Pathways Wellness

How Do Residential and Outpatient Programs Compare?

How Do Residential and Outpatient Programs Compare?
Raul Haro
September 15, 2023
When people decide to get treatment for their addiction, they can choose from various residential and outpatient programs. However, the differences and similarities between the two are often not well understood by the general public. It can be difficult to make an informed decision about treatment if someone doesn't understand what their options are.  When […]
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How do Residential and Outpatient Programs Compare?

When people decide to get treatment for their addiction, they can choose from various residential and outpatient programs. However, the differences and similarities between the two are often not well understood by the general public. It can be difficult to make an informed decision about treatment if someone doesn't understand what their options are. 

When someone is struggling with addiction, there is a lot of uncertainty in the air. Finding the right treatment program should be made as smooth as possible. That way, those struggling with addiction can get the help they need as quickly as possible. 

That's why Pathways Wellness Center is committed to helping those in need of addiction treatment make informed choices. Even though Pathways Wellness Center solely uses outpatient programs, we still educate the public about residential programs as well. This is because while both residential and outpatient programs are similar in that they can treat addiction, how they treat addiction is quite different. It may not be the right treatment program for an individual, which is why every potential client must make a choice.

The Difference Between Residential and Outpatient Programs

Though both residential and outpatient programs have the goal of treating addiction and its co-occurring mental health disorders, there are key differences people must be aware of before choosing one or the other. Each program type is designed to treat a specific level or severity of addiction.  

What Is a Residential Treatment Program?

Residential treatment programs are typically for people who:

  • Have a severe addiction and co-occurring mental health disorder: Common disorders include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, and depression. Someone doesn't have to have a co-occurring mental health disorder to have a severe addiction, but it's quite common.
  • Need to detox from an addictive substance or drug: This is especially important for those detoxing from substances that have dangerous or deadly withdrawal symptoms, as it requires medical supervision for safety.
  • Require a safe place to recover: Such a setting includes one away from a triggering environment or people. 
  • Need a more structured environment: This includes oversight to prevent self-sabotaging behavior and keep them focused.
  • Are recommended residential treatment: For example, as part of rehabilitation for illegal drug use instead of incarceration.

Not all addiction treatment centers will have the means to have a residential treatment program, and those that do are highly specialized. This is because clients stay in the treatment center throughout the treatment program. The time someone spends in a residential treatment program varies, depending on the severity of the addiction.

There, clients are overseen by medical and mental health care professionals. This is because many people in a residential treatment program must undergo a supervised detox. Supervised detox is a process where someone fully detoxes from the substance they are addicted to. Some substances can cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures, cardiac arrest, and breathing difficulties. Having medical personnel on standby at all times allows a client to detox and have their withdrawal symptoms managed in a safe environment. 

Clients spend part of the day going to therapy and other treatments. Most therapies and treatments are identical between residential and outpatient programs. However, residential treatment programs are more intensive. Treatments don't happen all day, as clients are given recreational time to relax and interact with each other. Many clients like residential treatment, as it offers 24/7 support. If at any point a client needs help, there are mental and medical care professionals on standby waiting to assist.

Is a Residential Treatment Program Like Going to Prison?

Contrary to popular belief, residential treatment programs are not prisons. Everyone who is at a residential treatment program is there voluntarily. Even a court cannot force someone to go to residential treatment if they don't want to. People can leave if they so wish, but it's encouraged that everyone sticks with their treatment program, as suddenly stopping can have serious effects. This is especially true if someone is using medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Clients can have visitors, go on day trips, and participate in other fun activities in between treatments. 

Once someone completes treatment at a residential treatment program, they typically go on to enroll in an outpatient treatment program. Usually, a residential treatment program will already have another treatment center lined up for their client to continue their treatment as outpatient clients. If not, they will help their client find a treatment center that will accept them for further treatment. This is done before treatment is finished to make the transition from residential and outpatient programs as smooth as possible.

What Is an Outpatient Treatment Program?

Not everyone has to have been in a residential treatment program to enroll in an outpatient treatment program. Outpatient treatment is available to everyone and is the most common type of treatment program used in mental health care facilities. Pathways Wellness Center has two different types of outpatient treatment programs. These are the partial hospitalization program (PHP) and intensive outpatient program (IOP).

PHPs are best suited for those who:

  • Just finished a residential treatment program
  • Require further detox and withdrawal symptom management
  • Have difficulty managing their cravings 
  • Need help to manage a moderate to severe co-occurring mental health disorder 
  • Are at high risk for a relapse 
  • Have a moderate to mild addiction

Clients in a PHP go to Pathways Wellness Center for treatment five days a week. Weekends are usually spent at home relaxing. How long each person spends in treatment each day varies, but it's typically around four to five hours. There are, of course, breaks for rest and other activities throughout the day. Once someone finishes a PHP, they move on to an IOP.

IOPs are best suited for those who:

  • Have a moderate to mild addiction
  • Don't require round-the-clock monitoring or heavy structure 
  • Need treatment with more flexibility 
  • Is ready to enter the workforce or return to school 
  • Need help to manage a moderate to mild co-occurring mental health disorder 
  • Has a lower relapse risk
  • Need a “safety net” to practice distress tolerance and stress management 

IOP treatment at Pathways Wellness Center typically happens twice to three times a week. Again, treatment times vary per person, but the average is about two to three hours a day. Those in an IOP are practicing living life in recovery but with added support. Sometimes, clients lessen the frequency of treatment sessions as they recover. Eventually, a client may only need to meet for treatment once or twice a month. 

How Do Residential and Outpatient Programs Differ?

There are plenty of differences between residential and outpatient programs. It doesn't make one better than another. They simply serve different people depending on their needs. 

Overall, residential programs are:

  • More expensive, as clients live on the premises through treatment
  • Intensive, but clients have access to 24/7 support during treatment
  • Safe, as the client has a place to recover free from triggers while living at the treatment facility
  • Helpful in preparing clients for a PHP or IOP once finished with residential treatment
  • Shorter in length – common treatment times vary between 30, 60, and 90 days, depending on the individual 
  • Supportive, as residential treatment clients are given special programs to help them transition to outpatient programs

While outpatient programs are:

  • Flexible, with clients able to choose the days and times they meet for treatment 
  • Allow clients to fulfill social obligations or simply go home at the end of the day
  • Cheaper than residential treatment, as treatments aren't as intensive 
  • Helpful in preparing clients for life after treatment, although continued support is available
  • Longer lasting – the average treatment length for an outpatient program varies, but the average is three to six months, although some treatment programs can last for a year or more, depending on the needs of the client
  • Supportive, as clients can check in with their therapists even when treatment has been completed 

These factors can greatly influence someone's choice between residential and outpatient programs. Some addictions don't require residential treatment and can be treated in an outpatient program. One also needs to look at their personal needs to determine what treatment program is right for them. Do they have responsibilities, such as children and pets? Does their addiction require residential treatment, or can it be treated in an outpatient program? Do they thrive under structure, or do they need flexibility? Is there a strong support network, or is this person alone with their addiction? These are all important questions to ask before deciding between residential and outpatient programs.

The choice doesn't have to be made alone, as a mental health care professional can walk someone through their choices. At Pathways Wellness Center, each client has a case manager who will explain what each treatment program entails. There, they can help someone choose between residential and outpatient programs.

How Residential and Outpatient Programs Are Similar

Though residential and outpatient programs are different, they do have two key similarities. One is that setting up support and peer networks is important to each program. Making friends with other people who experienced similar difficulties can help someone understand that they aren't alone in this world. This is often done with 12-Step or peer support programs that connect clients to mentors who can help them recover. Both residential and outpatient programs are often called rehabs, such as residential rehab or outpatient rehab. 

The other similarity is that both programs are run by mental health care professionals. This means that no client will ever be judged, mocked, or belittled for needing help for their addiction. Pathways Wellness Center employs staff who are also in recovery, so clients are met with understanding and compassion. For those who struggle with addiction, knowing that there are people who understand their struggles can give them the support they need to not give up. 

How Outpatient Treatment Works at Pathways Wellness Center

Pathways Wellness Center is an addiction outpatient treatment facility. This means that we do not offer residential treatment programs but will take clients who have finished residential treatment to help them along their recovery journey. Pathways Wellness Center puts a strong emphasis on personalized care, so clients always have a personalized treatment plan when seeking addiction help.

But what is a personalized treatment plan? Simply put, it's a custom-made treatment plan created to fit an individual's unique needs. A person who is struggling with an addiction to opioids has different needs compared to someone addicted to nicotine. Co-occurring mental health disorders also vary, and each requires a different type of therapy to treat them. For the most part, it's a combination of psychotherapy, skill training, support network creation, and interactive therapy. Some examples of popular interactive therapies offered at Pathways Wellness Center are art therapy and adventure therapy

It also helps those who require medication as part of their treatment. Not everyone in addiction treatment will need medication to help them. However, medication can be useful as a temporary way to manage withdrawal and craving symptoms. Some people with a mental health disorder, such as an anxiety disorder or depression, often require medication to help manage symptoms. Having medical and mental health care professionals on staff helps give clients the confidence they need to manage their medication safely. 

Pathways Wellness Center spends part of its treatment helping clients prepare for sober living. This is done through relapse prevention courses, peer networking, and community building. One of the reasons why clients choose Pathways Wellness Center for their addiction treatment is the community surrounding it. There is a strong, sober lifestyle community in Glendora, California, where clients can have fun outside of treatment. Clients don't spend all day indoors receiving treatment. Much of the treatment at Pathways Wellness Center takes place outdoors (when weather permits) to take advantage of the natural beauty of California. 

Why Pathways Wellness Center Offers Outpatient Treatment Programs

But why only offer outpatient programs? The answer is that Pathways Wellness Center wants to have treatment available to as many people as possible.

Between residential and outpatient programs, outpatient ones are far more affordable to most people. For those who need mental health care and are on a strict budget, they are most likely able to receive outpatient treatment. According to the law, insurance companies must include benefits for mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) services. Therefore, many people entering outpatient treatment will find that some or all of their treatment is covered as long as they have the right insurance. 

Outpatient treatment is also more flexible than residential treatment. People in outpatient treatment can go home, go to work, and continue with school. They can fulfill daily responsibilities while receiving treatment at the same time. Clients also have access to continued support while proceeding with their daily life. The goal of every treatment plan is to have the individual able to live their lives free of addiction. However, just because they are finished with treatment doesn't mean support suddenly stops. Clients at Pathways Wellness Center are always invited to check in with staff if they feel they need a little extra support. This fostering of community and support is why many people choose Pathways Wellness Center for addiction treatment. 

Everyone needs to understand the difference between residential and outpatient programs when seeking addiction treatment. But they don't have to make this journey alone. If someone has further questions, they are invited to contact Pathways Wellness Center through email or a phone call. For those who want to know more about how treatment works at Pathways Wellness Center, they are invited to visit the treatment facility in Glendora, California. Staff members are always happy to answer questions or to give someone a tour. 

Pathways Wellness Center is a safe place to ask questions. It's not just for those who are struggling with addiction – it's also for those seeking help for their loved ones. Asking for help in convincing someone to give addiction treatment a try is welcome, as well as seeking resources for sober living. Everyone deserves help for their addiction, and anyone can find help at Pathways Wellness Center.

When someone decides to undergo addiction treatment, they must choose what treatment program they want to use to help them recover. This is an important decision, as every individual is different and may have different and specific needs compared to other people. Understanding how residential and outpatient treatment programs differ and compare can help someone make a sound, informed decision. Here at Pathways Wellness Center in Glendora, California, we are committed to offering compassionate and professional outpatient treatment programs that give our clients what they need to succeed. If you would like to know more about our outpatient treatment programs and how they can help you, call us today at (888) 771-0966.

About the Author

Raul Haro
Raul Haro is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with sixteen years of experience working in both the inpatient and outpatient setting. As an LMFT, He has trained in trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR. Raul has furthered his training in the drug and alcohol field by obtaining a Masters in Drug and Alcohol Counseling through CCAPP. Raul has a background in nursing where he has been an LVN for over 25 years. Recently, he has returned to school to complete a degree in Registered Nursing. Future plans are for Raul are to eventually complete a degree as a Nurse Practitioner combining his therapy practice with his nursing skills.

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