Call 24/7 for a no-cost Confidential Assessment at (888) 699-6290

What Are the Differences Between Inpatient and Outpatient Behavioral Therapy?

Inpatient vs Outpatient therapy, behavioral therapy, mental health

Mental illness is more prevalent than we think. The CDC states that about 1 in 25 Americans have a serious mental illness, while 1 in 5 will experience a mental illness in a given year. These statistics paint a picture of a burgeoning mental health crisis, but one that can be treated effectively with various remedies, including evidence-based behavioral therapy with inpatient care or outpatient programs.

At first glance, it seems relatively easy to distinguish between inpatient and outpatient therapy. At its most rudimentary level, the primary difference between the two is where the patient stays for the duration of the treatment. A person who has opted for inpatient therapy resides in the treatment facility each night of the program. In contrast, a person undergoing outpatient therapy leaves the treatment facility at the end of the day and can return home.

Nevertheless, beyond the obvious, choosing between receiving therapy through an inpatient or outpatient setting may be determined by what needs each program specifically addresses and how either environment can support each patient’s unique journey to recovery.

Advantages of Inpatient Care

Because inpatient treatment requires patients to be in the care of professionals around the clock, this kind of setting is ideal for individuals who would benefit from being relieved of the immediate demands of daily life. Patients in these mental health hospitals or residential treatment facilities can focus on therapy and recovery without the burden of taking care of themselves. They are safe where suicide or self-harm could be a risk.

Inpatient treatment consists of various program services, including psychiatric evaluation, group therapy, talk therapy, nutritional therapy, and medical support. Because of these features, inpatient behavioral therapy is the best option for those who suffer from eating disorders, depression, psychosis, self-harm, alcohol abuse, and suicidal tendencies. Those who require medically assisted detoxification from addictive substances such as alcohol and opiates are also best treated within an inpatient setting.

Milieu Therapy

One benefit that stands out the most in an inpatient program is its immersive approach. Patients can make the most out of the intensive nature of the program by removing external factors that may be hindering their recovery and focusing primarily on therapy. Milieu therapy also provides a safe space where patients can practice what they have learned behaviorally in a controlled and supportive environment.

24/7 Professional Care

Hospitals and residential treatment facilities have the added benefit of being staffed by highly qualified and well-trained medical staff and professionals who have the tools and equipment they need to provide the kind of treatment each individual requires. This allows patients to get the best possible care at all times, day and night.

More Intense Programs

Because of all the features above, inpatient behavioral therapy is ultimately more intense than the alternative. It requires greater commitment in the form of time, resources, and participation. However, it also offers greater security and a much higher probability of healing and recovery from serious cases of mental illnesses.

Advantages of Outpatient Care

You can view outpatient therapy through two lenses; first, as a step down from a residential program, wherein outpatient therapy functions as an essential part of the aftercare strategy to ensure that the gains made during inpatient therapy are sustained in real life. Accessing outpatient care after a lengthy stay as an inpatient helps prevent relapse, especially during the early months of recovery.

Second, you can view it as an option for mild or emerging disorders that don’t require medical detox or 24-hour care and supervision. Outpatient care is ideal for those with a supportive environment to come home to where they can safely practice the gains made in outpatient behavioral therapy.

Many outpatient therapy programs already include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the gold standard of talk therapy. Apart from this, other types of treatment used in an outpatient setting include eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and family therapy.

Because not everyone requires the rigor and commitment that inpatient care offers, the less intense, more accommodating outpatient care program is ideal for the following reasons.

Recovery at Home

At the end of each day, outpatient therapy allows patients to go home where they are comfortable, surrounded by familiar people who offer their care and support. They can enjoy self-selected activities and organize their schedule as they see fit.

Different Costs

Outpatient therapy typically costs less than inpatient because it requires fewer resources to administer. Even with good health insurance, the difference in expenses between inpatient and outpatient care can add up to thousands of dollars – a luxury that might only be available to some.

Other Obligations

Individuals in outpatient therapy can continue to live their lives without much interruption. They can arrange their schedules to fit in treatment and still be able to go to work or school, as well as honor their other commitments. Most individuals receiving outpatient care usually set aside 3-4 hours daily for treatment, which they can fit within their day.

A Third Option: Intensive Outpatient Care

For those patients who don’t seem to fall squarely in either category, Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) provides an alternative somewhere in between.

As its name implies, IOP provides an outpatient treatment that is a step up from regular outpatient care without the admission or residency requirement of inpatient therapy.

An IOP program usually has a set number of weekly therapy hours, typically between 4 to 6 hours a day, anywhere from 3 to 5 days. This is a significant increase from regular outpatient treatment.

Like any behavioral therapy program, an IOP care plan can vary depending on your specific needs and requirements. It usually involves one or more of the same elements that may also be present in regular outpatient or inpatient care, such as psychotherapy, group therapy, family therapy, recovery skills and relapse prevention, substance education, dual diagnosis treatment, twelve-step program, nutrition and fitness counseling, mindfulness training, art therapy and medication supported recovery.

The Bottom-line Between Inpatient and Outpatient Care

Despite the differences and regardless of where a patient stays throughout the treatment, inpatient and outpatient care share similarities that have the patient’s recovery at the core of its planning and implementation. This means that in either setting, there is an individualized plan of care that is handled end-to-end by highly-qualified physicians and licensed mental health professionals. Ultimately, what is essential is that a patient gets the care needed to recover fully.

We Offer Inpatient and Outpatient Behavioral Therapy

No matter your situation, our medical staff is ready to listen to your concerns and offer effective therapy. Schedule a free assessment today; your diagnosis will help determine which mental health program is best for you. Your personalized treatment plan may include inpatient care, outpatient therapy, or a combination.

Learn more

About programs offered at Creekside Behavioral Health

Scroll to Top