Should I Seek Inpatient or Outpatient Care for Addiction?

Published on February 22, 2021 by First Responder Wellness

Deciding to change your relationship with drugs or alcohol by starting recovery treatment is a tremendous accomplishment on its own. However, now you are faced with the question of “which route should I take?” For first responders, finding the right treatment plan can be particularly difficult as the demands of the job can take a toll on individuals’ mental health from their unique, traumatic experiences. There is no single path to recovery; therefore, it is essential to know what treatment plan is best for you. The route you take—inpatient or outpatient—should address your specific needs so you can gain recovery skills, build confidence, live a healthy lifestyle, and effectively transition back into your profession and personal life. 

Drug and alcohol treatment usually falls into one of two categories: inpatient/residential or outpatient care. While they equally focus on recovery and rehabilitation, each has unique attributes and benefits depending on your substance use disorder’s severity and your specific needs. It is important that both the individual suffering from substance use disorder and their loved ones understand the benefits and differences of each program before selecting one.   

Inpatient (Residential

Inpatient treatment (also known as residential treatment) allows patients to live on-site during their care. This provides a safe space that is conducive to recovery and healing without distraction. It can be an environment that helps people avoid influences and temptations that might normally trigger substance use in their daily lives. Being immersed in a community of peers on a similar journey can help first responders benefit from the support of other law enforcement officers, paramedics, firefighters, and EMTs. Inpatient care often offers:

  • Residential facilities with 24-hour care—usually in non-hospital environments—help you with going through detoxification, addressing mental health concerns, and developing skills for long term recovery.
  • Structured treatment, tailored to the individual, can include individual and group therapy, mental health care, trauma services, relapse prevention, mindfulness and meditation, and more.
  • Safe, stable housing and medical attention can help address any problems or concerns that may arise.
  • Distraction-free environments can allow patients to step back from the stresses of everyday lives or their professional lives and focus on healing.


You or a loved one may benefit from inpatient or residential treatment if you:

  • Need a highly structured treatment plan
  • Previously tried outpatient care without improvement 
  • Struggle with both mental health and substance use
  • Have a history of relapse
  • Want a more comprehensive selection of therapeutic care
  • Recently completed detox
  • Have a high level of commitment

Things to Consider

Inpatient treatment requires a larger commitment and the ability to take time off from work and your home life. Because of this, it is crucial to keep these things in mind if you are considering this option:

  • This intensive care requires you to separate from your daily life to focus on recovery. This means you will likely have to take a leave from your job or school while staying in the facility. You may also have to consider finding care for children or family members, though visitation is available and family support is encouraged. 
  • This highly structured treatment can be challenging for some. Your schedule is designed specifically for you, although some may find transitioning into a rigid agenda difficult. 
  • The cost can often be higher for inpatient care compared to outpatient care. However, if this option is right for you, the cost of treatment should not deter you, as the cost of addiction is a much heavier price. Your health and well-being are more important. 


Outpatient programs offer treatment for alcohol abuse, substance use, and co-occurring disorders, while clients can continue living at home. This option allows individuals to have high-quality care with more flexibility in order to continue responsibilities at home or work. During outpatient treatment, people can attend meetings and receive therapy on-site while simultaneously applying coping skills to their daily life. These programs can often include:

  • A regular schedule of treatments, individual and group therapy, meetings, and activities several times a week 
  • Relapse prevention
  • Mental health care
  • Life skills development
  • Biofeedback
  • Trauma treatment
  • 12-step meetings


Although inpatient treatment is often recommended, there isn’t a “right way” to go about recovery treatment. An outpatient program may be useful for those who:

  • Are not able to participate in inpatient treatment for various reasons such as work, school, or home life, but are still committed to getting better
  • Recently completed inpatient treatment and are looking for ongoing treatment while transitioning back into their daily life
  • Do not require a medically supervised detox
  • Are highly motivated and want to practice their recovery and coping skills in their lives while receiving treatment. 

Things to Consider

Outpatient care typically costs less than inpatient care. However, this less intensive level of treatment may not be the best choice if:

  • You are constantly experiencing urges to use
  • You have a hard time committing and showing up to your group or individual sessions
  • You require treatment for multiple disorders
  • You need medical attention


Determining the appropriate level of care based on your specific needs is essential for recovery. The demands of being a first responder can cause many professionals to feel worn down while suffering from post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and other mental health concerns. At First Responder Wellness, we are here to ensure that you receive the best possible care by tailoring treatment plans to your unique needs and goals. We consider factors such as your substance use history, mental health concerns, living environment, support network, and more to make a plan that fits your situation. We offer both residential treatment and outpatient programs, depending on which is best for you. By combining mental health care alongside substance use treatment, our programs provide a holistic approach that can help you achieve long-term recovery and wellness. For more information about the programs we offer and which one is right for you, call us at (888) 743-0490.