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Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehab: Understanding the Difference

Last Updated: May 17, 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. For instance, 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. In general, when people make the choice to enter a formal treatment program, there are two overarching categories of rehab: inpatient and outpatient care.

How Do Residential and Outpatient Rehab Programs Compare? 

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 onsite 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 about their days, go to work and take care of personal matters while coming to appointments at times that fit their schedule. 
  • Inpatient programs are suitable for people who have severe addictions or who do not have a stable living environment, whereas 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 Drug and Alcohol Rehab

Those who participate in inpatient or residential rehab live onsite at a treatment facility while undergoing treatment. This gives them access to around-the-clock medical care and supervision. Sometimes, people think of inpatient programs as being more restrictive in nature, meaning that patients are in a hospital setting receiving medical care. In reality, residential treatment provides more of a home-like environment, offering patients access to amenities like fitness rooms and yoga classes. Often, the terms residential and inpatient are used interchangeably. At The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper, our inpatient program is residential and does not involve a hospital stay. 

Inpatient Rehab: What to Expect

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 your time in an inpatient program, 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. 

How Much Does Inpatient Rehab Cost?

The cost of inpatient rehab depends upon 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 upon 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 upon your situation, as well as how long of a stay your insurance will cover. 

Outpatient Drug and Alcohol Rehab

When you’re in outpatient rehab, you will continue to 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 that they can receive ongoing support during their recovery. 

Outpatient Rehab: What to Expect

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, and you may attend group counseling appointments or support groups as well as medical appointments.

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 or residential 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 upon your needs and situation. Outpatient care tends to last longer than inpatient rehab, and outpatient care may become less intensive over time. For example, patients in outpatient rehab may begin attending appointments three or four days a week, and over time, reduce to one or two appointments per week. 

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehab Success Rates

If you’re deciding between inpatient vs. outpatient rehab, you probably want to know which type of program is more successful. While each patient’s experience will be unique, research has taken a look at rehab success rates. 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.

What can be concluded from this study is that longer-lasting, more intensive treatment tends to be more successful. This is not surprising, given that the National Institute on Drug Abuse has stated that treatment should last at least three months to be effective. An inpatient program that lasts just one month is unlikely to be sufficient to promote lasting sobriety on its own, so it is important to continue with outpatient care after a short inpatient stay. 

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 have the same needs. It’s also in your best interest to choose an accredited facility so you know that you’re receiving quality care. 

For those seeking addiction treatment in the Northeast, The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper offers comprehensive addiction treatment that is convenient to multiple New Jersey locations, including Newark, Trenton and Jersey City, as well as to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We offer multiple levels of care, including medical detoxinpatient treatment, outpatient programming, partial hospitalization, and aftercare support. Our 90-bed inpatient facility has numerous amenities, including a yoga room, a fitness room, and 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


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