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Not all drug and alcohol rehab programs are created equal. Learn the difference between inpatient and outpatient therapy programs.

Making the decision to enter treatment for drug or alcohol addiction is never easy, but it may be the most important decision of your life. Before you begin treatment, it’s important to understand the different types of programs that exist so you can find the therapy that’s best for you.

Choosing the right rehab program

Drug and alcohol rehab programs generally fall into two categories: inpatient and outpatient. Although both are equally focused on treating addiction, each works differently. Because addiction is different for each person, it’s critical to choose a program that not only meets your needs but gives you the highest chance of success.

Inpatient rehab

Inpatient rehab provides 24-hour support and is likely what comes to mind for most when they think of treatment programs. If you enter an inpatient program, you’ll live at the facility full time for the duration of your stay and in a controlled environment that offers more regimented treatment. Some centers, including Geisinger Marworth, offer doctor-assisted medical stabilization and monitoring, otherwise known as medical detoxification. 

In this type of program, every day is carefully scheduled and involves daily individual and group therapy sessions and a comprehensive educational program. A typical short-term residential program may last anywhere from one to 28 days depending on the type and intensity of your substance abuse and progress in treatment.

If you’re considering an inpatient treatment program, look for licensed inpatient facilities that:

  • Offer 24-hour medical/nursing support and intensive care
  • Incorporate three phases of recovery into treatment plans: detox, reflection and growth
  • Focus on helping patients adopt drug- or alcohol-free lifestyles after treatment

“Inpatient therapy completely schedules patients’ days for them, teaching them to adjust their focus toward getting well. Here at Geisinger Marworth, we take a community-based approach to help put our patients on the road to recovery,” says Dana Kromko, admissions director at Geisinger Marworth Treatment Center.

Outpatient treatment

Often less intensive than traditional inpatient programs, outpatient drug or alcohol treatment is less restrictive. Patients can go about their normal lives, attending school or work and visiting the treatment center daily. Some programs offer evening and weekend appointments to work around patients’ schedules.

“While outpatient programs are typically less intense, it doesn’t mean they are less effective. These can help someone suffering from drug addiction gain the tools they need to function in regular society while living a normal life,” Ms. Kromko says.

Patients can use outpatient treatment as a standalone program or in tandem with a more intensive inpatient one. Outpatient detox is safe and effective and takes less time to complete than inpatient rehab does. It can typically last from one to six months and in some cases can extend up to one year.

Things to consider about rehab

Before deciding on the type of rehab program that’s right for you or your loved one, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each. Substance abuse and addiction take their toll on those who are using and can affect entire families. It can be difficult to admit you or a loved one has a drug or alcohol addiction, but it’s a crucial first step in getting on the road to recovery and maintaining a sober life.

“The main goal for most who struggle with addiction is to get sober. This can be done in a variety of ways, with different treatment methods working for different people. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to the treatment of this disease,” Ms. Kromko reminds.

Knowing the difference between inpatient and outpatient treatment means evaluating the pros and cons of each.

Inpatient treatment pros:

  • Inpatient programs are very structured, giving patients minimal free time. This helps keep the focus on complete and total recovery. 
  • Patients have access to professional support 24/7. This helps participants learn valuable coping skills, which can make all the difference for someone in early recovery to avoid relapse.
  • A variety of therapy options are available for those in treatment. In addition to traditional individual and group talk therapy, alternative therapies are often a large part of inpatient rehab programs. These may include yoga, meditation, group exercise classes, art therapy and even recreation therapy. These activities teach patients valuable life skills, such as fostering group problem-solving capabilities, learning to trust others, asking for help and confronting compulsive behavior.
  • Many programs, including Geisinger Marworth, offer family educational programs and family therapy. 

Inpatient treatment cons:

  • Inpatient programs are highly structured and thereby may allow for less downtime. Some participants may have challenges adjusting to this rigidity.
  • Patients may have limited access to loved ones and outside visitors during treatment. For some, this will mean finding childcare and/or taking a medical leave of absence from work.

Outpatient treatment pros:

  • You can continue with your "normal" life during outpatient treatment. Many participants are still able to go to work and school and take care of their families during treatment.
  • You’ll learn how to apply what you’ve learned to real-life situations to make immediate changes.
  • Many outpatient programs offer family sessions to help your loved ones better understand the challenges you’re facing.

Outpatient treatment cons:

  • Maintaining a "normal" daily life could make it difficult to fully focus on treatment. Counseling sessions are typically offered during evening and weekend sessions.
  • Access to counselors and other resources may be more limited.
  • Because participants are monitored less, it may be difficult to resist the same influences and triggers that initially led to your substance abuse.

Comprehensive substance abuse treatment at Geisinger Marworth

If you or a loved one are dealing with substance abuse or addiction, the experienced team of addiction medicine specialists, doctors, nurses, counselors and support staff at Geisinger Marworth Treatment Center can help. Offering both inpatient and outpatient programs, as well as numerous counseling resources available, we're here to help you find the right treatment to meet your needs and put you on the path to a healthier life without alcohol or drugs.

Next steps:

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