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Inpatient vs. Outpatient Addiction Treatment


Inpatient or outpatient. While these terms have become synonymous with drug and alcohol treatment, they can be applied to any type of health concern, whether it’s mental or physical. “Inpatient” refers to when patients are treated at a facility and stay overnight for the duration of their treatment, while “outpatient” programs allow patients to come into the facility for a therapy session or treatment, after which they can return home.

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Because there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for helping those who struggle with substance abuse issues, both types of treatment can be effective in facilitating the recovery process. However, determining which path is the right one is largely dependent on the schedule of the patient, the severity of the problem and, unfortunately, what kind of insurance they have.


Below, we’ll outline the main differences between inpatient and outpatient programs, including an overview of what each type of program is, and the pros and cons of both. Whether you’re looking to get help for a substance abuse issue or you have a family member who is in need of treatment, we’re here to assist with the decision-making process.

Inpatient Addiction Treatment: What to Expect

Many rehab centers believe that inpatient care is the best option for most people in search of newfound sobriety. However, it’s a bit more nuanced than that. The idea with inpatient care is that the patient checks in to get away from their current situation, whatever that may be. This way, the patient can devote all of their focus to finding and maintaining a sober lifestyle. With inpatient treatment, you’ll receive non-stop care for the duration of your visit.

If you’re detoxing or need medication, a medical professional will be on hand — which makes some people feel a whole lot more comfortable. Patients also have access to a wide range of on-site resources, from individual and group therapy to a variety of activities, such as art therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, and yoga.

Benefits of Inpatient Care

With inpatient programs, patients generally have access to more types of therapies than they would in a typical outpatient program. For example, a rehab facility may provide a number of services, activities and therapy formats. While these programs may make inpatient care seem like a luxury, these programs are generally aimed at helping people find new skills or hobbies that can replace the urge to treat stress with drugs or alcohol, and instead find a healthy outlet for negative emotions like stress, anger, anxiety or depression.

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Because patients stay in an inpatient program overnight, the duration of the treatment is typically shorter than it is with outpatient programs. Plus, it allows people who may have slipped into drug and alcohol dependency or addiction to take a step back from the stresses of daily life and put things into perspective. Sometimes, it takes a clean break to realize that there are toxic relationships that need to be severed, habits that need to be broken or careers that need to be reevaluated to ensure the person seeking treatment makes a full recovery.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the key benefits one can expect from an inpatient Substance Abuse Treatment program:

  • Around-the-clock care — Especially when detoxing or going through a low point, having trained professionals on hand can be key in mitigating some of the risk associated with getting clean and staying clean. Having a support system equipped with the ability to help, rather than enable, is a really great foundation for success.
  • Time to focus on yourself — Between demanding jobs and the challenges that come with caring for young children or simply maintaining relationships, both close and professional, we often forget that self-care is also important. Taking a time-out to get well allows you to get to know yourself better, away from the influences of drugs and alcohol, as well as tackle some of the issues you may have been using drugs or alcohol to avoid.
  • Nutrition — Proper nutrition is an often overlooked benefit of the rehabilitation process. Learning about and sticking to healthy eating habits can help the body recover more quickly from both the physical and mental effects of addiction.
  • Support from others — Because everyone in your inpatient program is going through a similar hardship, group therapy is fertile ground for friendships that offer something many of your existing relationships may not be able to. Friends and family may have trouble understanding your personal struggle, but the people in your program know how difficult addiction can be firsthand.
  • Structure and routine — Part of maintaining sobriety starts with a commitment to sticking to a schedule that keeps you on track. People struggling with addiction really benefit from stability, as well as regular, planned activities. Having to be somewhere provides people with a sense of accountability to themselves and others, which is a powerful motivator. Plus, the less idle time a patient has to think about drugs or activities that lead to use, the less likely they are to relapse.


Sober living programs are aimed at providing a set of life skills, from coping mechanisms and counseling to job seeking, to help you achieve success after your stay comes to an end. Most facilities (ours included) follow a process similar to this when getting a new client set up for the treatment process. Here’s a quick look at the overnight process, and what you can expect upon arrival.

  • Intake — Patients arrive first thing in the morning early in the week, and begin the process by filling out some paperwork. The doctor or authorized staff member will then speak with you about your custom treatment plan, which will vary depending on the severity of your substance abuse issue. The staff member(s) will discuss a course of action with you and your family, then assess your health to gain a better understanding as to where you are in the healing process, and determine if any additional medical action must be taken.
  • Client set up — In most facilities, you’re allowed to bring some personal items, comfortable clothes and toiletries to ensure you feel at home during your stay. Because there are certain things that may not be appropriate for a successful recovery, staff may hang onto some personal belongings if need be. We also provide patients with bedding, but encourage them to bring along pillows and blankets for a little piece of home.
  • Food and other basic needs — Part of the cost of inpatient treatment includes food and beverage, as well as basic needs like towels and more. Many facilities provide patients with food from a cafeteria, while others include grocery shopping in the budget. At 7 Summit Pathways, we allot a certain amount of money for supervised outings to the grocery store. We feel this helps enforce healthy shopping and eating habits, which are a critical part to a successful recovery.

Main Challenges With Inpatient Treatment

While the fully immersive program is helpful for a great many patients suffering from addiction and substance abuse issues, the 24/7 immersive culture can feel overwhelming for many people — you’re around the same people day in and day out, which can be a benefit for most people, but could be tough for others.


Additionally, all the patient’s responsibilities are placed on hold. While taking a breather to get clean should definitely be the number one priority for those with substance abuse issues, it can be hard to get some patients to commit to living in a facility and forgoing school, work or family obligations.

In addition to the cost of the treatment, you may lose out on money earned during your stay. Check with your insurance when considering a rehab model, as some cover at least a portion of lost wages.

Outpatient Treatment Explained: Intensive Outpatient Program vs. Partial Hospitalization

Outpatient treatment is used for those who cannot or don’t want to stay in a facility while they get help for drug or alcohol issues. In this type of treatment, patients may stop by the facility for scheduled appointments, group therapy sessions and more. For many people, they may go to an outpatient facility in the morning and stay for a number of hours, just as they would go to a job each day.

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This way, patients can avoid some of the living costs, such as room and board, on top of all other treatment expenses. It allows more flexibility for patients who may need to go home at night to care for children or aging parents.

Like inpatient treatment, the bulk of the time spent in an outpatient program is dedicated to counseling. This typically includes individual therapy sessions, group therapy sessions with others suffering from similar addiction issues and, often, family therapy, which helps patient rebuild relationships with family members who may be greatly affected by the addiction.

At 7 Summit Pathways, we realize no two patients are the same, and offer a couple different approaches for those considering outpatient care in Tampa:

  • Intensive Outpatient Care (IOP) — These programs focus on the seven levels of wellness, which we believe helps people find a balanced approach to sober living once they leave our care.

Our program offers multiple forms of therapy and provides patients with the tools they need to avoid relapse in the future. Most patients attend classes and therapy sessions about three times a week for four to six weeks, and schedules are flexible to ensure patients can balance existing demands with treatment.

  • Partial Hospitalization Program — More time-intensive than the IOP, our partial hospitalization allows patients to live offsite, but requires them to come in for therapy sessions five days a week. This program includes traditional group and individual therapy, as well as holistic therapy such as yoga, massage and other activities aimed at reducing stress and helping to foster healthy coping mechanisms.

Additionally, patients will focus on improving the whole self, from practicing mindfulness to learning more about nutrition and fitness — both of which are key in maintaining a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.

Benefits of Outpatient Addiction Treatment

A significantly more affordable option than inpatient care, outpatient treatment removes many of the costs associated with staying at the facility full-time.

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Although outpatient care may not be an ideal situation for all individuals seeking recovery treatment, it can be a useful tool for a number of people who don’t have the money to pay for a sober living program or who simply cannot take the time off from their lives at home.

While this option is not recommended for individuals at risk of severely harming themselves or others, outpatient care can be a really great option for a number of patients. Some of the benefits include:

  • Ability to bridge the gap between day-to-day life and rehab — One of the benefits of outpatient addiction treatment is that the patient has the ability to apply what they’ve learned or discovered about themselves in rehab while attending to at least some of what their day-to-day schedule generally looks like.

Naturally, this works best if the patient has friends and family that support their recovery in an otherwise stable situation, but outpatient care does have the potential to produce lasting results, on the patient’s own terms.

  • Freedom to continue your career — Outpatient care may be a good option for those with less severe addictions (or who are participating as a form of self-maintenance), as they may benefit by coping with the challenges of balancing career and personal stuff right off the bat.

One of the primary benefits of outpatient rehab is the flexibility patients have to apply new knowledge to components of their day-to-day life. This type of arrangement may lead to a greater capacity to paint a picture of what sober living will look like after rehab ends.

Outpatient Care Challenges

Because the patient does have some big chunks of alone time when going through treatment, outpatient care may be a bit risky for someone getting clean for the first time, or who is worried about the risk of relapse. Outpatient care tends to have a better success rate for patients who are extremely self-motivated, as the desire to get better truly comes from within. It’s also imperative that they have a strong network of friends and family there to support them if things get challenging.


Another drawback that comes with outpatient care is the fact that the patient ends up missing out on some of the camaraderie and support that comes from experiencing treatment with a group of people. These people have an understanding that the patients’ families may simply not have — basically, what it’s like to suffer from an addiction and all the behaviors that go along with it. Addicts tend to hide drug use from their families and may find it hard to open up to someone who doesn’t have the same life experience.

In addition to the challenges that go along with outpatient care, there are few situations in which we strongly recommend patients look toward enrolling in the sober living program instead:

  • People with a history of relapse — People who have relapsed before are strongly advised to look toward inpatient care, because they will have no access to drugs or alcohol during their stay.
  • People with a destructive home environment — Because patients with an unstable home life may be driven to use drugs or alcohol in the first place, it’s best to get them into a new environment when Substance Abuse Treatment begins.

Insurance Explained: Self-Pay Versus Carrier Pay

Insurance is a big factor in how people go about getting treatments. Inpatient services can be cost-prohibitive to some patients, no matter how much they need to get help for their addiction. Outpatient care can be significantly less expensive, but we understand rehabilitation costs can seem overwhelming after the decision is made to get clean for good. Here’s a quick look at what you can expect when you start the process.

While it can be stressful to navigate insurance options while battling a serious addiction or substance dependency, there are several insurance options available for people seeking treatment for these issues. Most health care plans compensate for either inpatient or outpatient care no matter the severity of your addiction, or type of addiction you have. While getting coverage for Substance Abuse Treatment was difficult in the past, many insurers have come to see this issue as a medical concern that may require medical attention throughout a patient’s entire life.

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If you do have private insurance, you’ll want to contact your health care provider to see how much of the treatment you plan will be expected to cover. Ask a lot of questions while you’ve got someone on the phone. They’ll be able to walk you through whether the full cost of the program will be covered, or if you’re responsible for some of the treatment.

If your insurance provider does cover the process, we’d strongly advise looking into inpatient care for your treatment. At 7 Summit Pathways, we accept a number of insurance carriers, including Aetna, Blue Shield, Humana, Cigna and more.

Additionally, should you not have insurance, we’re happy to work with you to put together a payment plan that works for you. Cost should not be a barrier for those who seek help.

Ready to Get Clean? We’re Here to Help

In the end, there’s no easy way to solve this problem. Whether what you need is intensive, immersive care or something flexible with your existing schedule, if you’re looking for an inpatient or intensive outpatient program in Tampa, we’re here to help. 7 Summit Pathways offers a variety of treatment options, each tailored to our clients’ specific needs — from alcohol and drug treatment to special programs for dual diagnosis patients.

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As mentioned above, we work with most major insurance carriers and are happy to help you establish a payment plan that makes rehab a viable option for you or a loved one. In the end, we truly care about helping you live your best life, free from the burden of addiction, and we’ll do our best to work with you to make sure you’re set up for success.

If it’s time for you or a loved one to get help, schedule an appointment, or call us at 813-630-HOPE. We’ll help you figure out the best course of action.

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We accept most insurance plans including:

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If you or a loved one is seeking help for an addiction, contact us today.

Call us and get help now 800-719-8115.