Long-term inpatient, or residential treatment is a level of care in addiction treatment that falls under inpatient services. They often follow more intensive inpatient detoxification and preceded less intensive outpatient programs. Long-term residential treatment offers access to 24-hour care each day for between a few weeks to a few months, depending on your specific needs. However, long-term residential treatment takes time, and if it’s to be effective, it requires a lot of effort.

Is this intensive, time-consuming level of care really worth it?

While it does require a lot of your time while you’re in treatment, long-term residential treatment comes with several benefits that may be the key to your recovery. Active addiction can consume multiple aspects of your life, including your time. If long-term residential treatment can help you achieve sobriety, it may be worth every minute.

Learn more about the benefits of a long-term residential treatment program.

Increased Accountability

Addiction is a disease that primarily affects the reward center of the brain that is designed to help you learn good habits. Your reward center is how you instinctively know you need to drink water, eat good meals, and find a good place to sleep. Pleasurable activities cause your brain to release feel-good chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These chemicals are important in reward and motivation, and healthy activities often cause them to be released.

However, drugs often cause them to be released. When you develop an addiction, your brain will learn to compel you to use the drug again and again.

These compulsions can be as powerful as the compulsion to drink water when you’re thirsty. Even people with a strong desire to stop using may experience powerful cravings that are difficult to resist.

Because addiction can cause powerful cravings long after you’ve gone through detox, it’s important to go through treatment where you’ll have help and accountability when you go through triggers. On your own or in low levels of care, there is very little to stop you from using again during a moment of weakness. In residential treatment, you will have access to 24-hour care in a sober living environment. The barriers between you and substance use are more robust than when you are on your own. Clinicians and therapists will be on staff to help you when you need it. During residential treatment, you’ll be able to address underlying issues that lead to triggers, and you can learn to deal with cravings without using.

Longer Treatment Has Proven Results

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), research supports the idea that longer therapy may have better results than short-term options. Three months of addiction treatment is the ideal minimum amount of time to attend treatment that significantly reduces your chance of relapse.

NIDA says that the best outcomes occur with longer durations of treatment. As a chronic disease like hypotension or asthma, addiction comes with a significant risk of relapse, and 40 to 60 percent of people who achieve sobriety relapse back into active addiction. You don’t have to spend all 90 days in residential treatment. Treatment may start with inpatient detox, then move to residential, then an outpatient program.

Moving to a lower level of care like outpatient can help you to ease into independent life and avoid institutionalization. Still, long-term residential treatment can help you dive into treatment, getting comprehensive treatment.

Removes You From a Lifestyle of Addiction

Active addiction often comes with a lifestyle of constantly searching for your next high. You may have regular dealers, or you may know where to get drugs reliably. Familiar places may also spark memories that can also serve as triggers, such as driving past your favorite bar.

When you enter a residential program, you will be changing your day-to-day life pretty dramatically. You’ll be in a new environment with new people, many of whom are going through treatment along with you. You’ll be separated from your dealers, drinking buddies, and anyone that you used to use with. Short-term treatment may separate you from your active addiction lifestyle for a brief period, but it’s not usually long enough for you to make lasting changes.

People who go through a week of detox may return to their normal life as soon as they leave treatment.

Long-term residential treatment can help separate you from active addiction in a more meaningful way. First, you may be removed from a logistical standpoint. After a month or two of treatment, you may lose contact with dealers and the places you can reliably get drugs may change. However, the more meaningful way to separate from the addiction lifestyle is to change your mindset and behavior.

If you spend a significant amount of time in recovery, you may feel more removed from active addiction mentally and emotionally. You may still have cravings and experience triggers, but active addiction may be less logistically and mentally accessible.

Addressing Multiple Issues

Addiction comes with multiple causes and complications that need to be addressed for treatment to be effective. Substance use disorders can affect multiple areas of your life including physical health, mental health, relationships, finances, and legal standing. When you are struggling in multiple areas, you may need help with more than just your substance use.

For instance, many people come with addiction treatment with a mental health issue like depression. Problems like depression can feed off of and worsen substance use disorders. For treatment to be effective, it’s important for multiple issues to be treated simultaneously. Otherwise, co-occurring problems can contribute to a relapse.

Long-term residential treatment involves therapies that address multiple problems including mental health issues. Addiction treatment programs should also have on-staff case managers that can help you address issues involving finances, job-hunting, housing, and legal issues.

What Is Involved in Long-Term Residential Care?

Long-term residential treatment involves intensive addiction treatment while you live in a treatment facility or provided housing. Residential treatment falls under the inpatient level of care, but you may not necessarily be staying in a hospital setting. In many cases, you may be staying in provided residences that are more like apartments with a variety of amenities. Still, you will have access to clinical services 24 hours a day. If you have a medical emergency, psychological needs, or any other requirements, there will be clinicians on staff at all hours that are ready to help you.

In residential treatment, you may go through several types of addiction treatment including individual, group, and family therapy. Residential treatment centers will also have specific therapy options to help address mental health disorders, trauma, and other issues that may be underlying causes or contributors to your substance use problem.

When you first enter addiction treatment, you will go through an intake and assessment process where you will sit down with your therapist and create a personalized treatment plan. Each week, your plan will be reassessed and adjusted as needed.

Benefits of Residential Treatment

A full-time career, trying to manage your time wisely, and raising a family is not easy. When you add in a drug or alcohol problem, you’re on the path toward failure. There is no issue with admitting you have a problem and seeking help. For some of us, outpatient treatment isn’t enough – we need to take advantage of the benefits of residential treatment – but what are those? Long-term residential treatment is ideal for someone looking to overhaul their lives and start fresh. In the event of acute or severe psychological distress, long-term residential treatment programs are the superior option.

Extended residential treatment typically refers to behavioral health treatment that takes place in a private residence. It offers a level of care that approaches hospitalization or inpatient treatment. However, residential treatment is different from inpatient treatment, and it provides a more intimate setting that feels like home. Members reside in a supportive group environment. This type of program started as a reaction to the negative aspects of psychiatric and addiction hospitalization. These include traumatization, isolation, high cost, and poor treatment outcomes.

Long-term inpatient mental health programs and residential treatment are more successful than outpatient care. When you’re in a program for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you’re less likely to give in to temptations and use drugs or alcohol. We can always find an excuse to use drugs – things are hard, it’s OK, just this one time, you deserve it – you know what the demons tell us. However, while residential treatment may be daunting to some, you have a better chance of achieving long-term recovery and staying healthy this way. Residential treatment has various benefits. We’ll include those below.


At a glance, a regular, daily schedule may appear very restricting. However, the structure of residential treatment enables each person to focus on their health. It eliminates the gaps you get with downtime that allow cravings to turn into actions, which cause relapse that can be deadly. It provides stability during the more challenging moments of recovery. Clear boundaries and accountability will help those battling their addiction to redevelop their willpower and stick to their commitments.


At one point or another, you’ve felt isolated, guilty, and misunderstood – this is especially true for those battling a substance use disorder (SUD). The stigma behind addiction pushes people away from seeking help. They worry about how others will judge them, especially if they’re in a judgmental work environment, and fear losing their job. Recovering without that pressure and feeling of judgment makes the process much easier to endure, which is one of the many benefits of residential treatment. From day one, everyone you meet will empathize with your pain and suffering and what you’re dealing with because of addiction. Your peers will have stories of struggle and success, and addiction professionals will serve as knowledgeable and compassionate guides to help you move forward. No matter how tough it gets, you’re never alone.


When you’re removed from your obligations, you can focus on yourself. While it may sound selfish on the surface, it’s OK to be selfish sometimes – you can’t love your family if you don’t love yourself. Residential treatment is more than getting sober; it helps you learn how to care about and love yourself again. You can address your past issues and develop new healthy habits. The structure of residential treatment provides an environment where your mind, body, and spirit can heal. The primary objective of treatment is more than sobriety – it’s becoming someone you can stand to look at in the mirror again, someone you’re not ashamed of anymore when you’re actively using drugs or alcohol.


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