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Length of Residential Addiction Treatment

In the year 2000, we watched actress Sandra Bullock play successful writer Gwen Cummings, an alcoholic sentenced to 28 days of residential treatment after crashing a borrowed limousine while under the influence. Despite the fictional story, many who saw the blockbuster film, “28 Days,” came to believe that actual addiction residential treatment only took 28 days. However, that was incorrect.

Length of Residential Addiction Treatment

There is certainly no “one-size fits all” treatment for any addiction. Rather, the individual client sets the tone for the length of stay at residential treatment centers.

For a client like, “Gwen,” who are in denial about having a problem, resistant to changing, and even attempting to use during treatment, would undoubtedly need more than 28 days (maybe six months or more) to achieve improvement and “complete” treatment.

According to research studies, clients can experience minimal effects from 90 days of treatment, but the recommended length of residential treatment is up to nine months to attain the best outcome.

What is Residential Treatment?

There are many levels of care and treatment that are determined by The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM):


  • Detoxification or Detox level
  • Intensive Inpatient
  • Residential Treatment
  • Partial Hospitalization
  • Intensive Outpatient
  • Early Intervention

Once detox is completed, experts recommend residential treatment/intensive inpatient care, which has four separate levels, which are the:

Four Separate Levels

  • Medically Monitored Intensive Inpatient Level (Highest Level) 3.7
  • Clinically Managed High Intensity Services Level 3.5
  • Clinically Managed Population Specific High Intensity Services Level 3.3
  • Clinically Managed Low Intensity Level 3.1

Regardless of which of the four levels a client is receiving, he will live onsite and receive 24-hour clinically managed emotional and medical support from the medical and mental health personnel.

At this level of care, mental health providers can simultaneously assist with the addiction issues and any co-occurring disorders (i.e.: depression, anxiety, etc), while medical needs are being met around the clock by nurses and doctors.

After a client has completed detox, medical professionals discontinue many of the medications that made it easy to detox from his drug of choice. As a result, the individual may continue to exhibit post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) including: anxiety, muscle aches, restlessness, tiredness, mood swings, irritability, disturbed sleep, trouble concentrating, confusion, racing thoughts, sweating, chills, and headaches. Regardless, the staff are there to help clients cope with these symptoms. The staff members understand the clients, may, at times, have strong desires or cravings  to return to use their drugs of choice. At the residential treatment programs, the professionals will encourage the clients to share about these thoughts and feelings and teach them methods to cope with cravings.

Clients usually are given anywhere from one to three weeks of intensive/residential treatment. While at this level of care, clients will have all meals prepared for them. They also will likely not leave the treatment campus. However, some treatment centers allow visitation once a week for approximately an hour. Furthermore, loved ones can be involved in the therapeutic process of the residential treatment centers by phone or by attending a family program or a family session with the therapist.

Requirements for Residential Treatment

The ASAM requires that a client be offered at least five hours of group sessions per week. Most Delphi Behavioral Health facilities offer up to seven hours of group per day, which is closer to 40 hours of group sessions per week. Group sessions usually last approximately one hour each. Breaks, including lunch, are given between groups. Group topics can include: coping skills, addiction education, relapse prevention, mindfulness, art, meditation, anger management, family systems, spirituality, and life skills.

Each client is assigned a counselor or Primary Therapist and potentially a Case Manager. The Primary Therapist is responsible for the following tasks:

  • Work with the client to complete a thorough history of the client’s biological, psychological, and social life
  • Create a corresponding treatment plan to address the client’s identified issues.

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The client is expected to see his therapist almost every day for either small group or individual sessions and will have to work on the treatment plan goals and objectives.

The Case Manager will work with clients to complete paperwork including FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) and short or long-term disability for employers. The Case Manager will also be able to assist the client with any legal issues (if need be).

The client can expect to be introduced to a 12-step model of recovery which includes Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Many times, speakers from these organizations will bring “meetings” into the residential treatment center in the evening after the clinical day ends. It’s important to note that continued attendance at meetings outside of treatment will be encouraged when the client discharges from the residential addiction treatment program.

But, while in treatment, clients will have the opportunity to see what this support program offers and may begin to see the benefits it provides.

  • Attend every group that is available to learn new ways to cope with personal issues and gain increased understanding about the disease of addiction.
  • Work with the counselor to identify triggers.
  • Involve their loved ones in their treatment.
  • Be honest about cravings and post-acute withdrawal symptoms.
  • Don’t be in a rush to complete treatment.
  • Remember that the longer a client has been in residential treatment, the better their chances are of continued recovery.


Are you or someone you know looking for residential treatment ?

If you have any questions or need help considering options for residential treatment centers for you or your loved ones, you’ve come to the right place. Navigating through the wealth of information can be daunting, but our experienced professionals are here for you. Call us at 844-999-5777 to start the step toward recovery.