When a loved one needs help, those around them usually are forced to take a crash course in Treatment 101. Inpatient, PHP, psychiatric outpatient, DBT, assessment, CBT — a lot of terms are thrown around as you seek to make sense of the options. One of the primary decisions to be made is whether an inpatient (aka residential) program is the right fit or would outpatient treatment be better. What’s the difference, and how do you know what’s right for your situation?

Residential or inpatient programs are 24 hours a day, with participants living on-site, taking meals at the facility and interacting with other patients even during non-program hours. These programs may also provide intensive add-ons like a detox component and monitoring by medical staff. In contrast, outpatient programs traditionally offer morning, afternoon or evening options. The time commitment is obviously less, which means there is also less programming, with outpatient treatment usually requiring three or four hours per day for treatment.

When it comes to making the right treatment choice, there is no one right answer that applies to every single situation. Both residential and outpatient treatment serve a specific purpose and offer quality, comprehensive programs. It’s all about finding the right fit for your particular set of circumstances.

Making the Comparison

In the case of addiction treatment, more may be better, with residential treatment remaining the most successful method in most cases. Getting an addicted individual out of their environment for an extended period to focus solely on sobriety is ideal. Inpatient programs allow more time to address not just the physical aspects of addiction but to also get to the underlying causes of someone’s substance abuse.

That doesn’t mean residential is the only way to go, though. In some cases, inpatient care is just not realistic. Family obligations or professional demands may make it impossible to leave daily life behind to get help. That’s when an Intensive Outpatient Program (or IOP), Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) or other outpatient treatment can be a great choice.

While there are obvious differences, as outlined above, high-quality inpatient and outpatient programs include similar features:

  • A customized care plan focused on the unique needs of each individual
  • Physician-directed medication management
  • Primary therapy with licensed mental health professionals
  • Group sessions with peer interaction
  • Educational programs and lectures
  • Holistic programming
  • Weekly random drug screenings
  • Ongoing recovery support for long-term success

Choosing Both Residential AND Outpatient

It’s not uncommon for someone to use residential and outpatient treatment together, starting with an inpatient program and then stepping down to an outpatient level of care as a way to ease back into everyday life. This gives the individual the security and structure of treatment as they take those first tentative steps into the world of recovery.

Individuals may also seek treatment at different points throughout their recovery journey.  Some use outpatient treatment to pre-empt a relapse, avoiding the destructive spiral before a small problem becomes something unmanageable. Others may return to residential treatment for a “tune-up” or after a major life change that has them feeling vulnerable.

The Right Program at the Right Time

There is enough to deal with when someone you love is in crisis, so don’t put pressure on yourself to become an addiction expert overnight. Instead, rely on the experts. Holly Hill Hospital has a long history of treatment addiction and mental health issues, with professionals available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help. Admissions counselors can provide information on treatment programs, help with insurance, schedule a no-cost assessment and answer questions about the treatment process. They’ll take the time to gather information about your unique situation and match you or your loved one to the right program.

Recovery is a life-long process, and the skills learned in treatment – whether in a residential or outpatient program – can make all the difference in your long-term success. Taking the time to make the right choice now can pay dividends for decades to come.