The truth is that neither one is “better” than the other. They are both wonderful resources for those who are appropriate for each level of care. However, for either to be effective, it is important to find quality programs that provide services that match up with the individual’s needs and desires. Intention to change and agreement with the modality are vitally important to obtaining lasting results.
Does Everyone Need Inpatient Rehab?
No, everyone who needs rehab is appropriate for an inpatient program. The more severe the substance use issues, the higher level of care they would need. There are also different lengths of time for inpatient programs, ranging from a week or two of stabilization, all the way up to a year or more in a residential setting. If your health insurance is the primary source of payment for services, then they will likely only cover a few weeks of inpatient rehabilitation before requiring a step down to the next level of care, such as a partial hospitalization (PHP/ day treatment) or an intensive outpatient program (IOP).
Does Everyone Need an Outpatient Program?
Pretty much, with the exception (maybe) of people who complete a year-long residential program who may be ready to take on life fully recovered, even that is a stretch. Most people need ongoing help, and should receive it in the form of outpatient services. It is part of the recommended continuum of care for long-term recovery.
Most people who enroll in rehab programs do so in an outpatient setting. There are plenty of cases where they should have started with inpatient first. When deciding, it usually comes down to a few different questions: What is the clinically appropriate level to start with? Is the person needing help interested in changing and compliant with outpatient protocols? What type of services are available locally?
The answers to the above questions may not always be immediately evident. Since there is not a single correct way to recover, there are infinite patterns of rehab processes available, and it often takes more than one attempt to find the right fit.