Residential Drug Treatment Program vs. Inpatient: How They Differ

When choosing a Residential Drug Treatment Program versus an Inpatient Program, it is essential to understand the differences between the two in order to make an educated decision as to which program will better suit your recovery path. 

There are many similarities between inpatient and residential programs, and because of this, the two terms are often used interchangeably. Both programs involve living with other people who are also recovering from substance abuse, and both programs have time-limited stay lengths.

That being said, though, there are some key differences

Generally speaking, inpatient rehab programs are typically shorter than residential rehab programs. Additionally, the purposes of each type of program are different. Inpatient treatment programs are more hands-on and focused on achieving medical stability for patients while also addressing their addiction, whereas residential programs are based on the patient already being medically stable. 

There are certain factors which help a person to determine which form of treatment may be necessary, and which form of treatment will be most beneficial for their specific needs. 

Some of these factors include:

Residential treatment focuses on a population of people struggling with substance abuse in similar ways, such that a tight-knit and supportive environment is produced- something which is not experienced in outpatient settings for treatment. 

Signs That Inpatient Treatment Is Necessary

Physical symptoms of addiction can vary from situation to situation, so in order to assess whether a person needs inpatient treatment, it is important to also consider behavioral and psychological symptoms. 

At Starbridge Recovery, we offer free consultations in order to look for signs that treatment is needed. 

Some of these signs and symptoms include:

What Is Inpatient Treatment?

Inpatient is generally a shorter and much more intensive drug treatment program. 

Inpatient programs may last anywhere from 1 to 3 months, and may be followed up with an outpatient program and/or participation in a self-help support group. Remaining engaged in outpatient programs or some form of rehabilitation aftercare following an inpatient treatment program is essential to ensuring that relapse does not occur once a person leaves the inpatient setting. 

Inpatient treatment strives to provide medical stabilization 24/7, and involves monitoring by doctors and nurses, thus giving it more of a hospital-like feeling. Inpatient treatment is typically the first step after detoxification, and it is very structured with a schedule that may involve support groups, group therapy or individual therapy, and case management. 

What is Residential Drug Treatment?

Whereas inpatient programs are highly structured and scheduled, residential drug treatment is generally less restrictive but lasts for a longer duration of time. Because it is designed for a longer stay, residential drug treatment is more comfortable and less hospital-like. 

It can last from 6-12 months, and its main goal is centered around the reintegration or resocialization of the person into society without substance abuse. The program uses other residents, staff, and the social context all as active parts of recovery and reintegration. In this setting, the addiction is viewed in a social and psychological lens, so the treatment program moreso focuses on encouraging patients to take accountability in order to return to socially productive lifestyles. 

Starbridge Recovery takes a “peeling the onion” approach to residential treatment by focusing on the underlying reasons why a drug addiction takes place. Cognitive, emotional, and practical strengths and weaknesses are identified in each person in order to gain a thorough understanding of the entire individual, which in turn helps reveal what limitations may exist.

What Might Residential Drug Treatment Entail?

Residential drug treatment programs focus on goal-setting, and core building blocks for positive living and coping. 

These building blocks include:

Throughout treatment, each person will improve coping skills and strategies for managing stress, anxiety, and any other triggers that might lead to substance abuse. 

The residential inpatient program offered at our exclusive facility features:

Drug Aftercare Planning

After completing an inpatient or residential drug treatment program, it is vital to continue to be vigilant regarding substance use and behavior patterns. 

Treatment programs are a great way to start the path to recovery, but in order to stay sober it is important to identify barriers and limitations which may interfere with a person’s path. This process of identifying limitations is something that works best when a client is removed from the inpatient setting so that personal inventories can be taken. 

Simultaneously, however, this removal of the client from an inpatient setting is also the exact time when it is most vital that the client has the proper set of skills and tools from treatment available to them so that they can continue to thrive in the real world. 

Aftercare planning allows clients to be set up for success by encouraging them to work on recovery every day, rather than relapse. A specific plan for how to manage any challenges that may come along with sobriety can help prevent a relapse, because recovery does require continuous work. 

What Does Aftercare Look Like?

Most often, 12-step recovery program meetings and support groups are recommended as aftercare, though sometimes patients may choose to live in a sober living house or “halfway house” in order to more smoothly transition between an inpatient setting and real-world environment. 

Adjusting back to daily life after treatment may present a struggle, and in this instance a sober living house may be beneficial. In a sober living house, residents are free to come and go, which allows each individual to ease back into a normal life routine while still maintaining the skills and lessons learned in rehab. 

Sober living houses are much less restrictive, but residents do still need to abide by certain rules which may include attending group meetings or following curfews. Residing in a sober living house also enables individuals to establish positive relationships that reinforce sober living and abstinence from substances. 

Another aftercare program option is family therapy, much like the Family Therapy Program offered at our Los Angeles facility. Though this is part of an aftercare plan, family sessions can actually begin once a client has gone through detoxification and is fully immersed in a program. The goal of family therapy is to bring together the family unit and heal relationships. 

The Family Therapy Program also:


Residential drug treatment and inpatient treatment are two of the options for recovering from a drug addiction. 

Inpatient treatment programs are shorter in length and more intensive, whereas residential drug treatment programs last longer but involve less restrictions and a more homelike setting, rather than the hospital feelings of an inpatient setting. 

Residential treatment offers individuals the opportunity to bond as part of a close-knit community of other people who are struggling in the same, or similar, ways. It focuses on building positive and healthy relationships as well as identifying underlying factors contributing to substance use.

Regardless of which method of treatment is chosen for an individual’s specific needs, aftercare is an important part of ensuring that a person stays sober and remains on the path to recovery. 

Aftercare helps prevent relapse by continuing to enforce the coping strategies and life skills a person recovering from an addiction learned during their rehabilitation program. Part of aftercare may involve family bonding and therapy, 12 step program meetings, or living in a sober living house depending on each person’s specific needs and path. The goal of aftercare is continued progress and development of personal strengths and goals so that reintegration is successful and the road to recovery can continue uninterrupted. 

If you’re ready to get started with recovery today, come explore our different treatment options and help yourself or your loved one take the first step in the right direction. 


Call Now Button Skip to content