Inpatient and Residential Addiction Treatment
If you or a loved one is struggling with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) or substance use disorder (SUD), you may be interested in seeking treatment at a rehab facility, if you have not already done so. There are multiple types of treatment facilities for addiction, including inpatient treatment and residential treatment. Both of these levels of care are effective treatment options and it is important to understand the difference between inpatient and residential substance abuse treatment facilities so you can make informed decisions about your recovery.
Differences Between Inpatient and Residential Rehab Programs
Inpatient treatment and residential treatment are sometimes used interchangeably because there are some similarities between the two. Both residential treatment and inpatient treatment are viable treatment options if you are seeking recovery from drugs and alcohol. Both types of rehab provide 24-hour monitoring 7 days a week as well as a variety of supportive services. The main differences between inpatient rehab and residential rehab are the goal or focus of treatment, duration of stay, and types of services offered.1 Whether inpatient treatment or residential treatment is the best option for you, will depend on your medical needs, your long-term recovery goes, and your insurance coverage.
One of the easiest ways to differentiate between inpatient and residential rehab programs is to think of residential addiction treatment as a follow-up to inpatient treatment. Inpatient treatment is one of the very first steps in addiction treatment and can include services like acute medical stabilization and detoxification. Residential treatment programs can also include detoxification but do not provide acute medical care. Residential treatment is a good option once you are medically cleared.
There are similarities and differences between inpatient rehab centers and residential rehab centers.
Some similarities include:1
- Around the clock, 24-hour care from medical and addiction professionals.
- Safe and stable housing.
- Structured activities and interventions.
- Programs that strive to help you live a life free from drugs, alcohol, and crime.
Differences can include the following:1
- Intensity of services.
- Types of services offered.
- Goal of interventions and treatment.
- Duration of services.
- Cost of treatment.
What is Inpatient Rehab?
The goal of inpatient treatment is medical and physical stabilization, which can include detoxification as well as other medically managed services requiring around-the-clock doctor and nurse care.2 Medically managed services can include things such as medication, lab work, and re-balancing your electrolytes. Counseling and other substance abuse treatment interventions can occur during this phase of treatment, however, the goal of this level of care is stabilization and therefore in-depth counseling to determine the underlying causes and triggers associated with your addiction will most likely occur after your inpatient treatment stay.2
Inpatient treatment can range in duration from several days to several weeks depending on your stability and medical status. During inpatient treatment, you will eat and sleep in the facility and the length of treatment will depend on your history of substance use (length of use, amount used, types of substances used), whether you have co-occurring mental health disorders, and any other medical problems. Another factor that can impact the length of inpatient rehab is your insurance coverage. Inpatient rehab programs usually take place in a hospital setting where medical staff (nurses and/or physicians), as well as other addiction professionals are available 24 hours a day.2
What is Residential Rehab?
Residential treatment, like inpatient treatment, also involves you living your day-to-day life in a controlled environment, usually at a licensed substance abuse treatment facility. However, one of the biggest differences is that the goal of residential treatment centers is to learn how to live your life without drugs and alcohol and uncover the underlying factors contributing to your addiction.3 When you arrive at your residential program you have already been medically cleared and are medically stable. Depending on the severity of addiction, some individuals may enter inpatient rehab before entering residential treatment however this is not always the case. For example, an individual can be deemed medically stable and can enter a residential treatment program without needing inpatient treatment; meaning that the two are not mutually exclusive.
In residential rehab, the focus is on long-term recovery. Treatment is primarily centered on therapeutic services like group and individual therapy as well as support groups. One of the main goals is to determine the causes and underlying triggers associated with your addiction and develop individualized coping skills to help you throughout your recovery. Residential treatment is unlike inpatient treatment in that it is not as intensive as a hospital setting. Patients will eat, sleep, and engage in daily life in an environment with others who are in the recovery process and working on similar goals. The staff at residential facilities usually include addiction specialists and individuals who are in recovery from drugs and alcohol themselves. Residential rehab can be short- or long-term and can last anywhere from one month to a year.3
Benefits of Long-Term Rehab Programs
There are many benefits to attending a long-term rehab program. Living in a controlled environment with others who are working towards the same goal can help you stay focused on your recovery and help you feel supported. Because you are in a controlled environment, you are not exposed to distractions of daily life, including financial and work stressors.
Other benefits of longer residential treatment programs include:1
- Living in a stable and safe housing environment that promotes building your support network.
- Receiving constant support from staff and other people in recovery who are working towards a similar goal.
- Developing self-awareness and essential insight regarding the contributing factors that led to your addiction.
- Learning crucial life skills such as occupational skills and personal finances.
- Receiving support services for employment, housing, and legal issues.
- Receiving evidence-based therapies (individual and group) to improve quality of life and learn new skills.
- Having access to appropriate medical care as needed.
- Learning new ways of thinking, behaving, and regulating emotions that you can apply to your life and be better prepared for your future outside of the treatment environment.
Although more research is needed, existing research is beginning to show a correlation between length of stay in a controlled rehabilitation program and successful treatment outcomes. Three separate studies assessing treatment outcomes in women showed high treatment success rates among the women who stayed in inpatient/residential treatment for 6 months or longer.4
Does Insurance Cover Inpatient or Residential Rehab?
The cost of rehab varies due to many factors, including but not limited to your rehab provider, length of treatment, services rendered, and your insurance provider. Your insurance provider may cover some or all of your cost of treatment. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded coverage of behavioral health services, including mental health and substance abuse services, in most public and private insurance providers.5 However, many insurance plans may not cover the entire cost of treatment. It is important to determine your coverage by checking with your insurance provider. You can call the number on the back of your insurance card or go to the provider’s website to verify your coverage for substance abuse and mental health services.
How to Choose Inpatient or Residential Rehab
Substance abuse treatment is a process that doesn’t have a defined ending. Instead, substance abuse treatment needs to constantly be evaluated and updated based on your changing needs and goals. It’s important to speak to a trusted medical professional in order to determine what your unique treatment needs are and whether inpatient or residential treatment is best for you.
Where you start and where you end in the inpatient and residential treatment process varies on many individualized factors. How you choose a rehab center includes factors such as your insurance coverage, medical needs, mental health needs, and history of substance use. Addiction and health organizations such as the American Psychological Association (APA), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and American Society of Addiction Medicine support long-term residential or inpatient stays, as research shows that most who enter and stay in treatment stop using alcohol and other drugs, improve their social, occupational, and mental functioning, and stop criminal activity.3
Finding an Inpatient Residential Rehab Center Near Me
Making the decision to seek addiction treatment can be one of the most rewarding and life-changing decisions you can make. If you are looking for residential treatment or inpatient treatment programs for substance abuse, talk to your doctor or a trusted loved one. Which treatment type you seek will vary depending on your needs, so it’s important to have a clear understanding of what you hope to achieve in treatment before you begin your search. When you’re ready to start looking for a treatment facility, there are several online directories that can help you find inpatient or residential treatment near you.
American Addiction Centers (AAC) offers residential and inpatient treatment at many of our facilities. We also operate a free substance use hotline staffed 24/7 by a compassionate team ready to walk you through any questions you may have about treatment.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 17). Treatment approaches for drug addiction: Drug facts.
- American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2015, May 13). What are the ASAM levels of care?
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, June 3). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (Third Edition): Types of treatment programs.
- Greenfield, L., Burgdorf, K., Chen, X., Porowski, A., Roberts, T., & Herrell, J. (2004). Effectiveness of long-term residential substance abuse treatment for women: findings from three national studies. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 30(3), 537–550.
- Beronio, K., Glied, S. & Frank, R. (2014). How the affordable care act and mental health parity and addiction equity act greatly expanded coverage of behavioral health care. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research. 41(4), 410-428.