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what is residential treatment

What is Residential Treatment?

Many mental health disorders can be recurring and chronic and require residential treatment.

So, what is residential treatment?

Many mental health disorders can be recurring and chronic. They may require ongoing care, and treatment often involves helping clients develop the tools needed to reduce and manage stressors while encouraging them to develop a support network of friends and family to help out when symptoms flare. 

In these cases, intensive treatment is necessary to help clients not just overcome a single episode but learn to apply healthy coping skills and new behaviors to minimize the daily impact of their disorder. These treatment plans utilize medication alongside different therapeutic techniques to help reduce the severity of a client’s long-term disorder and help them cope. Many outpatient and inpatient programs specialize in such long-term treatment plans.

But severe mental health issues require more than an in-depth, long-term outpatient treatment plan. There are times when a person may be a danger to themselves or may struggle to adhere to treatment on their own. These clients have the option of willingly enrolling into an inpatient residential treatment program. These long-term inpatient treatment programs are community-based residential clinics and facilities, mirroring everyday family homes, where clients can cohabitate while surrounded by professional medical and psychiatric staff. 

Residential Treatment and Inpatient Treatment

Residential treatment plans involve a long-term stay at a residential treatment facility, in contrast to partial hospitalization or intensive care at a psychiatric hospital. Our mental healthcare system is not equipped to “hold” clients for long periods of time – which is why private, community-based residential programs exist to help clients seek care for four weeks, eight weeks, or even longer. 

In cases of addiction or substance use disorder, residential treatment facilities offer clients a drug-free, conflict-free place to stay, where they can focus on engaging entirely with their treatment process, make progress in solo and group therapy, and address some of the factors that may be continuing to contribute to their addiction. Residential treatment facilities for addiction are also called “rehab”. 

Some residential treatment facilities offer a form of “retreat” or “luxury” rehab. These spaces prioritize comfort, relaxation, and restoration, and have been growing in popularity over the years as an alternative to colder clinical settings. 

However, these retreats carry a significant cost. There is a socioeconomic divide between clients who can and cannot afford this level of care. There are very few options for low-income clients to seek out high-quality residential treatment plans. Many clients with severe mental and physical healthcare problems struggle financially due to the debilitating nature of their symptoms, the cost of treatments (even with insurance), and other reasons. In some cases, rehab facilities and residential treatment clinics offer slots in exchange for work, or on a scholarship basis

Residential treatments are a form of inpatient treatment. Whereas outpatient treatment specializes in providing a wealth of resources and a strict schedule for clients to follow, inpatient treatment gives them a place to stay during their treatment. 

Clients going through an inpatient treatment plan will receive their own private space, an individualized schedule, and a treatment plan fit to their specific needs. Inpatient treatment plans, particularly residential treatment, is often used in cases of schizophrenia, severe depression with suicidal ideation, substance use disorder, and other severe mental health issues where long-term treatment may be needed, on a case-by-case basis. 

The Benefits of Residential Treatment

Residential and outpatient treatment plans do not exist in a strict dichotomy. A person can be sent into rehab, and then continue treatment on an outpatient basis after their first month of sobriety or recovery. In many cases, different “levels” of care are prescribed to a client to help them maintain sobriety, or in cases of depression or psychosis, help them manage their symptoms and keep them under supervision to address recurring issues, medication problems, or poor treatment responses. 

There are benefits to seeking out residential treatment over an outpatient treatment plan under certain circumstances. Whether or not these circumstances apply to you or your loved one is a different matter. Residential treatment plans may be best for you if: 

  • You would like to focus on improving your interpersonal skills. 
  • You need a respite from your day-to-day life, especially due to environmental triggers around you. 
  • You have a hard time adhering to treatment protocols set by your therapist or psychiatrist in an outpatient setting. 
  • You need intensive care to keep yourself safe or are transitioning out of partial hospitalization or psychiatric care and need more time to make the transition. 
  • Your therapist has recommended residential treatment care to you, as an alternative to outpatient care. 

Finding the right residential treatment facility is a matter of time, space, and budget. Some facilities are fully booked for the foreseeable future, which means finding a slot can be difficult. Some are available but may be too far for you to reasonably travel to. Budget is an important consideration, because residential treatment can be costly. If you are having trouble financing your treatment, there may be options for you to seek financial assistance.

Residential Treatment vs. Partial Hospitalization

Partial hospitalization is a short-term treatment plan aimed to help clients avoid being interred at a psychiatric hospital or minimize their inpatient treatment. Clients involved in partial hospitalization visit their assigned clinic several hours a day, for three-to-five days a week. It is a step down from an inpatient stay at a psychiatric hospital, but more intense than an outpatient treatment program. 

In addition to not being a form of inpatient treatment, partial hospitalization is a short-term treatment

Not All Residential Treatment Programs Are the Same

Do not mistake residential treatment for being synonymous with luxury, or celebrity rehab. There are spaces that cater to people from all backgrounds, with different philosophies, treatment modalities, and cost points.

Some residential treatment spaces focus entirely on evidence-based treatment and are staffed by a number of psychiatrists, while others include evidence-based treatments as well as mindfulness training, alternative treatments, and a focus on spirituality. 

At the core, however, residential treatment always has the same focus: helping clients improve their symptoms, and transition back into day-to-day life successfully, and as a happier person. 

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