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Residential Alcohol Rehab: Finding Residential Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

3 min read · 10 sections
Treatment for a substance use disorder such as alcohol use disorder can help you create a fulfilling future in recovery. There are many different types of treatment interventions involved in the treatment and rehabilitation process. Addiction treatment usually starts with the most intensive interventions (levels of care) in the beginning of the rehabilitation process. For many people, that first step involves residential rehab.
What you will learn:
What residential rehab is
Types of residential rehab
How long residential rehab programs last
Residential rehab costs
Effectiveness of residential rehab programs
Understanding the difference between residential and inpatient rehabs

What is Residential Alcohol Rehab?

Residential alcohol rehab is an inpatient treatment program that is appropriate for people who are struggling with severe substance use disorders, mental health disorders, or both.1 Residential alcohol rehab is important to maintain long-term sobriety and provides you with continuing care options upon discharge to promote long-lasting recovery.

Residential rehab:1

  • Offers care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Provides structured and scheduled counseling and therapy sessions and other activities in a supervised therapeutic environment.
  • Provides safe and secure housing.
  • Offers medical care.
  • Implements therapeutic interventions aimed at helping you live an alcohol- and drug-free life.
  • Can help you identify additional services such as case management, therapy, housing, and assistance with legal issues upon discharge.

The ultimate goal of residential alcohol rehab is to help you learn strategies to live a life without alcohol and other drugs and create a lifestyle that is free from crime.1 Residential rehab, due to its structured nature, can help you focus on your recovery in a safe, controlled environment without the distractions and triggers of your everyday life.

Residential rehab provides the 24-hour, seven-day focus that can help people detox safely under medical supervision, learn to manage their addiction without distraction or temptation, and build a toolbox to support their new skills once they leave rehab.

What is the Difference Between Inpatient and Residential Treatment?

Inpatient and residential rehab are often used interchangeably. That is because both types of treatment involve highly structured and intensive treatment in a controlled environment. However, differences between the two include length of time, focus, and intensity of services. Residential treatment requires living day-to-day life in a designated community facility; focusing on learning how to live a life free from substances, and addressing underlying contributors to addiction.2

Inpatient treatment refers to a medically managed level of care, including the services of doctors and nurses to treat severe medical and psychological problems that arise. Counseling is available but the goal is medical stabilization and assessment for substance use treatment.3

Types of Residential Alcohol Rehab

There are different types of residential alcohol rehabilitation programs. The differences among the types of programs are based on length of time, focus of treatment, and services offered. Long-term residential, short-term residential, and recovery housing are different residential treatment setting options available to you. While the ultimate goal for each residential setting is to sustain sobriety and begin a successful life in recovery, there are some differences.

Long-Term Residential Treatment

In long-term residential treatment:1,2

  • The focus of treatment is on resocialization: Learning how to think, behave, interact, and make decisions without the use of substances.
  • Alcohol use disorder is treated in context with your psychological and social issues.
  • Treatment objectives include personal responsibility and accountability.
  • Treatment approaches can be confrontational as they challenge faulty beliefs, destructive behaviors, and self-concepts.
  • You’ll learn new ways of interacting with other people.
  • You may be able to receive ancillary services such as housing, employment, and other supportive services.
  • Treatment is highly structured.
  • Treatment lasts anywhere from 6–12 months.
  • Staff and other clients in treatment are an integral part of the change process and provide support.

Short-Term Residential Treatment

Short-term residential treatment:1,2

  • Provides intensive and brief treatment.
  • Is based on the 12-step approach, including principles from Alcoholics Anonymous and/or Narcotics Anonymous.
  • Was initially developed to effectively treat alcohol use disorder.
  • Generally lasts 3–6 weeks and is followed by additional services, such as outpatient therapy.
  • Is intended to reduce your risk of relapse once you leave this treatment setting.
  • Focuses on safe detoxification from substances while also undergoing intensive counseling.

Recovery Housing

Recovery housing:1

  • Provides supervised housing for a short-term period.
  • Can come after a short- or long-term residential treatment stay.
  • Focuses on helping you transition into everyday independent life.
  • Can teach life skills such as effectively managing your personal finances, finding a job, and making connections in your community.

How Long Are Residential Alcohol Treatment Programs?

Residential treatment, as previously outlined, can last anywhere from several weeks to a year. Your length of residential alcohol treatment can vary depending on many factors, such as your insurance coverage and the severity of your condition.

Your duration in residential treatment is going to be based on your needs, substance use history, and treatment plan goals. You and your addiction specialist/clinician will work together to create an effective treatment plan that includes a recommended length of stay in residential treatment. It is important to adhere to your clinician’s recommendations as they are trained and educated on the specifics of addiction and how to reduce your risk of relapse.

Benefits of Residential Alcohol Rehab

Residential alcohol rehab programs provide a variety of benefits regardless of duration of treatment. The benefits of a residential treatment program include:4

  • Having daily interactions with a support network of other individuals with similar alcohol addiction recovery goals.
  • Having limited access to outside distractions, including family, friends, and triggers—the people, places, and situations that contribute to your alcohol use—which allows you time to focus on yourself and your recovery.
  • Having a safe, stable, and substance-free place to stay while you recover.

Take Our “Has My Alcohol Use Become a Problem?” Self-Assessment

Take our free, 5-minute “Has My Alcohol Use Become a Problem?” self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with an alcohol use disorder (AUD). The evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are intended to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of an AUD. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result.

How Much Does Residential Alcohol Rehab Cost?

The cost of residential alcohol programs vary and are determined by a number of factors. Factors that can influence the cost of treatment include your insurance coverage, services rendered, and length of stay. Your insurance coverage can help offset the cost of treatment, whether you have private insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare. Call the number on the back of your insurance card to obtain more information on your residential treatment coverage and to identify treatment facilities that accept your insurance. If you have a residential treatment facility in mind, they may be able to work with you and your insurance provider.

To check your insurance coverage and behavioral health benefits, fill out the form below.

How Effective is Residential Treatment?

Research shows a direct connection between length of stay in residential treatment and successful treatment outcomes. Three national studies assessed the effectiveness of residential treatment among women; specifically, if length of stay in residential treatment impacted recovery outcomes after treatment ended. The 3 studies showed high treatment success rates among the women who stayed in residential treatment for 6 months or more; suggesting that length of stay among women in residential treatment is a major factor in treatment effectiveness.5

Treatment for alcohol and other substances is a process that needs to be continually monitored and evaluated; treatment doesn’t have an end point. Research shows that most individuals, who enter and stay in treatment, stop using alcohol and other drugs; improve their social, occupational, and mental functioning; and stop criminal activity.6 Residential treatment can be an integral part of a successful recovery by providing a safe space for you to focus on yourself and your recovery needs without the distractions and demands of everyday life.

Preparing for Life After Residential Alcohol Rehab

A residential rehab center that provides medical and behavioral therapies and then gives no further support after the program is complete may, in effect, be undoing all the work done during treatment. Without tools and support post treatment, the individual may lose motivation and relapse faster than someone who has resources to stay invested in the treatment results after returning home.

One study in demonstrates that something as simple as a brief motivational interview—a call to the individual to check in, and provide support and guidance—can lead to longer recovery periods and fewer incidents of relapse.

Additionally, training in strategies, skills, and resources that the person can use and refer to after treatment, such as encouraging them to join and actively participate in a 12-step or similar support group, can also help reduce the risk of relapse.

Individualized Residential Treatment Plan

Experts, such as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), recommend that, along with the above considerations, there are some other qualitative elements to look for in a rehab setting.7 Experts agree that treatment should be tailored to an individual’s specific needs, and this individualization can affect the likelihood of the person achieving long-term recovery. Special situations in an individual’s life may present the need for specific attention in order to achieve the most thorough treatment. Some of these include:

  • Co-occurring conditions, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or anxiety.
  • Physical diseases that require medical treatment.
  • Specific family issues, such as enabling behaviors or codependency.
  • Lack of a social support structure to encourage maintenance of recovery.

Being able to adapt treatment to meet these and other needs can determine whether or not the program will work for a particular individual. In fact, a recent study suggests that developing an individualized treatment plan in cooperation with the person receiving treatment makes that person more likely to continue treatment past the detox and withdrawal stage.8

Another element that can make or break a person’s reaction to treatment is how the program handles relapse. Alcohol use disorder is not a disease that can be cured, and relapse is likely in many cases of substance use disorders. Treatment programs that acknowledge this are able to work with the realities of recovery and more likely to fully support clients throughout the process.

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