Why is Residential Treatment Better Than Outpatient?

Why is Residential Treatment Better Than Outpatient?

By In Addiction Recovery, First Steps
Posted February 22, 2018

Once you or your loved one has made the decision to seek help for drug or alcohol addiction, you’ll need to develop a plan for treatment.

You have a few options for care, including residential treatment (also called inpatient) or outpatient treatment.

When receiving residential treatment, patients are checked into a clinic or facility where they receive 24/7 medical and emotional support. Outpatient recovery programs, on the other hand, typically require 10-12 hours a week visiting a treatment center.

Because it’s less restrictive, it’s tempting for many recovering addicts to choose outpatient treatment. However, there are many reasons that the structure and stability of residential treatment tends to be a better option.

In this article, we’ll discuss several reasons why you should consider choosing residential treatment for yourself or your loved one.

Medical Supervision

The first step in effective treatment is detoxification, also called detox, which brings withdrawal symptoms along with it.

Over time, the body becomes dependent on substances like alcohol or drugs, meaning it can’t function properly without these substances. When an individual stops using, they experience both physical and mental symptoms known as withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms can often be intensely painful, and sometimes even life-threatening. In all cases, they’re uncomfortable and may lead to strong cravings for drugs or alcohol. Around the clock medical supervision in a residential facility ensures that detoxification is as comfortable as possible and that any complications can be immediately handled by a professional.

Detox in an outpatient setting is often unsuccessful because patients can go home at night, where they often use drugs or alcohol.

The 24-hour medical support of residential care allows you or your loved one to successfully recover in the safest environment possible.

Ability to Focus

The full-time care offered by a residential treatment center also gives patients the ability to fully focus on recovery.

If you decide to recover in outpatient treatment, you’ll still have worries about work, school, relationships, finances, and more. These day-to-day concerns can distract from the serious work of recovery from your addiction.

Checking in to a residential treatment facility, on the other hand, allows you to devote all of your energy to the recovery process. Your days will revolve around individual and group meetings with counselors, psychiatrists, and psychologists. You’ll likely attend support group meetings that can continue when treatment is complete.

You’ll be able to address underlying issues or co-occurring mental disorders that contribute to your substance abuse, which is key to lasting recovery. You’ll also learn tools to help you maintain your sobriety, and you’ll interact with others who have made the commitment to get sober and who understand your struggles.

Some residential facilities also offer exercise or nutritional programs that will help you regain your physical health.

Residential treatment creates a buffer between you and the world that allows you to give your time and focus to the all-important process of recovery.

Removal of Relapse Triggers

Triggers are external circumstances or events that cause feelings of anxiety, despair, or panic, often leading recovering addicts to experience cravings and ultimately relapse.

Common triggers include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed with tasks to complete
  • Financial issues
  • Loneliness
  • People who you previously used with
  • Places where you previously used or purchased drugs/alcohol
  • Sights, smells, or sounds associated with drugs or alcohol

In a residential treatment facility, the majority of these triggers don’t exist. You’re in a safe, structured environment away from potential stressors. And even if you were triggered while in residential treatment, you would have the support and services to get you through it.

Sober Support

No Access to Drugs or Alcohol

If you select outpatient treatment, you’ll still have access to drugs and alcohol. You may still see the same friends you used with or brought from, and you may still drive past the places you typically used or purchased drugs or alcohol. You’ll still be able to contact your dealers and other negative influences.

You may sit at home, watch TV, and see a commercial for your favorite liquor or beer. This may cause you to think of the liquor store just down the street, where you typically buy your alcohol. All you have to do is get in the car and drive a couple of blocks.

This is a lot of temptation to deal with for someone who is newly sober.

The inability to access drugs or alcohol in residential treatment can be the difference between relapse and recovery. No matter how much you’re craving drugs or alcohol in an inpatient setting, you won’t be able to use. And you’ll have 24/7 support to help you deal with these cravings.

Treatment facilities typically drug test patients to hold them accountable and ensure that the facility is a drug-free environment.

Lifestyle Change

Recovery from addiction is not as simple as saying, “I’ll never use again.” Lasting recovery requires a full lifestyle change. Recovering addicts should practice healthy daily routines that reduce the risk of relapse.

In outpatient treatment, you’re still in charge of your daily routines and habits. On the other hand, inpatient treatment teaches you the lifestyle changes necessary for maintaining your sobriety.

You’ll get an adequate amount of sleep, eat nutritious meals, be encouraged to exercise, and have counseling and rest periods every day. In most cases, you’ll also be expected to complete daily chores and contribute to keeping the facility well-maintained. Support groups will also be part of your routine.

This helps put you on the path to living a stable, structured life, which addiction will have shattered. Addicts often neglect hygiene, responsibilities, and other elements of a healthy lifestyle, which can be rectified in a residential treatment program.

In a residential facility, you’ll begin to develop healthy habits that will help you sustain your sobriety once treatment is complete.


Some people are hesitant to seek residential treatment because they’re worried about putting their lives on hold. But taking a break from your life for just 30-90 days is worth it if it saves your life.

If you allow your addiction to continue unchecked—or if you don’t get the help you need to sustain lasting recovery—then you’re likely to see your relationships, finances, work, and health crumble. Taking action now will not only extend your life, but also drastically improve it for both you and your loved ones.

It’s understandable that you’re hesitant to leave your life behind. But this is all the more reason to seek the highest quality help available to you. Spending a couple of months seeking treatment now can extend your life for many years.

Family style support


Residential treatment gives patients the time and support needed to make a full, lasting recovery. It removes the recovering addict from triggers, negative influences, distractions, and access to drugs and alcohol.

In residential treatment, patients learn how to lead a sober lifestyle and understand what changes need to be made. They’re educated about addiction and how to manage it, and they develop companionship with others who have made the decision to get sober. They have access to a variety of experts and therapies.

Perhaps most importantly, residential treatment provides around the clock medical and emotional support.

For these reasons, residential treatment is a better alternative than outpatient treatment for you or your loved one. If you want to increase your chances of lasting sobriety, residential treatment is your best option. For more information please contact one of our addiction specialists at 1-888-249-2590 or click here.

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