Residential Care Versus Outpatient Care: A Guide
By: Lakeview Health Staff
Published: August 31, 2020

It’s always a difficult question: What level of addiction treatment programs do you need? Which is a very different question than what level of addiction treatment do you want? Most people don’t want to be in residential care and away from their families and jobs for 14, 28, 90, or however many days. But a lot of people need exactly that, in order to get better.

We understand that people are often skeptical about residential care. “Right, you just want my money, or my health insurance company’s money!” Or, people don’t think they have a substance use disorder (SUD) to begin with, so they think a residential stay is overkill. So they opt instead for intensive outpatient (IOP) treatment or some other less intense level of care that allows them to continue working and living at home. The problem is, that lower level of IOP care—usually three times a week for 3 hours at a time—often doesn’t work if the substance use has progressed to a certain point. It ends up being a waste of time, money, and effort, then you’re back to square one and still struggling with your SUD.

Add to that the “COVID factor.” These days, some people are shying away from residential care even when they know it’s what they need. They’re worried they’ll get the virus when they have to live with a bunch of people in residential treatment. Again, we get that concern, and it’s why we added so many protocols at Lakeview Health to help keep our residents and employees safe and healthy. (They have worked!) – see our full list of protocols here.

In this context of skepticism, hesitation, and fear about inpatient/residential addiction treatment, the following information will help.

How To Know Where To Go

You likely need residential care (versus outpatient) if:

  • You believe you are physically dependent on a substance (alcohol, drugs, etc.).
  • You believe your health may be at risk without medically assisted detox.
  • Your substance use is significantly affecting your life (job, finances, relationships, legal issues).
  • You have relapsed one or more times in the recent past.
  • You have tried a less intense level of treatment (IOP, partial hospitalization) and were unable to stay sober.

4 Reasons Why Residential Treatment Is Effective

  1. It gets you away from the chaos. Going into residential treatment gets you temporarily out of your life, away from the triggers, chaos, and enablers, and puts you in a safe, secure place where you can concentrate on getting better and acquiring the tools for long-term sobriety. Residential treatment also gives you the time, space, and medical oversight to help you get through detox if that’s needed. Finally, time in residential care helps you clear your head, take stock, and start to make a sustainable, personalized plan.
  2. It allows you to get comprehensive care. Spending time in residential care helps you learn about and get help for any co-occurring conditions you may have that you may not even know about. These include depression, anxiety, PTSD, borderline personality and bipolar disorders, chronic pain, and even certain physical conditions. And take note: Most people who come into treatment at Lakeview Health do have a co-occurring disorder, and some of these conditions either caused the addiction or are exacerbating it. In residential treatment, you’re more likely to get the 360-degree care and expertise needed to understand and deal with these co-occurring conditions along with the addiction. That’s a level of coordinated care that is hard to match in an IOP setting. A residential setting often includes gym options, yoga and Pilates classes, outdoor exercise opportunities, and other hugely beneficial therapeutic activities that are rarely if ever part of IOP programming.
  3. It gives you a better chance to learn new skills and behaviors. SUD is a subtle, tricky, powerful thing, and it takes time to learn how to battle it successfully. While in residential treatment, you’re more likely to have the time to learn about therapies and medications that work for you. There are informational meetings to attend, and you get input from medical and clinical experts who really get to know you. Meanwhile, you’re surrounded day and night by others in the same boat as you. Residential care simply provides more of an opportunity to learn from your peers, be accountable to them, and be inspired by them.
  4. It often leads to a better situation once you leave. More robust treatment – like residential treatment – often leads to a more robust aftercare plan. When you leave residential treatment, you’ll be armed with the tools, know-how, and confidence to help you stay in recovery—and next steps will be spelled out. At Lakeview Health, after meeting with their aftercare coordinator several times, residents leave with a rehab aftercare plan that includes meetings to attend, medical appointments to keep, MAT they may need, and contact numbers to call—including ours.

It Works, It’s Worth It, And It’s Just A Phone Call Away

If you or a loved one is contemplating going to residential care, and you’re wondering if it’s really needed or worth the disruption, this thought from our Chief Medical Officer Lantie Jorandby, MD may help provide clarity: “The 30 days you’ll be here, or however long it will be, may seem like a luxury you can’t afford. But compared to your entire life, 30 days is nothing, and it may make all the difference. I guarantee you will get so much out of our residential program if you make the effort.”

That last point about effort is key. It’s important to note that residential treatment does not guarantee success and it’s not the magic bullet. As with every other treatment option, it depends on what you put into it. If you go into residential treatment with an open-mind, are willing to listen, are honest in what you share, and above all are motivated to get better whatever it takes—even when things get really hard (which they will)—residential treatment may be the perfect choice for you.

If you have any questions about our inpatientresidential program at Lakeview Health, or any of our other programs, please call us 844.208.3451 or go to and online chat with one of our helpful specialists.