6 Things to Look for in a Residential Treatment Center

residential treatment centerWhen finding a residential treatment center (RTC) for a loved one (or for yourself), there are crucial questions that need answers. You worry about and care for your loved one and don’t want to put them into a bad situation. Do these treatment centers have licensed professionals working with them? Are there former satisfied residents? What types of treatments and therapies do they focus on: conventional therapies (such as cognitive behavioral therapy), unconventional (animal-assisted therapy), or a combination of both?

My Experience with an RTC

While studying psychology in Utah, I worked at a residential treatment center for adolescent boys with mental, social, emotional, and learning problems. While there I interacted with boys with depression, anxiety, bipolar, autism, Asperger’s, adolescent schizophrenia, and more. I worked with the boys, their parents, and therapists in order to best understand and help the boys. Unfortunately, not every treatment center is as good as I believed this one to be. I had friends who worked at other treatment centers whose treatment was more about discipline than health promotion. That is why it’s important to look for the following six things while searching for the best residential treatment center for your loved one:

Find a Treatment Center


  • Therapists: Along with having correct licensure, make sure the facility has therapists capable of meeting the specific needs of the individual. This may include addiction and mental health counselors in some cases, and a psychiatrist for prescribing medication if necessary.
  • Health care professional: Make sure an in-house health care professional (i.e., a registered nurse) is on staff to treat minor ailments or is able to identify when more attention is needed. Additionally, all staff should be trained in first aid and CPR.
  • Staff: When it comes to staff, the important thing is knowing how involved they are with the residents. Most staff members realize how important their roles are to the safety and health of those they look after.
  • Proper training: Incorporated in this is CPR/first aid, but most treatment centers have certain protocol for dangerous or threatening situations. Often this includes a restraining system. It is important to understand the basics of and the reasons for such restraining systems. Some systems aren’t as “kind” as others, so be aware of what system each treatment center uses and how it affects the residents.
  • Education: If your loved one is at school level, make sure the treatment centers have accredited schooling and licensed teachers. While your loved one’s health is the most important part of treatment, keeping them in school adds to their treatment and keeps them from falling behind in their studies.
  • Alternative therapies: Not every person needs the same treatment. Having a range of treatment techniques is the best way to treat any need. Some treatment centers have recreational therapy, equine therapies, and similar others. Each plays its own part, but combining these therapies with cognitive therapy may be the best way to approach treatment.

Although it is never easy, knowing the answers to these six points will make the hard decision a little easier.


  1. University of New England. Social Work and Animal-Assisted Therapies. Retrieved from http://socialwork.une.edu/resources/news/social-work-and-animal-assisted-therapy/
  2. Wake Forest University. Many Faces of Counseling. Retrieved from http://counseling.online.wfu.edu/resources/infographics/many-faces-of-counseling/

marcus oakes SYSMarcus Oakes is a recent graduate in psychology and is currently studying for a master’s in forensic psychology. His desire to help people is his main aspiration in life and hopes his writings will fit into that aspiration.

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Tanner

    May 4th, 2015 at 10:30 AM

    For me, I would want to know that I was sending my loved one to a place where the people who work there are well trained and they are compassionate about he types of patients that they will be dealing with.

    I don’t want them to go to some place where you generally feel like people are hired if they can fog a mirror so to speak. This is a job that takes a lot of patience and education and kindness and empathy for the people who will be living there.

  • Zane2

    May 5th, 2015 at 12:24 PM

    My family sent me to a treatment stay and I wish I would have been able to make the choice with them because I didnt like it very much there was no staff there that I liked

  • Crista

    May 5th, 2015 at 2:22 PM

    The place where you reside can really make or break the outcome of your stay there.
    If you have the opportunity to be somewhere where the staff is friendly and well trained, very much in tune with your needs, and you are comfortable in your surroundings, then the chance is much greater that you will have a more positive and pleasant experience overall.
    I think that this is something that more families need to consider., because these places are not all the same!

  • Norah

    May 6th, 2015 at 2:52 PM

    I know that any of us would want all of this and more for a friend or family member in residential treatment but the reality is that many times there is no choice in this matter. You just have to go where your insurance tells you that you have to go, so sometimes it is more about picking out which is the best of the worst instead of really being able to make a choice that you would prefer.

  • julian

    May 8th, 2015 at 1:19 PM

    Thanks for this very comprehensive list.

    I suspect that there are so many families who have to look for a residential facility and they really don’t have any idea what they should be looking for.

    I think that if they had this this would leave a lot more people more informed about what would be the best setting fro this person in their lives that they are trying to help and protect.

  • Kib

    May 9th, 2015 at 5:13 PM

    It’s very good if ti is a place where the person can maintain a sort of consistency and independence in their life.

  • Jolee

    June 27th, 2015 at 2:14 PM

    I completely agree with you Tanner. There has to be good professional and client interpersonal connection with the councillor and patient. But there needs to be a fresher approach in treatment centres or different program development plans that can aid addicts to their individual needs.

    It’s not only the facility, but also exterior environment, family/peers, and aftercare for addict and family combined that are most important in the recovery process.

    They need to create facilities that are cozier and comforting for addicts, instead of feeling like they are locked up in jail. Trained professionals not only need to be trained and certified, but able to show genuine sencerity and empathy with their clients. Addicts laugh at rehab as a joke when they are sitting across these professionals who have never experienced substance abuse or able to personally relate In some way.

  • addict

    December 4th, 2015 at 1:50 PM

    Agree with jolee here.
    Theries only go so far. you need life experiences to back it up. They need pros who have walked the walked not just talked the talked. shrinks talk to much anyways! Addict to addict is how to get real info

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