Updated on August 4, 2020

What to Expect from a Residential Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program

There are many myths out there about residential drug and alcohol treatment programs. Separating the fact from the fiction is very important. Here is some information about such myths so that you can get the right information. Making a decision to go to such a facility or to send a child there depends on you having valid information.

Will I be Locked in?

When it comes to a residential drug and alcohol treatment program you will be free to leave if you feel like it. However, the staff will strongly encourage you to stay there and to complete the program. With minors they can be released early to their parents or guardian. This is a request they may have early on so as a parent you need to be strong.

Listen to their reasons for wishing to leave the residential drug and alcohol treatment program. If there is any reason to think their overall well being is at risk then you should take them out of the facility. Report the situation and get them into another program as soon as you can. Most of the time though a child is just going to try to get parents to allow them to return to what is familiar to them.

What do the Facilities Look Like?

Just like homes and hotels, you will find the facilities to range from very basic to extremely luxurious. The way in which a residential drug and alcohol treatment program is laid out depends on many factors. Some of them have recreational activities including horses. Others have comfortable but small rooms for patients to stay in.

If you have a certain type of facility in mind then that can influence where you will stay. It is a good idea to take a tour of the facility before you commit to it. You should have an idea of where your child will be staying and what the other areas of the complex offer. The cost of the facility can be strongly influenced by what it looks like so keep that in mind as well.

How Long is the Program going to take to Complete?

You may hear that a residential drug and alcohol treatment program lasts about 30 days. You may hear time frames of 90 days, 1 year, and even 2 years. All of that information can be confusing to sift through. What really happens though is that different facilities have different time periods. Their overall curriculum determines approximately how long the stay will be.

There are many other factors that come into the equation though. For example how willing the patient is to work on making various changes. If they are resistant all the way then it can be extremely difficult for them to move forward at a decent speed. The severity of the drug or alcohol problem can also influence how long it will take to successfully complete the program.


The first 3 to 7 days in a residential drug and alcohol treatment program is for the person to be detoxified. This means for all of the drugs or alcohol to completely leave their system. When a person does this on their own they often suffer from an array of side effects. In a residential program though the individual can be closely monitored. They can also be given medications to help reduce the severity of the side effects.

There are some residential treatment facilities though that require the detox process to be completed BEFORE you enter. If you aren’t clear of all drugs and alcohol from your system then they won’t admit you to the program. Those that offer on-site detox programs seem to be the most effective.

Counseling and Education

Both counseling and education are a huge part of these programs being successful. Patients are often enrolled in both group sessions and those that they attend alone. Education that covers many things including how to identify triggers that can cause a relapse are very important.

After Care

The treatment doesn’t just end when you leave the residential drug and alcohol treatment facility. Plans should be made for ongoing counseling and support that is done on an outpatient basis. Studies show that by doing so a person is much less likely to relapse back into using drugs and alcohol.

Here are additional resources you might be interested in:

Questions and Answers about Residential Treatment Programs for Teens

Do Residential Treatment Centers Work?

Residential Drug Treatment Programs

Speak to an expert about What to Expect from a Residential Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program and how it may help your child.

Connect with an Admissions Counselor who specializes in What to Expect from a Residential Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program to help your teen begin their recovery today.

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