How do residential and outpatient rehab programmes compare?

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How do residential and outpatient rehab programmes compare? 

Each treatment programme has its benefits and challenges. For instance, outpatient rehab programmes compare highly for patients with mild to moderate substance addiction. In cases of long-term alcohol or drug addiction, inpatient rehab is the better option. Outpatient rehab and residential rehab/inpatient treatment are the primary treatment programmes for addiction treatment.  

Alcohol and drug use is a persistent issue affecting millions of people. It is estimated that there are around 586,760 dependent drinkers in the UK, but only 18% are seeking treatment [1].

Drug addiction also affects 1 in 11 persons aged 16 to 59 [2].  

Last year, around 3.2 million people took drugs in the UK. The drug and alcohol culture means that there's a need for quality addiction services. 

Those who are ready to pursue treatment can choose from: 

  • Inpatient rehab 
  • Intensive outpatient rehab 
  • Outpatient rehab 

Read on to understand how outpatient rehab programmes compare to inpatient. 

What is outpatient rehab? 

Outpatient rehabilitation allows patients to receive treatment for several hours a week without residing in the facility. This option is suitable for those with obligations, e.g., work or family, childcare. 

Outpatient rehab lets people attend meetings, support groups, and counselling sessions to address the substance abuse problem. 

The intensive outpatient programme is one of the main outpatient treatment programmes available.

This option consists of all the elements of residential treatment, with the only difference being that patients don't reside in the facility. 

Intensive outpatient programmes provide treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues, and other dependencies that don't require detoxification or 24/7 supervision. 

A person can also opt for partial hospitalization. This is a structured outpatient service provided in a medical facility. Partial hospitalization mainly offers medical detox and a bit of counselling/psychiatric services. 

You can choose between outpatient rehab and intensive outpatient programme. Both provide you with the flexibility of attending treatment without disrupting your daily routine. 

What is residential rehab? 

Residential treatment programmes allow patients to stay in the facility until they complete treatment. There are short-term residential rehab programmes that last for about a month or three months. 

Most people go for 28-day residential rehab care. Still, there's the option of long-term rehab that can last for 6 months up to a year. 

Residential rehab is also known as inpatient rehab. Patients who choose a residential programme get to stay in a restrictive environment until they complete treatment.

This allows them to focus on substance abuse recovery. Residential rehabilitation is extensive as it consists of comprehensive services plus 24/7 care from healthcare professionals. 

How do outpatient rehab programmes compare to inpatient programmes? 

Outpatient rehab takes place in a less restrictive environment compared to inpatient rehab. Outpatient care is suitable for those who have support plus the psychological capacity to avoid relapse. Typically, each treatment programme has its advantages and disadvantages. 

Read on to discover the benefits of inpatient versus outpatient rehab. 

Benefits of outpatient rehab 

An outpatient rehab is a popular option due to its numerous benefits. It offers flexible, affordable options.

The patient gets to visit an outpatient treatment centre for several hours a week while engaging in other obligations. 

The benefits of outpatient treatment include: 

a). It fits your schedule 

Unlike residential programmes, outpatient care does not require you to be in the treatment facility 24/7.

Outpatient treatment programmes allow you to choose when to go and how often you'll attend treatment. You also get to choose who you'll work with. 

b). More discrete 

Outpatient services are provided at your agreed-upon time. This makes it more discrete as it will be difficult for your employer or anyone else to find out that you're seeking treatment for substance addiction.

Outpatient settings also include one-on-one interaction with certified addiction counsellors. Therefore, it will be difficult for people to know that you're getting treatment. 

c). Outpatient services are more affordable 

Services such as at-home detox, outpatient therapy, and online therapy are all part of outpatient services. Outpatient rehab is more affordable because you don't stay in the facility. 

d). Gives you a chance to build your skills 

In some cases, outpatient rehab acts as a transition stage from inpatient to the outside world. It gives patients a chance to build upon the skills obtained during inpatient treatment. 

e). Outpatient treatment is tailored to meet your needs. 

Treatment at a residential rehab facility is highly structured and takes place in a group setting. But in outpatient rehab, you are likely to work with your treatment provider to tailor everything to meet your needs.

This is because of the one-on-one attention provided in outpatient programmes. 

Benefits of residential rehab 

An outpatient programme has its benefits and its downsides. Some studies show that outpatient rehab programmes' relapse rate is higher than long-term addiction patients' inpatient rehab programmes [3].

Since people go back to their ordinary lives after treatment, the risk of relapse in outpatient programmes is high. 

An inpatient rehab programme provides the benefit of 24/7 support and supervision. This option is beneficial for long-term addiction patients. 

Residential rehab is often comprehensive with offerings such as: 

  • Group counselling 
  • Group meetings 
  • Individual therapy 
  • Family therapy 

Nutritional assessment plus so much more taking place within the treatment centre. 

An inpatient programme also consists of the following benefits: 

Seamless transition from detox to therapy. 

Since everything happens in the residential rehab facility, the patient can transition from medical-assisted detox to therapy without any interference. 

Safe environment 

When you look at inpatient vs outpatient, one factor that stands out is that inpatient lets you stay in the facility.

Residential rehab provides addicts with a safe environment free from the temptations and distractions in the outside world. 

Time spent in residential rehab is ideal for those addicted to multiple substances or long-term substance abuse sufferers.

Taking the time to focus on treatment is one of the significant factors associated with long-term substance abuse recovery. 

Residential rehab offers recovering addicts a safe environment where they can complete the detox process. This makes it an excellent option for patients who mix alcohol with other drugs.

Stopping drug addiction from opiates and alcohol can lead to severe symptoms of withdrawal.

As such, residential rehab programmes offer the safest way to complete detox without developing complications or relapsing. 

Emotional benefits 

Residential and outpatient rehab centres focus on providing their clients with the best treatment options.

Since the residential programme takes place in a safe environment, it offers a higher chance for a patient to experience emotional safety and peace of mind, which is important for the overall treatment. 

Access to social resources 

How do residential rehab programmes compare to outpatient when it comes to support? Inpatient is better because the patient gets 24/7 support.

In a residential rehab centre, the patient gets to interact with staff, counsellors, and other recovering alcoholics. 

This ever-present support system is extremely beneficial is at providing the average person with hope, love, friendship, and support that they need for recovery. 


Comfortable accommodation 

Detoxification at a hospital puts you in a medical care which smells sterile and has basic amenities. But when you enter a rehab clinic, you will feel at home.

Most residential rehabs offer home-style apartments and houses to make patients feel comfortable. You also get amenities such as flat screen tv, a swimming pool, on-site laundry facilities, and so on. 

Inpatient vs outpatient cost  

It is important to consider cost when looking at inpatient vs outpatient services. Overall, residential facilities cost more because of the services (accommodation, food, amenities, etc.).

There are various residential services (private rehab centres, luxury rehab, short-term versus long-term care). Inpatient services can cost around £1000-1,500 per week.

A 28-day rehab can cost around £6,000, and the prices can be as high as £20,000 for a month programme. 

Outpatient is more affordable and can cost around £3000 to £8000 for the full programme. The cost for medical detox can range from £250 and £750 per day, depending on the rehab clinic. 

Disadvantages of inpatient vs outpatient services 

It is essential to note the drawbacks of each treatment approach. For outpatient, the main disadvantages include: 

  • No 24-hour supervision. The patient does not get the 27/7 assistance they need while going through the difficult detox phase. 
  • No medical detox. A person in need of medical detoxification will have to attend partial hospitalization or a rehab clinic. 
  • The risk of relapse is high. There are cases where the patient starts drinking at home and stops going to the centre altogether. 
  • Not suitable for chronic substance abuse. The severity of the withdrawal symptoms makes outpatient a risky approach to addiction treatment. 

The cons of inpatient service are: 

  • High costs. The costs can be as high as £30,000 for a 28-day programme. Some cost around £1000 to £1500 per week. 
  • You have to make arrangements if you have obligations. For instance, you may have to ask for a leave from work or make arrangements with childcare. 
  • Insurance may part for part of the costs meaning that you'll have to look for other ways to cater for the cost. 

Residential rehab vs outpatient rehab success rates 

Most people are curious about how outpatient rehab programmes compare to inpatient services in terms of success rates. The truth is that studies are not clear about which one is better.

Different studies report different success rates in residential and outpatient rehab. 

Some studies show that residential and outpatient rehab have similar success rates [4]. The only limitation with these studies is that they may not have included those who wanted a residential rehab programme.  

Other studies reveal that residential rehabs outperform outpatient rehab programmes in terms of dropout rates.

A study by Ed Day & John Strang showed that a higher number of patients in residential rehab programme completed detox compared to those in an outpatient programme [5]. 

Intensive outpatient rehab programmes provide patients with the benefit of a more extended period in treatment.

Alternatively, residential programmes offer extensive treatment options (individual sessions, group therapy, and education) for a shorter time. 

Residential rehab programmes give patients a safe environment for alcohol and drug treatment.

But if the patient could detox from home, they will have a better chance of applying the methods and knowledge obtained in outpatient therapy in their everyday life.  

That's why most addiction experts agree that the success of each rehab programme depends on the individual. 

Patients deal with addiction differently. Those who put themselves in a programme, whether outpatient or residential, get substantial help. Residential and outpatient rehab offers the skills needed for successful treatment.  

Those with chronic substance abuse are likely to realize a higher success at recover in a residential rehab centre. 

Residential and outpatient treatment options 

Inpatient and outpatient rehab have similar goals. Both have similar services that include family therapy, group counselling, and individual therapy sessions.

Inpatient and outpatient rehab work with the patient to help them achieve a life free of substance abuse.  

The type of psychological tools utilized is similar, e.g., cognitive behavioural therapy, plus other methods to help the patient manage alcohol cravings and the urge to relapse. 

How to decide while choosing what suits you 

Now that we've covered how outpatient rehab programmes compare to inpatient, the next question is 'How do you choose a rehab centre that suits you?'

Both residential and outpatient programmes offer numerous benefits. But for chronic alcohol or drug user, a residential programme is the best option. 

The first step in deciding between inpatient vs outpatient is to consult your GP. They will conduct a medical assessment to give you a proper diagnosis of the addiction.  

Some people are in denial about the severity of their alcohol or drug dependency. But by talking to your GP, you'll be in a better position to make an informed choice between residential and outpatient rehab. 

Alternatively, you can reach out to a treatment centre to discuss your options. Both residential and outpatient rehab centres have a certified addiction expert on call to help you make the right choice. 

Every person has unique treatment needs. Therefore, when looking at residential vs outpatient rehab, you'll need to consider the following: 

  • How much time are you willing to commit to treatment? 
  • What treatment types do you need from a treatment centre? (e.g., treatment for substance use and depression, etc.). 
  • Do you have a strong support system at home to keep you from relapse? (this is important if you're considering inpatient vs outpatient rehab). 

What's important is that you've decided to go to a treatment centre for recovery from alcohol or substance misuse. Both inpatient and outpatient rehab programmes compare well instead of detoxing on your own (cold turkey). 

Residential and outpatient rehab is designed to help you succeed at overcoming the addiction. 

You can try outpatient services if you feel that you can commit to sobriety at home. You can detox from home or at a hospital and later on attend outpatient programmes such as outpatient therapy.

But with outpatient comes the risk of relapse because you are still in the same tempting environment. 

Inpatient addiction treatment gives you comprehensive care that includes a complete detox. You also get to attend group therapy, and you can choose from a variety of therapy sessions. 

Abbeycare Pricing Bot

About the author

Laura Morris

Laura Morris is an experienced clinical practitioner and CQC Registered Manager with over twenty years experience, over ten of which have been as an Independent Nurse Prescriber.

She has held a number of senior leadership roles in the substance use and mental health sector in the NHS, the prison service and in leading social enterprises in the field.

Last Updated: October 31, 2023