Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Mental Health Programs: A Complete Guide

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If you’re looking into mental health treatment, chances are you can’t decide between an inpatient or outpatient program. Some individuals may not know the difference between them or what’s involved in both programs.

This article’s goal is to clarify the differences and similarities between inpatient and outpatient treatment and help you decide which treatment program is right for you.

Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Mental Health Treatment

The biggest differences between inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment is the level of care, supervision, and whether a client stays overnight.

  • Inpatient treatment, or residential treatment, involves a client staying in a hospital or residential facility for a few weeks to several months. This type of treatment is perfect for individuals with debilitating mental disorders who are at risk of harming themselves or require a place to stay away from triggers or unsupportive home environments. The programs are also recommended for individuals who recently experienced a mental health crisis to help process the feelings and emotions that led to that moment.
  • Outpatient treatment does not require clients to stay overnight at a facility and allows them to implement what they learned in therapy at home. Instead, clients attend therapy sessions or other mental health appointments on a scheduled basis, typically ranging from once to several times a week. Outpatient treatment can vary in intensity and duration, with some programs consisting of a few sessions and others lasting for several months or even years.
Inpatient treatment, or residential treatment, involves a client staying in a hospital or residential facility for a few weeks to several months.

Alternatives To Inpatient Treatment

As mentioned earlier, these programs can be short or long-term based on your needs and goals, so you’ll need to dedicate time to your recovery. If you don’t have the ability to stay overnight or dedicate afternoons and evenings to treatment, you can always attend a partial hospitalization program or PHP. Unlike inpatient programs offering 24-hour monitoring and support, PHPs typically offer several hours of treatment each day, several days a week, closely resembling a 40-hour work week.

If you don’t have the ability to stay overnight or dedicate afternoons and evenings to treatment, you can always attend a partial hospitalization program or PHP.

How To Decide What’s Right For You

Unfortunately, there’s no set-in-stone way to pick which program is right for you. We always recommend talking to a mental health professional to help determine which program will be most effective by reviewing your experience, mental health issues, comfort levels, budget, and ability to access and meet the program requirements.

  • Experiences: Your past experiences are the first things clinicians will analyze when choosing a program. If you’ve tried outpatient mental health treatment before and it wasn’t as effective, you’ll likely be recommended to attend an inpatient or partial hospitalization program to help you stick to the recovery process and prevent any past challenges. If you’ve already attended an intensive care program, an outpatient program can be a stepping stone as you transition into daily life and responsibilities. On the other hand, substance use disorders are better treated in PHP, residential, or inpatient programs to work through detox and the early stages of recovery.
  • Mental Health Conditions: Individuals struggling with more severe mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, may need more intensive treatment than others, especially if they have a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder.
  • Comfort: If staying overnight somewhere else or leaving family or pets behind isn’t a viable option, outpatient facilities can provide the perfect balance of medical care. You can go to treatment during the day and complete home responsibilities in the afternoon with new insights from what you learned. Unfortunately, some individuals find it harder to resist substances or focus on their mental health if their home environments present too many triggers or potential for relapse.
  • Affordability: Cost and co-pays are typically on everyone’s mind when considering different treatment services. Inpatient programs and other higher levels of care are usually more expensive due to the round-the-clock care and monitoring. Outpatient treatment centers can be more affordable and are usually more covered by insurance providers.
  • Accessibility: Your ability and access to treatment facilities are probably the second most important factors when considering treatment options. If you live far away from an outpatient care program, it might be better to choose an inpatient program so you don’t have to drive long hours before and after treatment. Inpatient or residential programs are also perfect for individuals who need behavioral health care immediately.
If you’ve tried outpatient mental health treatment before and it wasn’t as effective, you’ll likely be recommended to attend an inpatient or partial hospitalization program to help you stick to the recovery process and prevent any past challenges.

Why Both Programs Work

Besides access and prior experience with mental health treatment, both programs work and shouldn’t be chosen based on timelines. If a mental health professional suggests one program over another you may have been leaning toward, remember that recovery is unique to each person, and everyone heals at their own rate.

Some programs even use a combination of both treatment options or transition from inpatient to outpatient services after an individual’s needs or treatment plan changes. In case you’re worried, one program doesn’t offer something the other doesn’t. Both programs usually offer the same therapy methods, including cognitive behavioral therapy, medication management, and group therapy.

Contact Launch Centers

If you or a loved one is still unsure about which program they should choose, contact Launch Centers in Los Angeles. Our treatment center does not offer 24/7 inpatient care, but we do offer partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs (IOP). When you call, one of our admissions agents can help you understand more about each program and or set up an appointment where you can discuss your needs and goals with one of our specialists. Mental health treatment isn’t out of reach, and Launch Centers is dedicated to helping find the right path to wellness.

About Our Founder

Jose Hernandez, for over a decade, has been involved in alcohol and addiction recovery helping people succeed in overcoming substance abuse and regaining control of their lives. He has experience in all aspects of the recovery world, from facilitating entry into treatment as an intervention specialist to counseling and case management at rehabilitation facilities. Jose has worked one-on-one with individuals as a sober companion and with groups as a resident counselor at addiction treatment centers and is certified by the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (CAADAC) to practice as a substance abuse counselor.

Through his professional experiences in crisis intervention, drug and alcohol detoxification, substance abuse counseling, and relapse prevention, Jose has developed a unique plan for case management that bridges the gap between a person’s painful past of substance abuse and a future of sobriety.

At Riviera Recovery, a sober living facility with multiple locations, clients continue their transition from the supportive environment of a treatment center to living well and happily in the “real” world. The program he designed at Riviera Recovery personalizes treatment plans that enable clients, including those with a single or dual-diagnosed mental health disorder, to embrace a satisfying life.

His greatest endeavor has been establishing LAUNCH, a Los Angeles-based life skills intensive outpatient program for young adults. LAUNCH works with recovering men and women to establish personal vocational and educational goals and develop the tools to successfully meet them. His mission is to ensure that no one stands alone in his or her recovery.

Meet Our Clinical Team

staff member drug alcohol treatment los angeles

Jess Beck, LCSW

Clinical Director

treatment team los angeles ca

Eric Chaghouri, MD


chloe kruskol los angeles rehab team

Chloe Kruskol, LCSW

Family Program Manager

Our Testimonials

Clients and Professionals Share Their Experience

  • HO

    Launch provided care on multiple levels. The highly skilled therapist coupled with the focus on purpose and long-term goals refocused my recovery from what previous treatment centers pushed onto me. I went from believing that I needed years of treatment to believing I needed years happiness and success. I began to focus on what I wanted to accomplish with my life. I came to realize all the things my addiction and mental illness had taken from me, and I used my future goals as a reason to never pick up again. Due to the passion that Launch instilled in me, I have pursued my future with excitement and dedication.

  • Nicole

    This place changed my life! I’ve had good laughs, good cries, shared a lot of heart to heart moments and grew a loving bond with everyone at Launch Centers. I will always be grateful!!! I really do miss it time to time. I highly recommend Launch Centers!

  • Joey

    The staff and clinicians are amazing and make you feel right at home from the second you walk in the door. I would absolutely recommend this place for a family member or close friend.

  • Ben

    This treatment facility has changed my life. I have always struggled with my mental health and this young adult program provided me with the necessary skills to launch to adulthood. I commend anyone who struggles with mental health or substance use (which was not me) to try this program out. It will change your life.

  • Conner

    Launch Centers Treatment was a major help to me. The therapists and staff genuinely cared about me and truly helped me to make a plan for my future. My personal therapists helped me to discover where some of my deeper issues came from. All of the staff worked tirelessly with me to talk through my issues, or just about life, and offered realistic solutions to my current problems and situation. All of the staff went above and beyond and advocated relentlessly for me. I am very grateful that I was able to have such a wonderful experience with Launch.

  • Adam

    In no uncertain terms Launch Centers changed my life. The staff at Launch are professional, knowledgable and relatable. They keep the format diverse and interesting which kept me engaged in the process. The greatest thing we can do in life is seek to improve ourselves. Launch gave me a skill set I consider to be invaluable in the journey of becoming the best version of myself. I would implore anybody considering Launch to step outside their comfort zone and go, you will not regret it.


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