There are many reasons to consider. Cost, insurance, work, a business, school, being a stay-at-home mom or caretaker to a family member, number of recovery attempts, type and length of addiction. Whew!
Both types of treatment share similarities and also have big differences. I have seen both types of treatment facilities and have had one-on-one sessions with people in both treatment types.
The benefit of inpatient treatment is complete isolation from any outside influence or temptations. There are literally no distractions.
Every moment of the day is planned, and you go from individual sessions to group sessions to group meals and group living arrangements.
You are exclusively interacting with other addicts and the therapists. Some facilities have ancillary services, such as hypnotherapy, stress management, massage therapy, and physical fitness. One facility that I currently work with even has a personal trainer three days a week and has its own gym equipment. This type of facility has a well-rounded approach to treating the individual as so much more than just an addict. The facility has personnel to help the clients write résumés and help them to get employment at the end of the treatment time. The facility also makes arrangements for halfway or sober-living houses if they do not have these houses as part of their business. Most insurance companies pay for inpatient treatment several times if necessary. The clients are sequestered, and many find that as soon as they are out, the temptation to stay clean is too much for them and that inpatient does not prepare them for the “outside.” Clients/patients have told me that while they are in inpatient, they feel like they are in a protected cocoon but, once set free, are not able to resist the pull of drugs. Inpatient is a big business—a big repeat business because of this very reason. But people do succeed in inpatient, and if you can spend the money and spare the time, this is a great way to go.
Outpatient, on the other hand, is, of course, a lot cheaper, and if you are a self-payer, this is a huge consideration because inpatient can run anywhere from fifteen to thirty-plus thousand a month. Outpatient may be the only way to go, money aside, if you have a job that supports a family or if you are enrolled in school or all the aforementioned reasons. Of course, you have exposure and easy access to drugs, which is a problem because you are still in your using environment.
Both types of treatment share similarities. Both offer individual and group therapy sessions. Both offer direction and guidance. Both offer some type of relapse prevention sessions, and the outpatient clients have these sessions usually scheduled during evening hours so that their jobs or schooling can be taken into account.
If affordability is not an issue and there are no job or schooling issues, then my personal preference is inpatient. More and more of these facilities have MDs on staff, and many have MDs that are psychiatrists that specialize in the field of addition. There are tremendous benefits to this. Many addicted people suffer from dual diagnosis, and a psychiatrist in the addiction field is able to prescribe psychopharmaceuticals. They are also able to prescribe medications that halt cravings. Medication-assisted therapy is clearly an important option at the doctor’s discretion.
More and more treatment facilities utilize the many benefits that only a physician can provide because overcoming addiction is so much more than the stopping of using.
As I stated, I prefer the inpatient approach mainly because of the isolation from the outside world, because this is more intense and because of the doctors that are practicing on-site.
I have seen failure and success in both types of treatment facilities. There are many components to this disease. Regardless of which program is utilized, aftercare is critical. So in answer to the question “inpatient or outpatient?” it is really a toss-up, taking into account a multitude of considerations. Either way, you cannot—you should not—do this alone. You must embark on the most important thing you will ever do for yourself. Get help. Get into treatment!