling. You will also have opportunities to participate in therapeutic activities like yoga and meditation, and there may be amenities like exercise centers or pools onsite. 

Things to consider when choosing inpatient rehab can include:

  • Your life outside of rehab will be on pause while you are in treatment. You will have to take time off of work or school and find child or pet care if needed for the duration of your stay.
  • Your stay in rehab is very scheduled, and it can take time to adjust.
  • An inpatient rehab stay usually costs more than outpatient treatment.
  • Not all inpatient rehabs use medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse.

Benefits of Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient rehab has some benefits that you may not get from outpatient treatment, such as detox. There is 24-hour care during inpatient treatment to support you through every step of your stay. Inpatient treatment is very structured and allows for the patient’s complete focus to be on their recovery. You will receive support for both mental and physical health. 

How Much Does Inpatient Rehab Cost?

The cost of inpatient rehab depends on the type of rehab center you go to and the length of your stay. Inpatient programs can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $25,000 per month. Luxury or high-end rehab centers with amenities like beachfront views will cost more than standard rehab centers. Insurance may offset some or all of the costs of inpatient rehab. In fact, marketplace health insurance plans must cover behavioral health services, including addiction treatment, as essential benefits. 

How Long Is Inpatient Rehab?

The length of inpatient rehab depends on a patient’s specific needs. In general, programs offer inpatient treatment stays ranging from 28 to 90 days. The exact length of your time in inpatient rehab will depend on your situation, as well as how long of a stay your insurance will cover. 

Outpatient Treatment

When you’re in outpatient rehab, you will live at home, so you can continue to work and take care of your family. Some patients begin with outpatient care, whereas others may start with inpatient treatment and transition into outpatient care so they can receive ongoing support during their recovery.

See Related: Will I lose my job if I go to rehab?

What To Expect from Outpatient Rehab

If you’re in outpatient rehab, you can expect to stay at home and travel to an addiction treatment center several times per week for appointments. You are likely to meet with a one-on-one counselor to help you develop skills to remain sober. You may also attend group counseling appointments or support groups and medical appointments.

Outpatient treatment may be right for you if you’ve already completed an inpatient program and want to continue your care after discharge. Outpatient treatment may also work for you if your substance use is more mild, you have a strong support system and you feel stable at home.


Different types of outpatient rehab can include:

  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP)

Benefits of Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment allows you to continue your daily life while also getting the support you need. Work and home life are able to continue, and you can use the tools learned in outpatient rehab in everyday life. Outpatient treatment may also be less expensive than inpatient treatment and can have a lot of different treatment options depending on your needs. 

How Much Does Outpatient Rehab Cost?

Given that outpatient programs do not include room and board, they tend to be less expensive compared to inpatient rehab. The cost of treatment will depend on your length of treatment, whether you have insurance coverage and to what extent your insurance covers outpatient rehab. You can expect to have some out-of-pocket costs, such as copays for appointments, which will depend on your insurance coverage. 

How Long Is Outpatient Rehab?

Just as with inpatient rehab, the length of time you spend in outpatient care will depend on your needs and situation. Outpatient care tends to last longer than inpatient rehab, and it may become less intensive over time. For example, patients in outpatient rehab may begin attending appointments three or four days a week and reduce to one or two appointments per week over time. 

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehab Success Rates

Research has taken a look at rehab success rates for inpatient and outpatient rehab. More intensive treatment tends to be more successful. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has stated that treatment should last at least three months to be effective. 

A 2018 study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that over a one-month period, relapse rates for patients in treatment for opioid addiction were 63% for those in short-term inpatient care, 14% for those in long-term inpatient and 28% for those in outpatient care. Participating in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) reduced relapse rates to 12% across all three treatment types.

Finding a Rehab Facility

If you’re in need of addiction treatment, it’s important to find a facility that meets your needs. This typically involves selecting a rehab program that offers individualized treatment plans since no two patients are the same. It’s also in your best interest to choose an accredited facility so you know you’re receiving quality care. 

The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper offers comprehensive addiction treatment that is convenient to multiple New Jersey locations such as:

Levels of care include:

Our 90-bed inpatient facility has numerous amenities, including:

  • A yoga room
  • A fitness room
  • Basketball and volleyball courts

We are accredited by The Joint Commission and employ a staff of medical professionals and licensed addiction treatment providers. Call us today to learn more or to begin the admissions process.

Sources

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Principles of Effective Treatment.” September 18, 2020. Accessed January 15, 2022.

Nunes, Edward V., et al. “Relapse to opioid use disorder after inp[…]njection naltrexone.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, February 2018. Accessed January 15, 2022.

HealthCare.gov. “Mental health & substance abuse coverage.” Accessed January 15, 2022.

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