Outpatient therapy is a form of therapeutic treatment that is offered to people who do not need to be hospitalized. A number of types of therapy can be offered on an outpatient basis, including psychological, physical, and post-surgical care. Many patients like this type of treatment because it allows them to receive necessary medical care while staying at home and avoiding the costs associated with staying in the hospital full time. It also allows the patient to live a relatively normal life, simply setting aside time to attend therapy sessions while working, spending time with family, and socializing with friends.
By contrast, inpatient therapy is offered to people while they are hospitalized. People are usually hospitalized for therapy because they require extensive supportive care, eventually graduating to outpatient therapy once they have shown significant progress. In psychological therapy, for example, someone might be hospitalized for mental distress, and participate in many inpatient therapy sessions both alone and in groups. Once the patient had stabilized, he or she could be released, returning periodically for outpatient treatment.
Many types of medical care can be offered on an inpatient and an outpatient basis, depending on the needs of the patient. The frequency of sessions varies, depending on the patient's case. For example, the person might attend a psychological counseling session once a week, or take an hour of physical therapy every day to work on recovering from an accident. The number of sessions may also be varied as the patient's situation changes, with individual and care provider regularly discussing the needs of the patient and the effectiveness of the current therapeutic treatment.
In many cases, therapy is offered at a special facility that has the necessary equipment for outpatient treatment. Physical therapy, for example, might require the use of a gymnasium. In some cases, however, it is offered to patients at home by care providers who can travel. In-home visits can be more comfortable for the patient, as well as more convenient.
Usually, outpatient therapy is less expensive than inpatient therapy, because it does not involve hospitalization, although in-home care tends to be more costly. It does require more effort on the part of the patient, with the person organizing transport to therapy sessions and committing to attending sessions on a regularly scheduled basis. Support from friends and family members is often an important part of a successful therapy program, which can be grueling in situations where patients require long-term treatment.