The first step in any program of recovery is admitting that you need help. Often times, a life that has become unmanageable due to drugs or alcohol is a signal this this problem might be more than you can handle alone. Many addicts and alcoholics try to quit on their own, and experience cycles of abstinence and relapse, with no long term success. The next step is to seek outside help. That comes by way of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, licensed therapists, psychiatry or a reputable treatment facility. The avenue with the highest rate of success is the treatment center. These programs offer intensive therapy and instruction in a healthy, structured environment. Treatment centers come in two different levels of care, the inpatient program and the outpatient program. But which option is right for you? What are the differences in these two programs?
The inpatient treatment programs are far more intensive. Clients live onsite for a period ranging anywhere from four to six weeks, sometimes more depending on individual situations. Clients receive 24-hour supervision in a residential facility by trained staff and licensed therapists. Many inpatient clients benefit by being part of an in-house community of patients and counsellors, all dedicated to a program of recovery. “The strengths of the inpatient program are the consistency and constant accountability for behavior as well as a team approach to treatment,” said Brandy N. Corder, Clinical Program Director at the Liberty Ranch Rehabilitation Center. Clients don’t have to go it alone, the program comes with a readymade support system. The inpatient program provides a more intensive level of care, and some treatment centers even offer medical care and psychiatry services. Clients remain engaged in group and individual counseling, treatment exercises, psychoeducational lectures and general well-being activities. What many clients find most beneficial, however, is launching a program of recovery in a safe environment, free of the distractions, stressors and triggers of life outside the treatment facility. “Inpatient treatment allows a person to fully delve into understanding their disease and precipitating and/or comorbid issues with minimal distraction from outside stressors and triggers and without access to substances,” said Mary Christine Parks, Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist, in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Outpatient programs, as the name suggests, do not include the residential component. They are not as intensive or time-consuming as inpatient treatment, and as such, they are more affordable. These programs are attractive to some because they allow for work and family obligations to be met while completing treatment. The typical commitment consists of two to three-hour evening or weekend sessions anywhere from two to five times a week. If the strength of the inpatient programs centers on treatment in a controlled environment, a benefit of the outpatient program is that it allows clients to put newfound skills and strategies to work in the real world right away. On the other hand, a drawback to the outpatient route is that the client is not isolated from influences and triggers as they would be in inpatient treatment. They may still have access to drugs and alcohol. Also, the in-house support system available to inpatient clients is not as strong in outpatient programs.
Which is the Right Choice?
“Clients who have already gone through inpatient treatment, clients who are able to maintain sobriety, and clients who have had a relapse may be appropriate for outpatient treatment,” said Parks, “These clients already have a base understanding of their disease and can work to fine tune their program to find greater self-awareness.”
Corder and Parks both agree that inpatient programs are best for those who can make the commitment. “Most individuals contact Liberty Ranch after their lives have become unmanageable,” Corder said, “when they are facing death or many years in prison or severe health issues or loss of family. It is when everything they love is gone or on the verge of being gone. Only in an impatient setting can these types of issues be truly addressed.”
The decision of inpatient versus outpatient treatment is an important one, and your recovery might depend on it. “I believe that all options must be thoroughly discussed and the risks and benefits of each pointed out,” Parks said. “It is best if the client comes to their own decision based on the logic presented. Generally, I believe that when it comes to treatment, more is more if it is the first attempt at treatment.”