Residential Rehab vs. Inpatient Rehab: What’s the Difference and Which is Best for Me?


If you believe that you’re suffering from a substance abuse disorder, it’s a good idea to call a substance abuse helpline or consult an online directory to find rehabilitation centers near you. However, it’s important to note that not all rehab treatment centers are the same. In fact, they differ in terms of the kinds of services you’ll have access to as well as the environment that you’ll be staying in.

That said, the right treatment program will depend on several factors, such as the type of addiction you’re struggling with as well as the extent of your addiction. In most cases, you can choose between residential and inpatient treatment, as these are the most popular and effective forms of rehab available. If you’re unsure which one is best for you, read on to learn the differences between the two.

The Difference Between Residential and Inpatient Rehab

It’s easy to get confused between residential and inpatient rehab, as these forms of rehabilitative services sound quite similar to each other. However, one major difference between the two is the type of environment that you’ll be staying in while receiving treatment.

More often than not, patients in residential rehab will receive highly specialized treatment while living in a home or facility. On the other hand, those in inpatient rehab will stay in a more clinical and strict environment, such as a hospital or an automated facility.

Despite these differences, both residential and inpatient rehab are highly effective, especially for patients who are prone to relapsing. Additionally, both offer addiction and mental health disorder treatment and medically-assisted detoxification services, among others.

Best for In-Depth Treatment and Sustained Sobriety: Residential Rehab

Residential rehab is often considered the more intensive option, as patients are given medical care and assistance 24/7. As such, it is best for people who want to focus on long-term recovery after having already received inpatient rehab and counseling in the past.

To this end, residential rehab provides patients with direct access to certain medical professionals, round-the-clock care, specialized therapies, and more. As a result, residential treatment tends to cost more because it is a more holistic approach to recovery, wherein the root causes of a person’s addiction are identified and addressed.

In addition, residential rehab focuses on multimodal interventions, wherein different forms of treatment are used to help patients recover more effectively. If a patient has any lingering issues or cravings without exhibiting withdrawal symptoms, for example, they may be asked to attend cognitive behavioral therapy sessions and get sub-acute detoxification.

Unlike inpatient treatment, residential treatments introduce patients to a wide range of activities that are essential to recovery. Since patients are in a home-like environment, they are generally given a bit more leeway. They may even be allowed to leave the residential facility as long as they have the right supervision. Overall, the ambiance of a residential rehab center feels more welcoming than inpatient ones, with treatments usually lasting several months.

Best for Urgent Care and Full Detoxification: Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehab emphasizes medical intervention to immediately stabilize a patient, especially if they already have severe substance abuse disorder. Unlike residential rehab, inpatient programs are considered to be short-term solutions, lasting around one to three months. Thus, these focus more on treating the symptoms and health problems of the patients rather than the underlying issues. Some inpatient programs also provide inpatient programming, psychiatric evaluations, and full medical detox, among others.

Patients may check into a hospital or facility for inpatient rehab, where they’ll be expected to stay for the duration of the treatment. Since inpatient rehab centers are recommended for critical and emergency cases, patients are considered high-risk and are constantly monitored by hospital staff. Thus, their facilities can be quite restrictive, as patients are not allowed to leave the clinic. However, they are allowed to engage in a limited number of activities as long as a staff member keeps a close eye on them.

Because the program is so short, it is still advisable for patients to enroll in continued treatment in the form of partial hospitalization or outpatient rehab. Patients may even opt to get residential rehab if healthcare professionals believe that they need ongoing support and assistance. That being said, the next step of treatment is usually based on what’s most medically appropriate given a patient’s progress upon completing the program.

Rehab and recovery are never as straightforward as they seem to be. However, it’s always worth the effort because your life, health, and happiness matter. Whether you need inpatient rehab, residential rehab, or both, you’ll be able to see results as long as you stick with the program. We hope that this article has helped you decide which treatment options are best for your specific needs. In time, you’re sure to reclaim your life from the harmful impact of substance abuse.

About the Author

Sherry Jane Smith is a freelance writer and a very flexible beast who loves scrutinizing and traversing new things. She also spends her free time hiking, traveling, and volunteering in community service programs.

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