There are many ways to recover from a substance use disorder, alcohol addiction, or mental health issue. One of the options is a residential treatment program. Other options include outpatient, partial hospitalization, or even teletherapy treatment. Let’s take a further look at what a residential treatment program provides and how it can help those in recovery.

What Is a Residential Treatment Program?

A residential treatment or inpatient treatment program is designed to provide treatment for those suffering from severe substance use disorders, mental health disorders, or behavioral issues. They typically provide 24-hour care within a structured environment. This allows staff to attend to clients’ needs at all times. Residential treatment programs allow clients to live at the facility where they receive care and supervision at all times. This 24-hour care can be crucial to their recovery as some individuals have severe mental health issues.

The length of stay can vary, and clients can choose to sign up for a few weeks or even several months. Usually, the length of stay is suggested by the staff at the facility as it depends on an individual’s needs. Residential treatment programs differ from other treatment modalities in the following ways:

Outpatient Treatment

Unlike residential treatment programs, individuals do not live on-site when they go through outpatient treatment. Instead, they maintain their daily work or school routines and then return to the site for therapy and medication. Outpatient treatment programs are not as intense as inpatient treatment programs, and they are designed for people with mild to moderate addiction issues.

Inpatient Hospitalization

Inpatient hospitalization is designed for individuals who are facing a crisis. The treatment takes place in a hospital setting, which allows individuals to get immediate medical attention if necessary. Inpatient hospitalization treatments are usually short-term and are designed to stabilize the individual before long-term treatment can begin.


Sometimes individuals suffering from a substance use disorder or mental health issue are unable to commute to a treatment facility. They may live in a rural area that’s too far, or they may not have access to reliable transportation. In these cases, teletherapy can help. All counseling and therapy is performed via phone calls and video conferences. Because it is difficult to structure a treatment plan through teletherapy, this option is typically designed for those with mild issues.

Who Can Benefit from Residential Treatment Programs?

Residential treatment programs can benefit those who need intense round-the-clock treatment for a specified time period.

Severe Addiction Issues

Individuals with severe substance use disorder (SUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD) can benefit from residential treatment programs. The structured environment, round-the-clock care, and intense therapy sessions can help those with a long history of addiction problems.

Dual Diagnosis

Individuals who are suffering from both an addiction problem and a mental health disorder can also benefit. In many inpatient treatment programs, there are customized treatment plans that address both the addiction and the mental health disorder.

Those With Previously Unsuccessful Treatments

Individuals who have relapsed many times over the years can benefit from a structured, safe, and stable environment. The healthcare staff can also address strategies and skills to prevent a relapse.

Crisis Intervention

Individuals who may be at risk of suicide or may try to harm others will need immediate attention. A residential treatment program often provides a safe environment where a medical staff can supervise them all the time.

Adolescents and Teens

Adolescents and teens who are suffering from behavioral issues, substance use disorders, or mental health disorders need a safe environment away from their triggers in order to recover. A residential treatment program can provide therapy, education, and emotional support.

Core Components of Residential Treatment

Residential treatment programs have core components that make them effective. Some components include:

Structured Environment

Many individuals turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with a dysfunctional and unstable day-to-day life. This is why a structured environment is key to their recovery. It provides stability and gives them an opportunity to establish a daily routine.

Medical Detoxification

Before any treatment program begins, individuals must detox. By detoxing in a residential treatment program, they are under the supervision of healthcare professionals at all times. This is essential in case their detox symptoms are severe or life-threatening. Sometimes, medication is provided for individuals to help stabilize them emotionally and to reduce their physical cravings.

Individualized Therapy

Customized one-on-one sessions address addiction or mental health issues and the root causes of their addiction. In addition, treatment can provide goals, teach skills, and help develop strategies to manage triggers. Therapists may offer specialized therapies, such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing (MI), and more.

Group Therapy and Peer Interaction

Besides one-on-one therapy, residential treatment programs often provide group therapy. This gives individuals the opportunity to bond with others who share similar experiences.

Educational Programs

The comprehensive treatment program often includes educational programs that teach individuals how to manage their stress, anxiety, and emotions. These can be critical tools when it comes to preventing relapse in the future.

Recreational Activities

Therapists are often aware of how meditation and recreational activities, such as yoga or sports, can help heal people’s minds and bodies. Residential treatment programs typically offer recreational activities alongside one-on-one sessions and group therapy.

Nutritional Support

Individuals with addiction issues often lack key nutrients, especially if they have a long history of abuse. Residential treatment programs provide nutritional counseling and healthy meals to help their bodies recover.

Benefits of a Residential Setting

So, why choose a residential setting over other treatment modalities? A residential setting offers three major benefits.

Round-the-Clock Care and Support Structure

Individuals in a residential treatment facility have access to 24-hour care from healthcare professionals. This is important at all stages, but it is especially crucial during the detox phase. Residents can get immediate assistance if they have a medical emergency or a psychological breakdown. Round-the-clock care can significantly reduce relapses or self-harm, too. Finally, the consistent support structure from therapists and medical staff can ensure that residents are recovering physically, emotionally, and mentally in a stable environment.

Focus on Recovery Without Daily Life Distractions

When residents are removed from environments where they are exposed to continuous triggers or temptations, they can better focus on their recovery. They can also use this time to meditate and reflect on who they were and who they want to become without work or family distractions. Sometimes, these distractions – dysfunctional relationships – can add to their daily stress. Removing these distractions allows individuals to focus on their recovery all day, every day.

Building a Therapeutic Community Among Residents

One of the cornerstones of residential treatment programs is the therapeutic community that is fostered among residents. When people live, heal, and share their experiences, peer motivation develops. These shared successes and skills can help residents successfully recover as a team.

Typical Duration and Phases of Treatment

A residential treatment program can last anywhere from three weeks to a few months. Here are the stages of treatment:

Intake and Assessment

The intake and assessment stage begins with a thorough look at the individual’s addiction history and mental health status. Healthcare officials will also note down any relapses, how severe the disorder is, and if there are any co-occurring disorders. Once the assessment is complete, the staff develops a customized treatment plan that outlines which therapies may be most effective and how long the individual should stay on-site at the facility.

Primary Treatment

If the individual is still under the influence of drugs or alcohol, detoxification is required. This is where the staff helps remove the substance from the body safely and in a controlled environment.

Once the detox phase is complete, therapy begins. Individuals go through both one-on-one counseling as well as group therapy. There may also be additional recreational activities, such as yoga or meditation. The purpose of this stage is to find the root causes of the disorder, to promote emotional and psychological healing, and to teach coping skills and strategies for the future.

Aftercare Planning

Once the treatment plan concludes, the staff prepares individuals to successfully transition back into their previous environment. Therapists will help come up with relapse prevention strategies as well as self-help tools that can guide individuals.

Inpatient treatment programs will also recommend support groups, medication management, and one-on-one therapy sessions outside of the facility. Some facilities may also help with education and job resources.

Variability in Treatment Duration

Every person with an addiction problem or mental health issue is unique. This means that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Some people end up with severe disorders due to childhood trauma. Others may turn to alcohol and drugs as a result of work stress. The root causes differ, and therefore the treatments must differ.

Therapists must also consider if there are co-occurring disorders, how severe the addiction is, and if the individual has a supportive home environment. All these factors play crucial roles in not only the treatment plan but in how much progress the individual will make in recovery.

For all these reasons, the duration of treatment can differ. Treating someone with a co-occurring disorder, for example, may take longer than treating someone with AUD. In addition, people respond differently to treatment, and they progress at different rates.

Preparing for a Residential Treatment Stay

When preparing to stay at a residential treatment facility, there are practical as well as emotional considerations.

Practical Preparations

Some facilities can be rather strict when it comes to cell phones, laptops, and other forms of communication. Most won’t allow sharp objects as well. Make sure you follow the facility’s rules and guidelines when creating your packing list. Bring clothing, toiletries, and something to read if it’s allowed. You should also let friends, family members, and your employer know where you will be. During your stay, ensure that your bills will be paid. If you have children and pets, arrange for childcare and pet care.

Emotional Preparations

You may experience a range of emotions while you’re in the treatment program. Approach it with a positive and open mind, and be willing to embrace the treatment process. If you need to bring photos, a journal, or other personal items that can help relax you, then don’t hesitate to pack these mementos.

Re-read the rules of the treatment facility so that you are mentally and emotionally prepared with their structure and expectations. Their daily routine may be a stark contrast to what you are used to, but it’s important to look at this opportunity as a time to recover and heal.

Challenges and Concerns

Entering a residential treatment program is not without its challenges. There may be obstacles that crop up during your admission process. Some include:

Feelings of Isolation and Homesickness

Being away from your home and family environment may be difficult, especially at a time when you feel vulnerable and depressed. However, it’s important to understand that the 24-hour care offered by a residential treatment facility is crucial for your recovery. The good news is that over time, the feelings of isolation and homesickness usually subside.

The Financial Aspect of Residential Care

Residential treatment programs are not cheap, so cost may be a major concern. If you are worried about how you will pay for the program, research options. Find out how much your insurance will pay and how much out-of-pocket expenses you will be expected to pay. You can then look for financing plans, scholarships, or any other resources available.

Navigating Family Involvement and Visitations

Many residential treatment facilities have limited visitation schedules. This can be hard for both the individual and the family. If you would like your family to be involved in your healing journey, let the center know. Many treatment programs offer family therapy sessions besides the usual visiting hours.


Some individuals are concerned that by entering a residential treatment program, this information may eventually appear online. Alternatively, they may worry about the stigma associated with seeking treatment. It’s important to discuss your privacy concerns with the facility to ensure that they protect residents’ privacy.

Giving up Control

For some individuals, giving up control of their lives isn’t easy. However, it’s crucial to remember that this may be necessary if you want to recover. Instead of focusing on what you have to surrender, focus on healing.

Success Stories and Outcomes

Residential treatment programs strive to help anyone who walks through their doors. Although this isn’t always possible, there are beautiful success stories that can offer help to those in similar situations. Some success stories may be teenagers transitioning into adults and losing their way. The common denominator, though, is that a residential treatment facility changed their lives.

In fact, a study published in the National Library of Medicine showed that long-term residential treatment programs for those with mental illness “improved symptomatic recovery, independent living, increased employment rates, and reduced hospitalizations.”

Transitioning Out: Aftercare and Integration

Once you complete your inpatient treatment program, you will start to transition out. This is where treatment programs can help with aftercare and integration tools.

A structured aftercare program is very important when individuals are in a transitional phase as it offers a similar structure to what they’ve been experiencing. They also get to maintain the momentum they’ve achieved during their inpatient treatment. This is helpful for individuals suddenly facing real-world stressors and triggers, too. Equipping them with a structured aftercare program can help them navigate everyday challenges better. These programs can also help monitor their progress and offer continued therapy sessions.

Additional strategies that individuals can embrace include:

  • Attending support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous
  • Setting realistic goals
  • Celebrating milestones
  • Staying positive
  • Writing out a relapse plan

Choosing the Right Residential Treatment Programs

Not all residential treatment programs are high-quality. That’s why it’s important to do your research when choosing the right one. Some factors to consider include:


Is the facility close to your home? If not, it may be inconvenient for family members to visit. Although you can choose a program that’s far from your usual environment, make sure that you can arrange transportation there and back. You should also think about whether you want a facility in a quiet, serene environment or an urban setting.


Another factor to consider is what the facility specializes in. If you have a co-occurring disorder, you will want a center that specializes in treating individuals with co-occurring disorders. If you have behavioral issues, talk to the center about what kind of treatment plans are offered to those with behavioral issues. Determine what kind of treatment you require, and then find a facility that will meet your needs.

Staff Credentials

Is the program accredited and licensed? Any accreditations from organizations such as The Joint Commission indicate that the facility offers high-quality treatment. Research the staff’s therapy methods and see if they align with your goals. Read online reviews and ask for references. Try to speak to previous clients to find out what their experiences were like.

Facilities and Amenities

The treatment facility doesn’t have to be a luxurious resort or spa. However, it should have basic amenities that make you feel comfortable staying there for weeks. Try to visit the center in person so that you can meet staff members, see the environment you’ll be living in, and ask questions.


A residential treatment program can change an individual’s life. It can restore hope, offer skills and strategies needed to prevent relapses, and it can provide new direction. At Recreate Life Counseling, our goal is to help those struggling with moderate to severe substance use disorders. We offer a variety of counseling and therapy modalities to help with your recovery journey. We have been recognized for excellence in substance abuse and behavioral health treatment by the Joint Commission.

Contact our team to learn more and to find out how we can help.


1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/two-takes-depression/201911/what-expect-if-you-need-inpatient-hospitalization
2] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/teletherapy
3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64119/
4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7779398/
5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8114851/
6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5887400/

Published on: 2020-05-10
Updated on: 2024-06-11