The approaches for addiction treatment and rehabilitation generally fall into two categories: inpatient and outpatient approaches. Both are designed to help a patient heal and recover with different strengths and weaknesses, depending on the particular case and situation. Some work better than others on the person affected. Because of the differences, outpatient and inpatient services are applied in gradations, with less serious cases typically receiving outpatient style treatment and more serious cases the other. The difference has a lot to do with the patient as well.
Unfortunately, because these two categories of treatment are elective, i.e. unless ordered by a court people can choose which one to take, patients can easily be put into the wrong program for their situation. Families, spouses, and friends as well as the patients themselves often have misunderstandings as to what exactly is needed in their individual situation and choose blindly based on what seems convenient. Understanding the differences between the program approaches helps tremendously in matching the right treatment to the addiction situation.
The most distinct part of inpatient treatment is the fact that the patient is kept physically within the program confines. Once checked in, the person stays onsite until the addiction physical withdrawals are broken and the patient has had enough time for treatment to take effect, based on the professional evaluation. The medical treatment and attention is 24/7 within the facility, dealing with withdrawal symptoms right away and providing both monitoring as well as adjusted treatment as needed during the stay. This level of support is the highest approach possible under typical treatment conditions.
Because inpatient treatment involves such a serious commitment, a person is going to be separated from normal life and routines for an extended period. It may be a few weeks or a couple of months. That means one needs to make arrangements for extended absence from work, school, and family. In addition, family and loved ones frequently need to make adjustments to accommodate the stay. That can be a ground-shaking impact, even causing a loved one to have to go to work in some cases if the patient is the sole income earner. Patients usually need and require extended family support to help them and loved ones get through the process successfully. Study after study supports the conclusion that for serious addiction treatment and recovery, the inpatient treatment approach provides the highest rate of long-term success, allowing a patient to break the addiction cycle, achieve getting past the harsh withdrawals, and responding to counseling and treatment. Most importantly, the 24/7 support helps the patient build confidence to maintain the break from addiction which then reinforces recovery.
As an alternative option, the outpatient approach allows the patient to still maintain contact and regular involvement with life’s responsibilities while still obtaining treatment. This approach can be coupled with both medical treatment as well as counseling and therapy. However, unlike the inpatient approach, the outpatient treatment has a significant difference – unrestricted ability to be on one’s own. This also means that the patient doesn’t have access to 24/7 response, monitoring and support as well. As a result, the risk of the treatment not being entirely clear of distraction and exposure to the issues and causes of addiction can be a challenge. And for those who are deep in addiction, it may very well be too much to resist, falling back into relapse again and again.
However, an intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) is a midpoint between the traditional outpatient method that can be too liberal and the inpatient model which can be too disruptive in some cases. Objective studies have also found the IOP as a viable method of addiction treatment with a high rate of performance. It provides a rigid and proactive approach towards monitoring but the patient still has the ability to attend school or work and be at home with family. The approach has a far higher success rate because of the attention and constant encouragement of the patient versus just assigning the person to show up for the next appointment. With careful scheduling, monitoring and family involvement, intensive outpatient treatment can be a very effective alternative to a full institutional commitment.