Pros and Cons of Inpatient versus Outpatient Addiction Treatment

Pros and Cons of Inpatient versus Outpatient Addiction Treatment

The first step on the road to recovery is acknowledging that you or a loved one has an addiction. The next step is choosing between inpatient and outpatient treatment. Each type of treatment has advantages and disadvantages.

Inpatient Addiction Treatment

Inpatient addiction treatment is also known as residential treatment. This means that people attending a rehabilitation center stay there for a certain amount of time. For example, at Aurora Recovery Centre (ARC) people do 30, 45, 60, and 90-day treatment plans. The length of someone’s stay depends on a person’s specific needs, situation, financing options, and/or insurance coverage.


Inpatient treatment provides a variety of services that include 24/7 medical detox, medical treatment, exercises and nutrition programming, counselling, therapies, integrated treatment for co-occurring mental health conditions, support groups, and alternative therapies.

Inpatient treatment’s advantages are:

  • You have access to 24/7 medically managed detox, which is crucial to treating withdrawal symptoms.
  • You receive 24/7 supervision by trained medical and counselling staff, so you are not alone while overcoming your addiction.
  • You become part of a community with other residents at the center who are also battling their addictions.
  • You are in an intense program that has a high level of care with a structured daily schedule.
  • Your daily plan allows you to form a regular routine for sleeping, eating, exercising, and working on yourself.
  • You don’t have any distractions from the outside world or any worries of daily life activities while in treatment.
  • You have more time to focus and work on your recovery through group and individual counselling settings, as well as other treatment exercises such as art, spirituality sessions, yoga, and meditation.
  • There is a higher success rate from residential treatment plans compared to outpatient services.
  • Once treatment is completed, you receive Continuing Care (after care) and have the option of finding a sober living facility.


Inpatient disadvantages:

  • You are not free to come and go as you please. For example, Aurora provides an access-only facility to make sure that you are safe during your recovery.
  • The cost of inpatient treatment is higher because of higher levels of services, along with the cost of the room, food, and other amenities.


  • You may not be initially used to being in a structured environment that dictates when you wake up in the morning, when your counselling sessions are, when you have free-time, and when you go to bed. Even though this is a “con”, it is one of the best components of residential treatment.
  • You must plan for childcare prior to entering treatment.
  • Some insurances will not cover all of the inpatient stay costs or only a certain amount of days.
  • Other costs for prescriptions, cigarettes, and other personal items you may want or desire are not included in your treatment plan’s cost.
  • Your employment may be affected. Be sure to ask for a leave of absence, so that you can go back to your old job.

Outpatient Addiction Treatment

An outpatient program allows a patient to live in either a sober living home or their own residence while still attending a treatment program. For people who have jobs, families, or outside responsibilities, outpatient treatment is a great option. Typically, outpatient services meet a few nights or days a week for a few hours per session. Patients still see their individual counselors as well as attend group therapy sessions and educational sessions like in inpatient.


Outpatient treatment advantages:

  • You can continue many of your daily activities such as work, caring for children, etc.
  • You get group and individual therapy and counselling sessions during the program.
  • You can apply what you learn in treatment in a real life setting and start making changes immediately.
  • Many outpatient programs include family sessions to help your support circle better understand the challenges you face, cope with their own issues, etc.
  • Outpatient services are more affordable than residential treatment programs and generally covered by insurance.
  • You are part of a community that supports and motivates you during treatment.
  • You will learn how to respond to shame, guilt, and anxiety, manage your emotions, and what you need personally to thrive in recovery.


Outpatient disadvantages:

  • You are at risk of being exposed to the same influences and triggers in your life that pushed you toward substance abuse.
  • You may still have access to drugs and alcohol.
  • You are limited to counselling and therapy sessions compared to residential treatment.
  • You don’t spend as much as time with others in treatment compared to residential treatment, which makes it more difficult to build relationships with your support network.
  • You are responsible for your own transportation to meetings/sessions, doctor’s appointments, etc.
  • Many outpatient treatments don’t offer detox, so you may still need to go elsewhere if you choose to detox.


Regardless of what kind of treatment you or a loved one chooses, overcoming addiction is crucial. Speak with a doctor or an addiction specialist to determine whether an outpatient or inpatient treatment program would work best for you. Getting help increases a person’s chance to succeed on the road to recovery.

You must be honest with yourself. Ask yourself, do you feel the temptations to use based on daily stresses, friends, or a lack of social support? Are you physically addicted to a substance and absolutely need to detox? Can you afford leaving your loved ones, bills, and life for a certain length of time?

Both outpatient and residential treatment programs have life-changing benefits. By understanding which program will best help you achieve a life in recovery is one of the first steps towards sobriety.

Take the first steps to help your recovery by talking to one our addiction specialists. 

Aurora Recovery Centre’s philosophies are consistently reflected in the way we value our members and staff. Everything we do is in the interest of our members’ recovery for life.

Aurora’s treatment process is built upon a member-first culture and stands on three pillars that reflect our philosophy toward our members’ recovery: Heal, Connect and Recover.

Our modern world-class facilities are located on the serene western shore of Lake Winnipeg, accompanied by miles of wooded trails and breathtaking sunrises, with amenities that support healing.