All About Inpatient Treatment Programs
Recovering from drug or alcohol addiction is a difficult process. Many individuals need additional care and support to achieve and maintain sobriety. Inpatient treatment programs, also known as residential treatment, may be a good choice for individuals struggling with substance abuse. However, just like each person recovering from addiction is unique, so is each treatment option.1
If you are considering inpatient treatment for yourself or a loved one, it is crucial to get familiar with the nature of such programs, their benefits, and the levels of care provided. In this guide, you’ll learn about the principles of inpatient treatment for substance abuse and how you can make an informed decision when choosing a program.
How Inpatient Treatment Programs Work
Inpatient or residential rehab is a form of addiction treatment that provides patients with 24/7 structured care under the supervision of qualified professionals at a treatment facility.2 Once an individual enters into inpatient addiction treatment, they are required to be a full-time resident of the chosen treatment program, receiving structured and tailored care 24 hours a day, every day of the week. They might be assigned a room with a roommate or live alone, have their meals at the facility, attend individual and group therapy, and receive other forms of care depending on the specific program.
Due to the structured and comprehensive nature of the care provided in inpatient treatment programs, they are typically recommended for individuals with severe and/or long-term addiction to alcohol or drugs, as well as those suffering from co-occurring disorders. For many individuals, inpatient treatment can be beneficial in the sense that it helps place some distance between themselves and their potentially difficult home environments, allowing them to focus more easily on achieving recovery with guidance from addiction treatment professionals.2
The Duration of Inpatient Treatment
A crucial component of inpatient substance abuse treatment is the duration of the treatment program. The individual should remain in treatment long enough in order to develop confidence in the skills they learned during treatment for maintaining recovery. The duration of inpatient treatment may vary depending on the chosen programs and the particular needs of the individual receiving care.3
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) proposes that addiction treatment should last at least 90 days in order to achieve the desired results. However, the individual doesn’t need to spend the entire period at an inpatient treatment facility.4
Oftentimes, the patient may start with a 30-day inpatient treatment program and later transition into an outpatient program for the remainder of the time spent receiving structured treatment. Overall, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment duration. Instead, the length should be determined based on the specific circumstances and needs of the patient.4
Principles of Inpatient Treatment
Due to the multifaceted nature of addiction, the treatment options should adhere to a number of principles in order to be effective. According to NIDA, some of these principles include:4
- Treatment should be tailored to the unique needs of each individual and adequately adjusted if these needs change.
- Treatment for substance abuse should be readily available.
- Treatment should be designed to address any additional issues that co-occur with substance use.
- The effectiveness of treatment may be better with longer durations.
- Behavioral forms of therapy should be the main focus of treatment in order to help the patients achieve and maintain abstinence.
- In addition to behavioral therapies, medication may be provided as needed.
- Medical detox should only be the first stage of treatment and followed by structured therapy and counseling to promote lasting sobriety.
- The patients should have access to infectious disease testing and harm reduction education.
- The most suitable level of care for the patient will be best determined by addiction treatment professionals upon thorough consideration of their unique needs and circumstances.
Do I Need Inpatient Treatment?
Making the decision to attend an inpatient treatment program is a highly personal endeavor. In order to decide whether or not you or a loved one may need inpatient rehab, it is usually best to rely on a treatment professional for guidance and evaluation. Professionals will consider your unique needs and circumstances to determine the appropriate level of care.2
Inpatient treatment programs offer a controlled and structured environment for recovery. They can also provide the patient with the necessary resources and tools to address the various effects of addiction on the different aspects of their life. Treatment providers may rely on different criteria to determine the right type of care, such as:5
- Physical and mental health assessments.
- Identifying any co-occurring conditions.
- Taking into account the personal needs of the patient.
- Assessing the patient’s attitude or outlook.
- Evaluating the patient’s living situation.
Treatment providers rely on these evidence-based treatment criteria to help provide individuals with the most appropriate level of care that will maximize their chances of recovery and minimize the risk of relapse.
Frequently Asked Questions
Inpatient treatment programs are typically designed to offer highly structured and comprehensive care to individuals who need it the most. They are often the right choice for individuals with severe substance abuse or those who have struggled with addiction for a long time. However, inpatient treatment can be tailored to meet the needs of a great number of individuals, including:6
- Individuals with substance use disorders ranging from mild to severe.
- Individuals with secondary addictions and co-occurring mental health disorders (e.g. bipolar disorder or depression).
- Individuals who may need special accommodations, such as teens, pregnant women, first responders, and military veterans.
- Individuals who may need specialized types of treatment, such as gender-specific programs.
- Individuals who may require longer duration of treatment in order to overcome additional issues that affect their addiction, such as domestic abuse and trauma.
Overall, inpatient treatment programs can help struggling individuals stop using drugs and/or alcohol, restore their overall health, learn skills that will help them maintain sobriety, and build a fulfilling lifestyle that will enable them to achieve successful recovery.6
The experience you or a loved one may have at an inpatient treatment center will depend on the specific program you choose. Most inpatient treatment facilities will offer some or all of the following types of care:7
- Medically managed detox and withdrawal, if needed
- Medication management, if needed
- Individual therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Couples or family counseling
- Educational activities
- Skills-building activities
- Follow-up care
- Support group referrals
Inpatient treatment programs often begin with medically assisted detox designed to ensure the safety and comfort during the withdrawal process for first-time residents through 24/7 support and medication. After that, the patient is encouraged to pinpoint and address the causes of their substance abuse through intensive and highly structured counseling and therapy.4 Some treatment programs, such as the therapeutic community (TC) model of care, involve support and activities that focus on helping the individual adjust to life outside of the facility. These programs provide counseling designed to enable the patient to challenge maladaptive behavioral patterns and beliefs, adopt more constructive social interaction methods, and undergo any educational training.8
Choosing among inpatient treatment facilities can be a challenging process. Here are some questions that you may ask in order to make an informed decision.
What Kinds of Addiction Do Their Inpatient Programs Treat?
Inpatient treatment facilities typically offer treatment for a variety of addiction types, although some may specialize in treating addiction to specific substances, such as alcohol or opioids. If you or a loved one is suffering from a specific type of addiction or addiction to multiple substances, make sure to check whether the facility offers the right forms of treatment for your needs.
Does the Facility Offer Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders?
Many individuals who suffer from addiction also have different mental health conditions. Since substance use disorders and mental illnesses share several common risk factors and can have a significant impact on each other, they are often treated simultaneously. If you or a loved one have a co-occurring condition, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, you might want to check with the inpatient treatment facility whether they offer suitable treatment programs.9
What Forms of Therapy Are Offered at The Inpatient Treatment Facility?
Before making the decision, you may want to check with the facility if they offer forms of therapy that meet your specific needs and circumstances. Many types of therapy have been clinically proven to effectively treat substance use disorders, some of which are more effective in treating specific substance use disorders. Some of the most common forms of therapy include CBT, contingency management, motivational interviewing, and experiential therapy.10
What Kinds of Sober Living and Aftercare Options Does the Facility Offer?
Most inpatient treatment facilities offer different forms of follow-up care, such as individual and group therapy sessions, phone counseling, peer support groups, and brief-check ins. Sober living and aftercare options are designed to provide individuals with continued support that will help them prevent relapse and maintain lasting recovery after inpatient treatment.11
Does the Facility Have the Appropriate Licensing and Credentials?
Choosing a credentialed and licensed inpatient treatment facility means choosing a facility whose treatment programs are overseen by third-party organizations. This ensures compliance with suitable quality standards. These organizations may be state-specific or nationwide, such as the Joint Commision.12
Which Payment Options Are Available for the Treatment?
Inpatient treatment facilities for substance abuse typically offer a variety of payment options for patients and their families. Most of them will accept both state-funded and private insurance and private payments.If you or a loved one is considering an inpatient treatment program, you may want to contact the facility you are interested in and speak with an admissions specialist to discuss the costs of treatment and the available payment options.
1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Types of Treatment Programs.
2. American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2015). What are the ASAM levels of care?.
3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction DrugFacts.
4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (Third edition).
5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Treatment Settings.
6. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2005). Substance Abuse Treatment for Persons With Co-Occurring Disorders. Chapter 6, Traditional Settings and Models. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
7. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2004). Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy. Chapter 3, Approaches to Therapy. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
8. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). What is a Therapeutic Community’s Approach?
9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Comorbidity: Substance Use Disorders and Other Mental Illnesses DrugFacts.
10. McHugh, R.K., Hearon, B.A., & Otto, M.W. (2010). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Substance Use Disorders. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 33(3), 511-525.
11. McKay, J.R. (2009). Continuing Care Research: What We’ve Learned and Where We’re Going. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 36(2), 131-145.
12. The Joint Commission. (2021). Accreditation & Certification.