The Components of the Best Residential Drug Treatment Programs
Many comprehensive residential drug treatment programs offer:
While some people may receive adequate treatment in outpatient settings, people with more severe or long-term instances of addiction might need inpatient or residential care. However, not all residential programs are the same, and a person struggling with drug or alcohol addiction may not know what the ideal residential treatment program looks like.
Each person is unique, whether they have a substance use disorder (SUD) or not. Whether they have co-occurring mental health issues or not. There are different forms of treatment to serve the varying needs of patients. At American Addiction Centers, we offer both residential and outpatient treatment services to accommodate a variety of needs. If you believe that you need help with your SUD, please reach out to one of our admissions navigators at to find the program that’s right for you!
A combination of medically supported treatments and various types of therapy make up the approach most likely to result in the outcome and long-term maintenance of recovery.1
The components of these treatments as used in a residential setting are outlined below to help individuals who are seeking help with their addictions, or their loved ones, to find the residential treatment program most likely to support them in their journey.
The Elements of Residential Treatment
A study in the journal Addiction showed that that people who did not try to get help for their addiction were less likely to make it 3 years in sobriety, and were more likely to relapse.2
- 62% of those who had professional help in treating their addiction remained in recovery for 3 years after treatment, compared to only 43% of those who didn’t get treatment.2
- 57% of those who made it 3 years were still free of the substance after a total of 16 years.2
This shows that getting professional treatment is vital to reaching the best outcome.
An essential element of drug addiction treatment is treatment length—staying with a treatment program long enough to emerge with confidence in their newly learned skills and tools for remaining in recovery.3 Treatment is often most effective when done in a continuum, either at the same facility or if multiple facilities share information and collaborate on the care of the patient.
Residential rehab provides 24-hour care to help individuals achieve and maintain recovery from addiction. These programs are able to offer a breadth of services that are more likely to help clients develop capabilities and tools to stay in recovery well after leaving the program. These include:
- Medically supported detox and withdrawal, if needed.
- Medically supported maintenance care, if needed.
- Individual therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
- Family or couples counseling.
- Building skills and tools that are necessary for life post treatment.
- Follow-up care after the formalized program ends.
How Long Do People Stay in Residential Treatment?
Residential treatment programs may vary, but the average stay for longer term rehab can range from 90 days (3 months) to 120 and 180 days (4 and 6 months respectively). The length of stay for long term drug rehab programs will depend on your personalized situation and treatment plan.
Medically Supported Detox and Withdrawal
The physical components of treatment involve freeing the body of its dependence on the addictive substance.
When people enter drug treatment, one of the first crucial tasks is to detoxify the system and get through the often challenging, and sometimes dangerous, process of withdrawing from the addictive substances. In residential treatment, this is best performed through medically-supported detox and withdrawal that can help ease the symptoms of withdrawal while keeping individuals safe.
Withdrawal usually involves at least some discomfort, which can be lessened through various medications administered by doctors and other medical professionals.
Managing withdrawal symptoms is vital to a successful residential program, as the person is more likely to remain in rehab if withdrawal symptoms are kept under control.
In the case of addiction to certain substances, such as alcohol, opiates, and benzodiazepine drugs (benzos), withdrawal can be dangerous and even life-threatening.
Even low-dose benzos, if used over a long period of time, can result in severe withdrawal symptoms that must be managed under the care of a professional who can administer medications to help prevent the worst symptoms.4 In most instances, individuals addicted to alcohol, opiates, and benzos should not attempt to detox cold turkey on their own.
For some people, medication is an effective way to maintain abstinence from their addiction until they can better manage the challenge of recovery on their own. For withdrawal from alcohol or opiates, for example, maintenance medications can help reduce cravings and the need for the high that the substance provides. This can give the person more time to develop tools to avoid behaviors and situations that might trigger relapse.
Because these medications can come with their own risks and are required to be administered under the care of a doctor, they are more easily managed in a residential program where medical professionals can oversee their use or discontinuation.
Other components of treatment involve psychological and social therapies that help the person being treated to understand and manage contributing factors to the addiction. This can be especially helpful for those who have a dual diagnosis, such as addiction that occurs alongside other mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety.
In cases of dual diagnosis, all co-occurring issues must be treated simultaneously. Because of this, it’s important to have a treatment team that understands all the factors in play.
Something as simple as the rapport experienced between a counselor and client can contribute to a higher likelihood of continued recovery after treatment.5
As a result, individual therapy is essential to effective addiction treatment. While most programs incorporate some forms of group therapy, specific gains are often made in individual therapy.
Educating clients about the mental and emotional contributors to their addiction can help them recognize the triggers that might reignite the addictive cycle. It is also helpful to enable individuals to process the thought patterns that accompany cravings and the relationships that may encourage relapse, so they can develop coping mechanisms to help them work through, or avoid, certain thoughts or circumstances that might cause them to relapse. This can be accomplished through various forms of therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral TherapyCognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of counseling that helps a person learn to recognize the specific situations that cause addictive behaviors to occur, so the person can then practice strategies to avoid those triggers and behaviors.
A research review from The American Journal of Psychiatry cited a number of studies in which the effects of CBT were not only helpful while the therapy was in process, but were also effective, even sometimes growing more effective, after therapy was discontinued.6
One of these studies found that adding CBT to a slow taper of benzos for people with anxiety disorders was more helpful in reducing benzo use than the slow taper alone.6 Three months after treatment, 77 percent of those who had received both the slow taper and the therapy remained in recovery.6
Family or Couples Counseling and Education
During residential treatment, it’s helpful to get the individual’s family or partner involved in therapy. This can encourage family members to support the person’s new skills and behaviors after treatment is over.
As discussed in the Treatment Improvement Protocols from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), information about the substance abuse disorder and its implications can support the recovery person’s loved ones. This information includes:
- What the treatments are and how they work.
- What to expect after the person is released from treatment.
- How to support the results of treatment.
- Post-treatment programs and resources.
In many cases, it can also be important to provide counseling to the individual and loved ones together. This can help everyone involved learn how to build new patterns that support recovery rather than returning to old behaviors that could lead to relapse.
The family can begin to learn how to recognize and avoid codependent or enabling behaviors. This can build a healthier way of relating to each other and assist in preventing the thoughts and situations that may lead to relapse.
Establishing Post-Residence Tools and Support Resources
A practical component of residential treatment is setting clients up for success after they leave their treatment program. If clients are able to practice and begin using skills and resources while in treatment, they are more likely to be able to maintain their recovery in the months and years following rehab.
These types of strategies can include follow-up interviews to check in and provide motivation for continued commitment or encouragement to join mutual recovery groups and fellowships, such as 12-Step or alternative support programs.
When treatment is customized to meet the specific individual’s physical, psychological, and practical needs during and after treatment, it’s more likely to help those struggling with addiction. Residential treatment facilities that offer evidence-based treatments and therapies like the ones discussed above offer their patients a fighting chance at sobriety and recovery.
Find Residential Drug and Detox Treatment Centers Near You
And, residential treatment that is personal, intense, and comprehensive provides the most hopeful path for individuals and their loved ones to attain, and thrive in, recovery.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Treatment approaches for drug addiction.
- Moos, R.H. & Moos, B. S. (2006). Rates and predictors of relapse after natural and treated remission from alcohol use disorders. Addiction 101(2), 212-222.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Treatment approaches for drug addiction.
- Lader, M. (1987). Long-term anxiolytic therapy: the issue of drug withdrawal. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 48(Supp 16-6).
- Joe, G.W., Simpson, D.D., Dansereau, D.F., & Rowan-Szal, G.A. (2001). Relationships between counseling rapport and drug abuse treatment outcomes. Psychiatric Services 52(9), 1223-1229.
- Carroll, K.M. & Onken, L.S. (2005). Behavioral therapies for drug abuse. The American Journal of Psychiatry 162(8), 1452-1460.