Acera Health

Residential Treatment Guide - What is it Like?

Reviewed by: Melody Stone
a therapist taking notes while giving psychotherapy to a patient at a residential treatment program

Maintaining a treatment plan can be challenging for those facing mental illness without a robust support system. However, residential treatment programs offer a powerful resource to tackle these difficulties and provide hope for a brighter future.

The World Health Organization reported in 2019 that 301 million people had an anxiety disorder. This alarming number underscores the need for effective mental health awareness, comprehensive treatment options like residential treatment programs, and accessible, quality mental health care services. 

What are Residential Treatment Programs

A residential treatment program is an intensive therapeutic intervention where individuals temporarily reside within a treatment facility for a duration ranging from a few weeks to several months. The length of stay hinges on the individual’s disorder severity and the extent of care necessary for effective treatment.

Transitioning from the familiar environs of the home to a treatment facility can seem daunting. However, it’s crucial to appreciate that residential treatment programs are meticulously designed to facilitate recovery. They provide an environment conducive to healing, enabling individuals to focus on their recovery without the distractions and pressures of everyday life.

If you’re uncertain whether residential treatment suits your needs best, enhance your understanding by investigating residential vs. outpatient treatment.

The Spectrum of Disorders Treated

Although residential treatment facilities are often synonymous with treating substance use disorder (SUD), they serve a broader role in addressing other mental health conditions. These include: 

  • Depression: Pervasive mood disorder characterized by overwhelming sadness and loss of interest in daily activities.
  • Anxiety disorders: These entail excessive and persistent worrying.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition that ensues following exposure to a traumatic event. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the percentage of individuals who have experienced PTSD at any point in their lives in the U.S. is 6.8%.
  • Personality disorders: These are deeply ingrained, maladaptive patterns of behavior that affect one’s ability to relate to others.


Though the mental disorders mentioned above are not the exclusive focus of residential treatment programs, anyone requiring round-the-clock and intensive care can reap significant benefits.

Locating the Right Residential Treatment Program

Finding an appropriate residential treatment program involves some research. Not all mental health facilities offer residential programs, and those that don’t usually refer patients to proper facilities. For individuals with a dual diagnosis, specialized residential treatment programs are tailored to their unique needs. 

If you find it challenging to manage mental health symptoms, it may be time to explore inpatient mental health treatment. This step is often considered when symptoms become severe, possibly leading to dangerous behaviors, or when outpatient methods are ineffective. Learn more about when to consider inpatient treatment here.

What Does Residential Treatment Entail?

A residential treatment facility is a safe space, a sanctuary where individuals learn invaluable life skills and effective symptom management strategies. These facilities minimize the everyday stressors of daily life, such as jobs, chores, and noise, enabling individuals to focus solely on their recovery. Furthermore, they offer a shield against triggers derailing mental health progress.

A residential treatment facility is a hybrid between a dorm and a hospital. Individuals are assigned private or shared rooms where they can rest and relax. Their days are structured, with scheduled treatment sessions, meals, and leisure periods. The constant presence of doctors and therapists ensures immediate help when needed. Many facilities incorporate classes and outdoor activities.

Treatment Modalities in Residential Programs

Residential treatment programs utilize diverse methods to enhance life quality. They provide individual psychotherapy or talk therapy for personal emotional exploration and problem-solving. They also foster community through group therapy, promoting mutual support and shared accountability among those facing similar issues.

Skilled doctors can administer the treatment and manage any medication side effects for those requiring medication. This is particularly crucial for individuals contending with SUD, which may require a prescription to mitigate withdrawal symptoms.

Many facilities also adopt a holistic approach to healing, incorporating activities such as nature walks, yoga, and gardening into their programs. The program staff will help facilitate a smooth transition back into society toward the end of an individual’s stay. Armed with new skills and coping mechanisms, individuals are better equipped to handle life’s challenges.

Freedom and Autonomy in Residential Programs

Contrary to the prevalent stigma, residential treatment programs respect an individual’s autonomy. Clients maintain the right to voice their preferences, stop treatment if they deem it unhelpful, and leave the facility whenever they wish. Sometimes, it takes multiple attempts to find a treatment that effectively addresses an individual’s unique needs. The process should not be a source of fear; in a residential treatment facility, the journey toward recovery is collaborative.

Each treatment center has unique nuances, making it essential to inquire and understand the specifics before choosing a program. Despite the daunting initial steps, the benefits are undeniable, with countless individuals recovering and healing through these programs. Remember, every individual deserves a haven for healing.

Tips Before Entering a Residential Treatment Program

Before going away for a residential treatment program, there are some things you need to do first. Since patients are encouraged to stay for the complete treatment, they may only be home briefly. 

You may need to ask for a pet or house sitter if you live alone. If you live with others, discuss who will care for what while you are away. Make sure your pets have enough supplies to last until you return. Some services, such as internet and cable, can be paused while you are in treatment. Be sure to be aware of what bills need to be paid and set up for them to be taken care of while you are away. 

The duration of a residential treatment program is crucial to consider. It can range from a short-term stay of 30 days to a long-term residency lasting up to a year, depending on the severity of the condition and individual progress. The ideal length varies, influenced by the disorder’s intensity, personal recovery goals, and the designed treatment plan. Learn more information about how long residential treatment is here.

Many treatment programs offer a transitional program. This teaches patients how to deal with everyday stressors and triggers and practice skills before being fully released from treatment. Many programs also have support networks and groups available after treatment. Sometimes people need several rounds of treatment, but it doesn’t make someone a failure.

Those are the basics of what to expect from a residential treatment program. Remember that you are allowed to ask questions and take notes. You may also appoint a trusted person to help you plan.

How Acera Health Can Help

Due to many considerations, deciding to join a residential treatment program can seem intimidating. At Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, we are committed to simplifying this process. Our team of compassionate and experienced professionals provides personalized care, helping set each client on the path to recovery. 

Clients can recover safely in our residential treatment facilities in a stress-free environment. Remember, you’re never alone in your journey. If you’re struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder and unsure about taking the first step, contact us at (949) 647-4090 for more information.

Related Resources

Have Us Reach Out