Residential Treatment: What You Should Know 

November 16, 2023

6 mins

Jackie Rosu


6 mins Residential treatment and care programs treat people with substance use disorder (SUD) for months at a time.

Going to residential rehab is a big commitment. A patient considering long-term residential care has many questions to ask before they sign up. 

Residential treatment and care programs treat people with substance use disorder (SUD) for months at a time. These facilities might detox patients in-house as part of orientation and, afterward, begin rigorous therapeutic, medication, and education programs. These protocols are aimed at altering the course of the patient’s life. While patients often live and work together, they do not necessarily participate in the same programs. The staff creates an individualized plan for each patient rather than place them into a one-size-fits-all curriculum.

Detox vs. Inpatient vs. Rehab vs. Long-Term Residential Care 

Patients stay away from home in all four treatment plans. But they are not the same thing. Detox takes about 72 hours to flush toxins associated with chronic alcohol use from the body. Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms typically last longer, around two weeks. Some long-term care facilities use detox as an introduction to help transition patients into residential therapies. 

Doctors send patients in medical or psychological danger (to themselves or others) to more secure inpatient facilities to address immediate needs. These programs include heavy monitoring and oversight to keep them safe. 

Patients can relax in residential care—for a little while. The long-term therapy and medication management structure patients’ lives for them, while the facility handles basic needs like food and shelter. For everything else, patients in long-term in-facility care centers focus less on immediate danger and more on sustainable recovery. 

How Long Does Residential Treatment Last? 

Most patients “graduate” after 3-6 months. The programs use their time and resources to rework and restructure every aspect of the patient’s life. Their holistic programs address life skills rather than treat immediate recovery needs, leading to more sustainable outcomes. 

Who Should Go to a Residential Program?

SUD patients have many options for rehab. Patients who benefit from residential therapy are medically stable and ready to make drastic changes to their lives. They benefit from 24/7 care that comes from on-call medical staff should issues like long-time withdrawal symptoms manifest. Patients also benefit from interactions with the peer group of fellow fellow patients that they live with. 

These closed neighborhoods help patients build connections and experiment with different approaches to treatment. They can collaborate with doctors and nurses to find the right combination of medications and therapies for their recovery. 

Residential rehab is typically cut off from the outside world. Patients can’t access drugs or alcohol to soothe cravings, and they can’t visit people or places that could trigger relapse

What Do Residency Patients Do Every Day? 

People with an addiction staying at these facilities get food, shelter, therapy, education, and a social life. Some offer high-end amenities. But even the places with the most luxurious accommodations put patients to work—on themselves. Through treatment, these facilities help patients rebuild themselves from the ground up, which often means sticking to a rigorous schedule or routine. 


Patients dealing with dangerous withdrawal symptoms begin their stays with medical detox. The body needs time to adjust when access to drugs dries up, and it doesn’t let the addictive sensations go without a fight. 

Withdrawal causes minor symptoms from fever and headache up to lethal ones like seizures and heart attacks. A detox facility in a larger residential institution ensures patients get through this difficult process so they can begin their therapy.

Daily Schedule

Residential treatment centers keep patients occupied. Many start with an early morning and medication management and move right into fitness activities. Exercise wakes patients up, improves their overall health, and can assist with treatment alongside traditional methods. 

Doctors use scheduled meal times to monitor patients’ diet, vitals, and nutrients. They correct any imbalances immediately, and, like with many treatments, patients may not have much choice in these changes. Treatment centers do this in part to keep patients from replacing one addiction with another.

After meals, medical treatments, and exercise, patients typically spend the rest of their days in therapy programs. 

Mental Health Assistance 

Regular therapy meetings help patients address the reasons they turn to drugs. More than forty percent of all addiction patients have a co-occurring mental health disorder. Depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are all common accompaniments to addiction. 

Residential therapies don’t differentiate between addiction-caused disorders, disorder-caused addictions, or when both come from the same traumatic event or stress. Modern programs treat the disorder either way because addiction is only half the puzzle. 


Doctors assign patients to therapies based on their situation and goals. Therapy options range from traditional addiction support groups and modern cognitive behavioral therapy to family therapy designed to rebuild damaged relationships. 

Support Groups 

Support groups led by a therapist or mediator are the stereotypical SUD treatment. These group settings help patients realize they are not alone. Patients have the opportunity to find common ground and bond with others who can understand their experiences. Patients bond over these shared experiences and build a new, sober, support network. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This increasingly popular and effective one-on-one therapy format guides patients toward healthy coping mechanisms. It addresses deficiencies in confidence and challenges the harmful ways of thinking that impact mental health patients. People with substance use disorder often use drugs to cope with mental health, so this form of therapy can be helpful

CBT also addresses disorders like anxiety and depression. Therapists can target these co-occurring disorders and addictions simultaneously so patients progress through treatment during their limited time in rehab. 

Family Counseling 

One member’s addiction hurts the entire family unit. Once a residency program gets a patient to a more stable mental state, it may offer family therapy sessions to mend broken relationships. This reconciliation matters—it decreases the chances of relapse. 

Loved ones also get resources in addiction family counseling. The therapist guides the patient and their family toward the best ways to help one another while constructing and maintaining healthy boundaries.

Medication management 

Medication management mandates patients to take their meds exactly as prescribed. Doctors take variables like interval, dosage, and schedule out of the patient’s hands. Patients surrender their autonomy and comply, which makes a huge difference. Residential care centers often prescribe medications to treat addiction alongside therapy. 

These medications ease withdrawal symptoms so the patient can focus on treatment. Patients who refuse to take their medication as directed reduce treatment efficacy and hurt their chances of a full recovery. Residential treatment removes any opportunity to make mistakes or self-sabotage

Medical Support 

Residential services also monitor and treat health issues that emerge during the treatment process. Drugs have permanent effects on the body. The medical facilities at long-term residential treatment centers can address these issues as they emerge. 

Healthy Habits and Life Skills 

Residential treatment looks to the future. The therapy programs involved reduce the chance of relapse by building better coping mechanisms and behavioral best practices. They offer patients alternative ways to support themselves. Many require vocational or educational training before patients can “graduate” from their inpatient programs. 

Why Is Residential Inpatient Important? 

On top of its many benefits and time away from triggers, treatment works. People who skip out on treatment relapse more often. The more help someone has, the greater their chance of long-term recovery. 

With its elaborate resources, a residential facility can offer specialized treatment for its patients. 

Specialized Treatment Facilities 

Residential drug treatment facilities that specialize in treating particular groups frequently recruit therapists who do the same. Their dedicated focus helps inpatient centers construct treatment plans designed for the contexts behind the patients’ drug use. Common specialty groups include children and adolescents, the LGBTQ+ community, pregnant women, felons, and the elderly. 

How Can I Find the Right Long-Term Residential Treatment Centers? 

Everyone has unique needs, and Never Alone Recovery can help place you in a residential facility designed to help you. Our treatment placement services assist with insurance verification, handle your travel, and help you select suitable treatment modalities. 

In addition to our long-term rehab placement programs, we offer no-cost resources. Use our addiction assessment tool if you’re questioning your addiction status, or visit our free online support group to take the first steps toward sobriety. You can also read our other blog articles to learn more about addiction, sobriety, and the road to recovery. 

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