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What is a Inpatient Rehab?

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Inpatient Rehabilitation

You likely have heard of the term inpatient rehabilitation or “rehab” in reference to treating someone who has undergone a serious injury, surgery, or illness. After a physical trauma, some people may require specific treatment that can support the physical recovery process.

Similarly, people who are struggling with a chemical or process addiction may also benefit from inpatient rehab programs. Inpatient treatment for addictive disorders can help equip a person with valuable tools needed to treat compulsive behaviors and support the physical and mental recovery process.

Inpatient treatment is ideally designed to meet the specific and unique needs of each patient entering treatment. Treatment centers are often specialized in treating very specific conditions such as physical ailments, chemical dependency, compulsive gambling or eating disorders. It is important to know and understand the treatment approach of each program that is being considered.

What is an inpatient treatment program?

Inpatient treatment programs review a prospective patient’s medical, psychiatric and social history to determine if their condition(s) aligns with the expertise and capabilities of the clinicians (therapists, nursing team, doctors, etc.) at the facility. If so, a patient is admitted for treatment of a predetermined disorder.

‘Much like staying at a medical hospital, clients stay at the rehabilitation facility for the entire time they are receiving treatment. The duration of treatment could take anywhere from a few days to several months depending on the person’s progress towards meeting their treatment goals. Time in treatment depends on several things including: diagnosis(es), acute needs and long-term goals.

There are also shorter inpatient programs that are designed to meet acute and urgent needs. If the patient requires immediate intervention for safety concerns (managing withdrawal, certain mental health symptoms, etc.) then they might be admitted to a specialized inpatient care facility with a tightly-coordinated, multi-disciplinary team of professionals including psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, coaches, rehabilitative physicians, nutritionists, social workers, caregivers, etc. These programs often exist at stand-alone hospitals or skilled nursing facilities.

Inpatient rehabilitation facilities offer varying forms of care, or treatment modalities. Most often, a patient will work with mental health professionals for several hours daily. Forms of treatment may include: medication management, individual therapy, group therapy and case management. A patient may also have access to cafeterias or dining areas with meals planned by expert nutritionists. Inpatient rehabs provide a safe and supportive environment with 24-hour medical monitoring and care. Some inpatient facilities also provide internet access, recreational activities and personal care services. These facilities are designed for patients to have quick access to medical and psychological support.

How is inpatient rehab different from outpatient rehab?

For some individuals, inpatient treatment may not be necessary and outpatient rehab might be a more appropriate and comfortable treatment option.

As explained above, inpatient rehab requires individuals to be admitted to a treatment facility for the duration of treatment. Patients receive uniquely tailored treatment plans that are designed to meet an individual patient’s needs and goals. A multidisciplinary team of care professionals provide distinct services to facilitate physical and psychological healing.

Another option is outpatient rehabilitation. There are many differences between inpatient and outpatient rehab. The largest difference is where a person is living. Generally, outpatient treatment is far less restrictive and does not require the patient to live at the treating facility. Instead, they can simply visit the treatment center and spend a predetermined number of hours each week working with medical and mental health professionals to improve their overall health and receive support for mental health concerns and/or addiction.

Outpatient rehab programs may provide group counseling, individual therapy sessions, family therapy sessions, medication management and various additional treatment interventions (occupational therapy, speech therapy, case management, etc.).

Typically there are two levels of outpatient treatment: intensive outpatient program (IOP) and partial hospitalization program (PHP). These programs are designed to help those with mild to severe substance use disorders as well as individuals with mental health disorders. Both IOP and PHP can last anywhere from several weeks to several months.

Is inpatient rehabilitation the right treatment option?

One of the most common questions is if inpatient treatment is the best option to treat or manage a person’s conditions. While a person’s availability and capacity to commit to an inpatient treatment program should be considered, ultimately their health and safety should be prioritized. It can be overwhelming to consider stepping away from a job or family, but often completing treatment enables a person to be more a successful employee and more engaged family member.

Both short term and long term inpatient programs will allow for access to medical care and intensive therapy. The type of therapy will depend on facility offerings and type of rehabilitation. For example, a facility providing mental health rehabilitative care may offer art therapy, equine therapy and nutritional coaching. If someone is seeking rehabilitative care after experiencing a stroke, they will likely engage in speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy.

For persons struggling with drug abuse, seeking inpatient care that provides withdrawal management may be necessary. Facilities that provide withdrawal management, or detoxification, can prescribe medications that can reduce the uncomfortable and unpleasant effects that can occur when a person stops using substances. These medications can also protect the brain from experiencing very serious complications of drug and/or alcohol withdrawal.

If someone has recently recovered from a serious cardiovascular event such as a stroke or a heart attack, or has an acute or chronic condition that causes functional impairments and impacts well-being, then inpatient programs may be helpful for getting life back on track. Facilities that offer rehabilitative services following a medical event or procedure utilize a skilled, multidisciplinary care team. This team may include specialized healthcare providers such as nurses, occupational therapists, speech therapists, psychiatrists, trainers, counselors and physicians.

One of the greatest benefits of these programs is that they can greatly speed up recovery time. This is especially valuable if rehabilitation is time sensitive due to work obligations or family concerns. A person will receive daily care to fast-track their progress and healing. Further, stepping away from work and other stressful commitments provides ample time to focus on recovery and healing.

How can inpatient rehab programs help with different conditions?

Here are some examples of how rehabilitative care can be helpful for specific conditions.

Stroke and Heart Disease Recovery

As per the guidelines from the American Stroke Association, thorough inpatient therapy and treatments provide the very best environment for stroke patients. These programs aid effective recovery from strokes and other serious cardiac conditions.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Recovery

An inpatient rehab environment is an ideal and safe environment for people with complications related to COPD. Working with specialized clinicians to develop a treatment plan tailored to a person’s specific needs can help improve lung capacity. With the help of medical professionals and physical therapy experts, patients can increase their exercise tolerance and combat the long-term effects of COPD.

Joint Replacement Recovery

One of the greatest advantages of inpatient programs to individuals suffering from joint replacement surgery, is that it significantly reduces the risk of post-surgery complications. Patients can take advantage of the support provided all throughout the recovery and rehab process.

Arthritis Recovery

People suffering from arthritis can benefit from inpatient rehab therapy as well. Intensive physical therapy, access to gyms and swimming pools, as well as physiotherapists can help improve strength and muscle flexibility surrounding the ailing joints.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction Recovery

All types of addiction can be detrimental to physical and behavioral health. Unfortunately, drug and alcohol abuse can be very difficult to overcome especially when attempting this without the support of highly-trained professionals. For this reason, an inpatient facility can be an invaluable asset when seeking treatment for substance abuse. Using interventions such as medication management, extensive therapy, recovery support, behavioral interventions and relapse prevention training patients can recovery from all forms of addiction.

What services are offered during inpatient addiction treatment?

It has been established that there are different types of rehabilitation facilities offering specialized care for a target condition. If an inpatient treatment center is offering treatment and management for substance use disorders, they will likely utilize several pharmacological and non pharmacological interventions to help support the person seeking care.

Most inpatient programs start with an initial medical assessment to determine immediate needs and ensure safety. Based on the patient’s needs, they may receive medication assisted withdrawal management or detoxification. This process includes utilizing specific types of medications to help a person safely and more comfortable stop using addictive substances.

Treatment will also include routine appointments with a medical professional to monitor overall health. This typically includes review of vital signs, withdrawal symptoms and sometimes lab results.

An inpatient treatment episode will also include other clinical services that can aid a person in better understanding their disease process and improve personal insight. A patient can expect to engage in group counseling sessions, individual therapy, psycho-education, experiential therapy, meal planning, exercise and recreational activities.

How does a person get admitted to inpatient rehab program?

Depending on the substance a person is consuming, attempting to reduce their use or completely stopping use could be very dangerous. In extreme cases, withdrawal can have very damaging effects or even lead to death. If an outpatient healthcare provider has concern about their patient’s safety due to their use of substances, they may recommend inpatient care. In this case, the healthcare provider can provide appropriate referrals which may include specialized treatment centers or even the emergency department.

Even without a referral, patients can still seek admission to an inpatient treatment facility. Doing an online search can provide a lot of valuable information about what programs exist both locally and nationally. If an inpatient rehab center is identified that would be a good fit, calling the facility and talking to an admissions counselor is the first step to being admitted.

Once in contact with the facility, the admissions team will collect necessary information to determine if the treatment team can meet the needs of the person seeking help. They will also be also to contact a person’s insurance company to determine any costs the patient might incur from treatment. The admissions team will also be able to discuss grants that may be available to help cover these costs.

How long is an inpatient treatment program?

How long a person is in treatment is based on several criteria. Considerations include: necessity of detoxification, medical and psychiatric complexity, aftercare planning, available resources and the patient’s treatment goals.

Generally, inpatient treatment can last for a couple of weeks up to several months.

If necessary, the initial phase of any inpatient rehab is complete detoxification at a detox center which can take as little as a few days up to one week. The time spent going through detoxification depends on several things including the substance(s) being used, how long a person has been using substances, how they are using and any complicating medical conditions. Detoxification history is also a consideration when determining how to safely and successfully support a person through drug withdrawal symptoms.

After completing detoxification, or withdrawal management, the rest of the time spent in treatment depends on clinical progress and expert recommendation.

Once inpatient rehab programing is successfully completed, a person will be able to consider various aftercare support options. A treatment provider will likely recommend specific programs based on a patient’s individual needs. After care programs are often very important and can be vital for relapse prevention. An aftercare support system can help someone sustain recovery and ultimately get back to everyday life.

FAQs about Inpatient Residential Treatment

Is inpatient rehab better than outpatient rehab?

Inpatient or outpatient rehab programs are not necessarily better than the other. Both inpatient and outpatient care offer supportive care and treatment for specific disease processes. Depending on a persons unique needs, they may be recommended one or the other.

Is inpatient rehab the same as physical therapy?

No. Inpatient rehab is a program that offers intensive physical and mental care to assist in recovering from serious physical or behavioral conditions. Physical therapy is sometimes a part of inpatient treatment. However, on its own, physical therapy is for those recovering from acute or chronic conditions. Physical therapy can be helpful for regaining strength, fitness, and mobility.

When should inpatient rehabilitation start?

Inpatient rehabilitation should begin as soon as possible. Getting treatment early often leads to the best recovery outcomes.


Warren Phillips

Warren is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who specializes in substance abuse and mental health treatment. Clinically, Warren has developed a therapeutic skillset that utilizes a strengths-based perspective, Twelve Step philosophies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

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Charleston South Carolina

Charleston South Carolina

Located on the historic peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina, Lantana Recovery takes a modern approach to Substance Use Disorder treatment, offering intensive clinical care while also immersing our clients in local Charleston culture.