The Difference Between Inpatient vs. Outpatient Care

If you or someone you love struggles with a mental illness or addictive disorder, an inpatient or outpatient treatment program can provide the comprehensive level of care needed to achieve recovery. While both programs are effective at helping patients stabilize and return to their personal best, there are some key distinctions that can make one option more or less appropriate based on a patient’s needs. As you evaluate your treatment options, consider the following differences between inpatient and outpatient care so you can make an informed decision.

Inpatient care

inpatient care facility 

Inpatient care is the most intensive level of treatment for individuals suffering from mental health and addictive disorders. It offers 24-hour care in a safe and secure facility, making it best for patients with severe mental health or substance abuse issues who require constant monitoring. The inpatient environment is highly structured and emphasizes understanding the signs of psychiatric illness, rapid stabilization, developing strategies to avoid re-hospitalization, and discharge planning. Patients in inpatient care programs can work on rebuilding life skills without exposure to negative influences that fuel the urge to continue destructive behaviors.

Often, patients who have tried an outpatient program but ultimately relapsed back into drug or alcohol abuse, or continue to struggle with the symptoms of mental illness, find success in an inpatient program. Other individuals enter inpatient programs after recognizing they need treatment for a mental health or addictive disorder and want to “do it right” the first time. The inpatient program at Alvarado Parkway Institute also offers Dual Diagnosis Treatment for individuals suffering from underlying mental health issues that perpetuate an addictive disorder, and vice versa.

Outpatient care

Outpatient care offers many of the same services as inpatient care in a more loosely structured environment. The flexibility of outpatient care allows patients to attend treatment services during the day and return home to be with family or friends in the evenings. Unlike inpatient care, individuals in outpatient programs do not have a secure environment to isolate them from negative or triggering factors. Therefore, patients in treatment for substance abuse disorders must voluntarily abstain from drug or alcohol use when they return home each day. 

Because of the freedom and flexibility involved in outpatient programs, they are best suited to individuals in the early stages of addiction or who experience mild symptoms of mental illness, as well as those transitioning from inpatient care. Patients who are unable to take extended absences from their professional or personal lives may also find outpatient care to be an ideal fit. At Alvarado Parkway Institute, our outpatient programs are offered during daytime and evening hours so treatment can be scheduled around work and family commitments.

Outpatient and inpatient mental health programs in San Diego

Many factors go into determining the most appropriate treatment program for an individual with a mental illness or addictive disorder. What works for one person may not be effective for another. That’s why at Alvarado Parkway Institute, our mental health professionals perform an assessment of each incoming patient to determine the most appropriate level of care.

If you or a loved one is struggling to overcome an addiction or cope with the symptoms of a mental illness, please call our 24-hour referral and crisis line today at (619) 667-6125 or fill out our contact form