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Residential Treatment

The process of addiction recovery is going to vary from person to person, just as no one persons’ substance use disorder is going to be exactly like someone else’s. What counts as an effective treatment for someone may be of no help at all or even harmful to someone else, based on a variety of different factors unique to a given individual, including their mental and physical health, medical history, their home environment, and especially the severity of their addiction. 

If someone is in the early stages of a substance use disorder and is in, otherwise, good general health, then outpatient treatment, making regular visits for medical check-ins and therapy sessions while still maintaining their regular life, is enough for them to successfully recover.

However, for many other people, this is simply not an option. Maybe their addiction is more severe or they have a co-occurring disorder or their home environment is not conducive to effective addiction recovery. 

For these reasons and more, many people will instead choose residential treatment, a form of inpatient care where they live onsite at a treatment facility, free of temptations, distractions, and triggers. In residential treatment, they can focus entirely on their recovery while receiving 24-7 medical monitoring. 


The first thing that needs to be made clear when defining residential treatment is the difference between inpatient treatment and residential treatment. The two are often used interchangeably, and that’s not quite correct. Residential treatment is, in fact, a form of inpatient treatment.

Inpatient care is defined as someone receiving addiction treatment onsite at a facility where they are also sleeping, eating, and living. But this could be taking place at a rehabilitation center or hospital and will not necessarily have any resident-style amenities.

The focus will also typically be more on treating the physical side of addiction, along with detox treatment. Residential drug treatment programs, however, are more comprehensive, working to treat the underlying psychological issues behind substance abuse as well as the physical symptoms.

Residential treatment is most useful for those who, while their dependence on drug or alcohol may be very severe, do not require high-intensity inpatient care, but they also do not have a stable home environment.

Residential treatment provides a relaxed, comfortable environment for someone as they work on better understanding addiction in general as well as their own substance use disorder and how best to manage it through individual and group counseling, educational classes, and medical care.

The general length of a residential treatment program is at least a month, but can, in some instances, be as long as a year depending on the needs of the client. Residential treatment centers are structured with different activities, chores, and responsibilities to keep its residents busy in between therapy sessions, so they do not have the chance to get distracted from their recovery.

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When someone makes the choice to opt for residential treatment, it means access to therapists, addiction specialists, and medical and healthcare professionals 24 hours a day. So any time, day or night, they can receive anything at all that they might need, whether it’s food or medications. All of the extras are taken care of so that the main focus can be on recovering from their substance use disorder.

Some of the therapeutic services that someone can take advantage of when they stay at a residential treatment center include: 

  • Detoxification
  • Medication-assisted treatment 
  • Individual therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Educational classes
  • Stress management
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Relapse prevention planning

A typical day at a residential treatment center will generally include a wide range of different activities and therapeutic services, including holistic therapies such as meditation, life skill training, addiction education workshops, one-on-one counseling, and more.

Someone in a residential treatment program will be living onsite at a residential treatment center, but in many cases will be allowed to spend scheduled time with their families away from the facility before returning once more. The facility itself may also offer “field trip”-style activities away from the treatment center to provide positive enforcement as well as encourage bonding among those in treatment. 

Once someone has completed their residential treatment program, however long it may take, they will be released back into their everyday life. This can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially after a long stint at a residential treatment center, which is why many residential centers also offer alumni programs. 

This way, clients can retain strong networks of support with those who have shared their rehabilitation experience can offer encouragement in times of hardship and help celebrate victories and sobriety milestones. 

What Are the Benefits of Residential Treatment?

There are numerous benefits to choosing to check into residential treatment. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits is that during one of the most potentially dangerous parts of recovery, detoxification, you can rest easy knowing that you will be under constant observation by a medical team that can help ease your withdrawal symptoms, keep you safe from any complications and also avoids any chance of relapse.

For those who have co-occurring disorders along with their substance use disorder will find more comprehensive and effective treatment that residential treatment centers can provide. In a residential program, someone can get dual diagnosis treatment that works to help clients deal with their co-occurring disorder in tandem with their addiction.

Some of these disorders include:

  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder

Apart from a high level of specialized and personalized treatment, other benefits of residential addiction recovery programs include:

  • A highly-structured setting that removes everyday distractions and triggers for complete focus on the recovery process
  • A safe and controlled environment that eliminates the danger of relapse
  • 24-7 medical intervention availability from licensed, experienced addiction professionals
  • Comprehensive treatment that addresses every facet of addiction-related issues, including physical, psychological, behavioral, and more
  • Creating a network of support and meaningful connections through the strong relationships resulting from living in a community of peers going through similar recovery experiences
  • Transitional services post-treatment to ensure the smoothest return to regular life as possible

These benefits and more make residential treatment one of the most effective forms of addiction recovery treatment programs available, helping those who feel as though they otherwise have no hope of being able to beat their addiction and maintain sobriety in the long term. 

During their time in a residential treatment program, they will learn the tools and skills they need to successfully manage their addiction and transition back into their normal lives with confidence and clarity.

Is Residential Treatment Right for Me?

If you are in need of a separate, controlled environment where you cannot be tempted by the availability of drugs or alcohol and are free from distractions and triggers that are present in your daily life, then inpatient care is definitely the best option for you. And if you require a lengthy removal from your usual life to be able to find success in your recovery treatment program, then residential treatment is the optimum version of inpatient care for your needs.

However, these are not choices to be made lightly, as long-term residential treatment does require a substantial time commitment, and possibly a significant financial one as well, depending on what someone’s insurance policy is going to cover. 

But a residential treatment program can be what makes all the difference in terms of having a successful recovery and lowering the chances of a post-recovery relapse.

Long-term residential drug treatment is generally the best option for those who:

  • Have experienced intense trauma and are suffering from PTSD
  • Have a mental health disorder or other co-occurring disorder
  • Have a history of relapse and previous addictions
  • Have tried other forms of treatment but been unable to find success
  • Are struggling with an extremely severe dependence on drugs or alcohol
  • Require more support and monitoring than outpatient treatment can provide

Post-treatment, relapse is fairly common among those who are recovering from substance abuse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), between 40 percent to 60 percent of those dealing with a substance use disorder will relapse at some point in their lives, sometimes even years after maintaining sobriety. 

Relapse is not a sign of failure, and nor is it a moral failing. However, it is a learning experience and a clear indication that a person’s addiction recovery plan needs an adjustment to ensure they can live sober. If other settings and approaches have not proven beneficial in avoiding relapse, then it is most likely that a longer stay in a residential rehab program might be the thing that someone needs to get them on the road to recovery and be able to stay on it as well.


NIDA. (2018, January 17). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). Retrieved from

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2017, September 21). MedlinePlus. Dual Diagnosis. Retrieved from

healthline. (2019, March 29) Relapse Prevention Plan: Techniques to Help You Stay on Track. 2. Know your triggers. Watson, S. Legg, T. PhD, PsyD, CRNP, ACRN, CPH. Retrieved from

NIDA. (2017, August 17).What is a relapse? Retrieved from

Psychology Today. (2012, October 19) Why Relapse Isn't a Sign of Failure. Sack, D. MD Retrieved from

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