When Should I Pursue Residential Treatment Over Outpatient Treatment?

Deciding to pursue professional treatment is worth celebrating. However, now that you have made this decision, you are likely questioning your next steps. For example, you may be asking yourself, “When should I pursue residential treatment over outpatient treatment?” There is no one right answer when it comes to pursuing residential treatment. However, we can make recommendations based on your unique experiences with substance use or addiction.

At 12 South Recovery, we recognize that a more structured and intensive treatment program is more likely to be effective. Although we do not offer residential treatment programs at this time, we do offer several outpatient treatment programs that can be customized to fit your individualized needs and goals. Moreover, we can connect you with sober living resources that will complement your outpatient treatment program. At 12 South Recovery, we want to offer you the best chance at securing lasting recovery.

Nonetheless, we believe it is still necessary to discuss the value of residential treatment for unique or severe substance abuse and mental health concerns.

Understanding the Continuum of Care

If you are new to the realm of mental health or substance use treatment, it is especially important to familiarize yourself with available treatment options. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has established five main levels in a continuum of care for substance abuse treatment:”

  • 0.5: Early intervention services
  • I: General outpatient programs
  • II: Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) and partial hospitalization programs (PHP)
  • III: Residential/inpatient programs
  • IV: Medically managed intensive inpatient services

Moreover, the publication explains that “continuum of care” is defined as “a treatment system in which clients enter treatment at a level appropriate to their needs and then step up to more intense treatment or down to less intense treatment as needed.”

If you are seeking services to navigate a condition or a concern that is already present, you can disregard Level 0.5. On the opposite end of the continuum of care is medically managed intensive inpatient services. These services are comprised of medically assisted detoxification services and other hospitalization services. After pursuing detoxification, you may need to participate in a treatment program to establish lasting recovery. Thus, you must decide between pursuing residential treatment or an outpatient program.

Residential Treatment vs. Outpatient Treatment

A few main factors differentiate residential treatment from outpatient treatment. These factors include where you will live while you participate in treatment as well as the structure and intensity of your treatment. In a residential treatment program, you reside at the treatment facility for the duration of your treatment. Similarly, your residential treatment program will provide you with highly structured and intensive programming. At a facility, you will fill your daily schedule with therapy and other healing activities.

Outpatient treatment, on the other hand, requires you to reside either at home or in some kind of sober housing program. In addition, the structure and intensity of outpatient treatment programs vary based on the specific program type. In order of descending intensity, the most common outpatient programs include partial hospitalization programs (PHP), intensive outpatient programs (IOP), and general outpatient programs.

While residential treatment programs often offer more diverse activities and therapeutic services, most services are the same in outpatient programs. The type of services offered depends on what services the facility offers and specializes in as a whole.

When to Pursue Residential Treatment Over Outpatient Treatment

As mentioned previously, there is no right or wrong answer about which route to take. Still, there are specific circumstances in which residential treatment may offer more effective and longer-lasting solutions compared to outpatient treatment. Examples of situations in which residential treatment would be recommended include:

You’re Lacking Safe or Supportive Housing

If you live in an environment that is unsupportive of your sobriety or healing process, it is best to pursue residential treatment. An example of unsafe or unsupportive housing would be living with others who use substances or could otherwise trigger you to relapse. Residential treatment provides a safe and secure space where you can establish your sobriety among other peers in recovery.

You Have Severe or High-Risk Symptoms

If you are experiencing severe and/or high-risk symptoms, you may benefit most from participating in a residential treatment program. These programs provide more involved care, offering professional support on-demand as you reside in the treatment facility. If you are experiencing suicidal ideation or self-harming behaviors or if you have relapsed in the past, a residential treatment program can offer the support and guidance you need to protect yourself in early recovery.

When to Pursue Outpatient Treatment

While there are clear circumstances that may lead you to pursue residential treatment, there are also circumstances to consider that may lead you to pursue outpatient treatment. For example, if you have responsibilities (such as work, school, or childcare) that cannot be put on hold, outpatient treatment can provide much-needed flexibility. In an outpatient program, you can engage in treatment while tending to these responsibilities.

Additionally, it is important to consider the severity of your own needs when contemplating any treatment program. For instance, if you are solely looking for a supportive peer group, residential treatment may not be the best option due to its intensive nature. Rather, in this case, a general outpatient program that includes group therapy may be the best solution.

If you are pondering whether or not to pursue residential treatment over outpatient treatment, you may want to consider the severity of your individualized needs. For instance, if you are exhibiting high-risk behaviors or severe symptoms, a residential treatment program can provide you with 24/7 guidance and psychological support. Inpatient treatment also offers you a safe environment, free from substance use triggers. At 12 South Recovery, we offer outpatient programs alongside sober living programs to help enhance your recovery journey and healing process. With individualized care and a plethora of therapeutic services to choose from, our programs can help you establish lasting healing in your life. Learn more by calling us today at (888) 830-8374.

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