Residential Treatment

There are many treatment options available for alcohol use disorder (AUD). For those seeking a highly monitored rehab program, residential treatment is available. Residential treatment centers (RTCs) offer a comprehensive detox and structured recovery program that teaches you how to overcome an alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

Residential treatment is a choice for some, while it may be medically necessary for others.

In 2015, more than 37,000 people battling alcohol use disorder (AUD) entered residential treatment programs in the United States. For those battling AUD, along with another substance, that number rose to over 43,000.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

What are Residential Treatment Centers?

Residential treatment centers are inpatient facilities that offer 30-day, 60-day, or 90-day treatment programs. In some cases, residential programs can last up to a year. This form of treatment provides 24-hour-a-day care in a non-hospital residential setting. 

The programs begin with medically monitored detox to cleanse your body of alcohol. On-site medical professionals are available to help monitor patient withdrawal symptoms. After detox completes, treatment focuses on helping people in a variety of ways, including:

  • Examining and understanding destructive patterns of behavior
  • Learning trigger signs
  • Undergoing mental health and general health services
  • Learning self-care techniques
  • Wellness and fitness activities
  • Family support and participation
  • Training for coping skills
  • Attending support groups with peers
  • Educational and vocational training
  • Creating a continuing care plan

When is Treatment at an RTC Necessary?

Residential treatment centers are structured programs that have high success rates, especially for those with a long history of alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

Unfortunately, life does not always allow for a person to go into long-term care. So, they choose outpatient or AA as their method of recovery. However, in some cases, residential treatment centers are necessary to treat a variety of complications that can occur during recovery. Some factors include:

  • Previous unsuccessful attempts with outpatient therapy options or those experiencing frequent relapses.
  • Individuals Over 60 – People over 60 tend to experience more complications during the detox phase of recovery. These withdrawal symptoms can lead to severe health complications and death. For this reason, regular medical monitoring is necessary to ensure the best possible outcome.
  • Co-Occurring Mental Health Conditions – Those who have an alcohol use disorder and co-occurring mental illness, such as depression or bipolar disorder, require additional medical intervention during detox and afterward. Residential treatment centers have mental health professionals on-site that can help a person through the effects of detox. In addition, they can work with the individual’s mental health care following detox in order to help prevent relapse.
  • Co-Occurring Substance Abuse – Individuals with alcohol use disorder and another substance use disorder may experience complications during and after detox. In a residential treatment facility, medical professionals can routinely monitor vital signs and help minimize the effects of withdrawal.
  • Medical HistoryAlcohol detox and its withdrawal symptoms can be very hard on the body. Those with a medical history of heart issues, breathing difficulties, or liver problems should be under medical care for detox and recovery in case possible complications arise.

Treatment Timeline at RTCs

Recovering from alcohol use disorder (AUD) in a residential treatment center begins with detox. More specifically, the process starts with a medical evaluation to determine if withdrawal medications are necessary. 

The purpose of detox is to flush the alcohol from your body, but it can cause a variety of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately, during residential treatment, medical professionals are available to help monitor your progress and lower your discomfort levels.

Once detox completes, you typically move to a residential unit where you will live with other people going through treatment. These people become your in-house support system as you attend therapy sessions and continue care.

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Therapy Options and Programs Available

While you recover in a residential treatment center, part of your recovery includes a variety of different treatment and behavioral therapies. Common therapies include individual, family, and group therapy sessions. Other services include, but are not limited to:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – This is a talk therapy designed to help you become aware of negative thinking and improve your behavioral health. The goal is to help you better handle and respond to challenging situations more clearly and effectively.
  • Medication-assisted therapies (MAT) –  Formally known as medication assisted treatment, these therapies combine medications, counseling, and behavioral therapy treatments in order to battle alcohol use disorder and maintain sobriety.
  • 12 Step programs – Created by Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12 Steps guide a person through alcohol recovery. Combined with support groups, they help you make productive life changes and become accountable for your actions. 
  • Educational programs – Some residential treatment centers offer educational programs, such as acquiring a GED.
  • Vocational programs – Many residential treatment centers offer vocational and job skills training that can help people find employment after recovery.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) – Stemming from traditional behavior and cognitive behavioral therapies, ACT teaches individuals how to stop avoiding, denying, and holding in their feelings. Doing so helps them commit to changing their behavior, which in turn helps to better their emotional state.
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT) – This therapy focuses on your relationships with others and how you see yourself. The goal is to help people identify interpersonal problems and learn skills to help manage potential relationship problems.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) – MET is a therapy approach that focuses on increasing self-motivation when it comes to stopping alcohol use. The goal is to strengthen motivation while also teaching coping strategies.
  • Relapse prevention therapy – This therapy focuses on learning how to identify possible relapse triggers and develop coping skills.

Is Residential Treatment Effective?

Many residential treatment centers offer more effective treatment options with a higher rate of success than outpatient and 12 Step programs alone. This is due to the continual supervised care, supportive community, and the ability to focus on treatment without outside distractions.

A 2004 study looked at the effectiveness of long-term residential treatment centers for women. At six- and 12-month follow-ups, they discovered:

  • Abstinence rates of 68 to 71 percent in women who spent six months or longer at an RTC.
  • Those that did not complete a full six-month treatment only saw a 51 to 52 percent abstinence rate.

Resources

“Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/acceptance-and-commitment-therapy.

Bauman, John. “The Three Benefits of Residential Treatment.” Bradford Health Services - Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Center, Bradford Health Services - Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Center, 2 June 2018, www.bradfordhealth.com/three-benefits-residential-treatment/.

“Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 Mar. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cognitive-behavioral-therapy/about/pac-20384610.

Greenfield, Lawrence, et al. “Effectiveness of Long-Term Residential Substance Abuse Treatment for Women: Findings from Three National Studies.” The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2004, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15540492.

Jr., William C. Shiel. “Definition of Interpersonal Therapy.” MedicineNet, MedicineNet, 21 Dec. 2018, www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=32993.

“MAT Overview.” MAT Overview / SAMHSA-HRSA, www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/mat/mat-overview.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Types of Treatment Programs.” NIDA, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/drug-addiction-treatment-in-united-states/types-treatment-programs.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Motivational Enhancement Therapy (Alcohol, Marijuana, Nicotine).” NIDA, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral-2.

Perishable. “About IPT.” IPT Institute, www.iptinstitute.com/about-ipt/.

SAMHSA, www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/2015_Treatment_Episode_Data_Set_National/2015_Treatment_Episode_Data_Set_National_Tables.html#Tbl2.7a.

Updated on: September 22, 2020
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Alcohol Rehab Help Writing Staff
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Annamarie Coy,
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