Understanding The Difference Between Outpatient Treatment And Residential Inpatient Levels Of Care

Updated: Oct 28, 2018

Understanding The Difference Between Outpatient Treatment And Residential Inpatient Levels Of Care

Outpatient Treatment vs Inpatient Treatment: Mental Health & Addiction

Over 43 million American’s suffer from a mental health condition, making the subject a significant issue within the United States. Mental health programs and substance abuse rehabilitation centers offer those individuals a source of hope – providing the tools, resources, and support necessary to help them adapt and return to their families, lives, jobs, and community.

However, treatment is not a one-sized fit all solution and selecting the correct course of treatment is important for both short- and long-term success. Those seeking treatment for themselves or their loved ones must be able to evaluate the options available and choose the best fit for their unique needs and diagnosis. As part of our Full Continuum of clinical services, we have provided our thoughts on the differences between “Outpatient” and “Residential” (inpatient) treatment below.

Outpatient vs. Inpatient

From a housing perspective, there are two primary treatment options:  inpatient and outpatient. Though some patients may not be able to make the decision on their own, it’s important to understand the primary differences.


Inpatient or residential treatment is the most intensive care program and what many think of when “rehabilitation” becomes part of the conversation. In this case, patients check in to a facility and remain there for the duration of treatment – essentially putting their outside life on hold while they work towards recovery.

Inpatient programs are often recommended to those that suffer from severe addiction or substance abuse problems, as they allow for around-the clock care and support during detox and withdrawal.

Our Primary Care Program is available to those who choose or are otherwise advised to engage in an intensive, full-time rehabilitation program. Those enrolled commit to a 30 to 90 day stay in our residences, though additional time can be provided if needed.


Outpatient treatment enables the patient to maintain somewhat of a home life, whether is be returning to their home to sleep and enjoy weekend some independence in the evening and on weekends or maintaining their place in the workplace.

Although this type of program does allow patients some flexibility, one should not assume that it does not allow for intensive treatment.

At Evolution, we provide patients with a variety of licensed mental health programs – ranging from 30 days to six months – including the following:

Patients can use these programs in conjunction, stepping down from one to the next as their recovery allows or they can choose to enter at any point based on their need.

Determining Treatment Based on Need

What determines which program is best for a patient?  Typically, the following factors are considered when advising a patient to seek inpatient or outpatient treatment.

  • Medical and psychiatric needs (e.g., monitoring detox/withdrawal, co-occurring disorders)

  • Patient history/stage of addiction (e.g., past experiences with treatment)

  • Risk of relapse

  • Patient’s current home environment

  • Insurance and affordability, when necessary

  • Personal and professional limitations (e.g., inability to take an extended leave from a job, family needs, etc.)

Keep in mind that each situation is unique and therefore you should work closely with licensed medical staff before deciding.

Choosing a Care Facility

When choosing a facility for either inpatient or outpatient treatment, it’s important to thoroughly evaluate the facility’s staff, programs, and methodologies. Treatment centers that offer both inpatient and outpatient programs can offer an added benefit, as those that complete inpatient treatments can step down to outpatient programs if/as necessary.

At Evolutions, we offer both inpatient and outpatient programs and are dually licensed to treat substance abuse and mental health disorders.  Once engaged in our programs, clients have access to a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary team of skilled professionals that can offer support to both patients and their families.

Both inpatient and outpatient programs offer those struggling with a mental disorder and/or addiction the opportunity to receive the help they desperately need.  The decision to pursue either program often depends on a variety of factors, and so it’s important to work close with medical professionals as well as your loved ones as you determine the best option.