Residential treatment, also called residential rehabilitation or inpatient rehab, describes either a mental health facility, a drug and/or alcohol facility, or process addiction treatment program that is provided to patients in a residential setting. Some residential treatment centers specialize in only one illness, such as eating disorders or substance abuse. Others treat people with a variety of diagnoses or dual diagnosis of substance abuse and a psychiatric diagnosis.

The term does not usually refer to treatment in hospitals or centers specializing in physical or occupational therapy, but rather to centers for long-term treatment for substance abuse disorders and other mental problems in which, patients live in facilities together with other patients and therapists, receiving therapy and medication on a 24-hour basis. The term also refers to therapeutic boarding schools or wilderness programs for young people.

Most residential treatment is voluntary. Only rarely is a person forced into residential treatment, although it may occur as the result of a court order. Residential treatment is expensive, and some people have to go through it more than once before they finally achieve their goals. Nevertheless, it is considered the best treatment for behaviorally based disorders such as drug addiction, alcoholism and obesity and many mental disorders, especially those that are treatment-resistant, life-threatening or involve suicidal ideation or severe acting out.

Residential treatment can be short-term (30 days or less) and long-term (more than 30 days) and depends on the type of addiction, duration and frequency of use, any co-occurring addictions or mental health disorders and other factors. Some residential treatment is time-limited due to the patient’s insurance coverage. In such cases, either the patient or his or her family has to pay out of pocket or transition to outpatient treatment or other form of support, including 12-step self-help groups (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, for example) or other community-based support.


Therapeutic boarding schools for teens have similarly structured days, except residents will attend classes and have study sessions along with their therapies. Young people, usually in a group of seven or less, explore nature with professional therapists and adults experienced in outdoor survival. Wilderness programs usually last three months.

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