How Do I Choose a Residential Treatment Center?

Waiting room in an officeThere are many different types of residential treatment centers (RTCs) that offer therapeutic care for a wide variety of behavioral and mental health issues. Choosing a center that is suited to your personal needs is important; however, with many options available, making a decision may be difficult. How can you decide which RTC is right for you? Consider these answers to ten frequently asked questions about RTCs, as well as insight from Darren Haber, MA, MFT, an expert on addictions and compulsions.

1. What is a residential treatment center?

A residential treatment center is a health care facility that helps people experiencing various substance dependency and behavioral issues. For some inpatient treatments, residents may be required to live at the facility for a period of time. Some facilities also offer outpatient treatment to help former residents avoid relapse and to provide options for people who cannot commit to living at the facility temporarily. In most cases, treatment lasts for one to three months.

“[The] average stays tend to be 30 days, but some stay longer, and some shorter. Thirty days seems to be the industry norm,” Haber said.

2. What are the most important things to look for in an RTC?

Check and confirm that the RTC and any programs you wish to attend are accredited and the treatment programs are being administered by licensed, qualified mental health professionals. Ask if the program has a clinical director and about his or her credentials. Learn as much as you can about the treatment center you’re considering through third parties such as the Better Business Bureau, online reviews, and any local consumer protection agencies. If you need it, ensure that an active aftercare program is in place to help prevent relapse.

3. What type of issues do residential treatment centers treat?

Because different RTCs specialize in treating different health issues, the structure, routines, and therapeutic methods used will vary from facility to facility. Some centers take a “lock-down” approach where residents are secured within the facility’s premises and their movements inside the center are restricted. Other RTCs may take an unlocked approach and allow residents to traverse the premises with some degree of freedom; however, residents may only be permitted to leave the center if certain conditions are met.

In recent years, the residential treatment field has expanded. At some centers, everything from substance abuse to sex addiction to codependence may be treated. There are also centers that focus solely on substance abuse or eating disorders, for example.

Issues treated at an RTC may include:

It should be noted, too, that some RTCs specializing in mental health treatment may not provide therapeutic care for substance dependency issues.

4. Why do people go to residential treatment centers?

“Usually because their condition or problem has reached the point where it needs containment—that is, 24-hour medical or psychological monitoring due to harmful behaviors or medical problems—and has become so acute that it requires an acute, sustained focus,” Haber said.

5. What kinds of services are provided by RTCs?

Residential treatment centers offer a variety of services, which may include 24-hour supervision, intensive recovery programs, individual counseling, group counseling, structured activities, educational services, social skills training, vocational training, and relapse prevention services.

6. What are the benefits of a RTC over other forms of treatment?

The environment in a residential treatment center is usually more comfortable than the sterile, functional setting of a hospital. The residents are able to focus solely on their healing and recovery programs as they are removed from the stresses of daily life.

Some treatments, such as chemical detoxification, may be life threatening. For those cases, RTCs provide trained medical personal to keep residents safe during such treatments. Residents also have the opportunity to explore the emotional and psychological underpinnings for their behaviors in counseling sessions with a qualified mental health professional.

“Some people also go for legal reasons, such as being ordered by a judge after a DUI or DWI, for example. Usually one goes to an RTC because living life day-to-day has become unmanageable or to the point where one’s well-being, job, or close relationships are threatened,” Haber said.

7. What is the experience of being a resident at a residential treatment center like?

“It’s really what the client or patient makes of it. Anyone who participates to the best of his or her ability can potentially gain much and grow and learn tools for lifelong use. If one has been forced in by family but doesn’t believe, for instance, that one truly has an issue with alcohol or addiction, it can feel almost like jail,” Haber said.

8. How can families or friends keep in touch with residents?

“It depends on the policy of the residential treatment center. Some encourage family contact and some don’t. Some RTCs prefer those in treatment wait until their detox is over, or that the person in treatment only meet family members with counselors present. I believe this is a crucial part of treatment that can easily be overlooked, since dysfunctional family systems often play a crucial role in the formation of the illness or addiction,” Haber said.

9. Are there any RTCs in my area?

With the number of treatment facilities currently providing care across the country, chances are there is a residential treatment center nearby. However, it is important to remember that your chances of recovery may be better if the chosen facility is well suited to your personal preferences and specific health condition.

10. How much does treatment at a residential treatment center cost?

“Some people also go for legal reasons, such as being ordered by a judge after a DUI or DWI, for example. Usually one goes to an RTC because living life day-to-day has become unmanageable or to the point where one’s well-being, job, or close relationships are threatened.”The cost of treatment at a residential treatment center will vary based on the condition being treated, services provided, length of treatment, and the location of the center. For example, The Betty Ford Center, one of the most well-known rehab programs, charges approximately $1,217 per day for inpatient alcohol addiction treatment at their Rancho Mirage, CA location. Other locations may charge more or less, and some may not offer a per-day rate. Most locations develop a program based on a person’s individual needs, which can drastically affect the cost depending on medication or other requirements.

Some facilities may be able to offer a sliding fee based on a person’s income, while some may be low or no cost. Others may offer luxurious settings and amenities. The types and costs of RTCs simply vary. If your personal health insurance covers residential care, even the more costly facilities may become affordable. Call your insurance company for more information regarding your covered benefits if you are in need of inpatient treatment.


  1. The Addiction Recovery Guide. (2015). Drug and alcohol addiction recovery. Retrieved from
  2. The American Residential Treatment Association. (n.d.). Types of programs. Retrieved from
  3. Federal Trade Commission. (n.d.) Residential treatment programs for teens. Retrieved from
  4. Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. (n.d.) Addiction treatment specialties. Retrieved from
  5. Mental Health America. (n.d.). In patient care. Retrieved from
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.) Principles of drug addiction treatment: a research based guide. Retrieved from
  7. Smith, M., & Segal, J. (2015). Choosing a drug treatment program: What to look for in substance abuse rehab. Retrieved from

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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 Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Bo

    February 2nd, 2016 at 10:26 AM

    Go with the place that feels right for you and get a referral from someone that you know and trust.

  • Lawrence

    February 3rd, 2016 at 1:17 PM

    Unfortunately there will be many people who cannot really make a coice because it is all going to be determined by who their insurance company will actually pay for them to go. It is a sad state where we have our health dictated ti us by someone or some entity who knows nothing about us aside form how much money they can save off of denying us care.

  • Daisy

    February 4th, 2016 at 10:49 AM

    I feel so terrible for those people that you know could seriously benefit from the help that they would receive in residential care and yet they will never have the financial resources to make this even a remote possibility in their lives. I am sad that there is not any coverage for these people or if there is it may still feel unattainable because of having to move leave family jobs etc. There is still so much that needs to be done to improve the level of healthcare that everyone in this country receives. This shouldn’t only be an option for the haves.

  • tim

    February 6th, 2016 at 6:55 AM

    I have a question for anyone who has done this and please know that I am asking without judgement. My thought has always been that if you are ever going to beat these addictions or issues that you have to learn to do that within a real world setting. A treatment center could be great but are you really learning how to live among all of the temptations and emotions that the real world are going to present when you are confined to a facility? You may do really well when you are there but then how does that prepare you for the things that you will face once again when you leave? I know that this sounds like I am being critical of the residential setting, but I am really not, just curious how this translates into doing things while there and then doing that when you leave and being successful.

  • Cameron

    February 8th, 2016 at 7:43 AM

    Would it be practical to say take a tour before going in? I understand that in some cases there might not be that kind of time, but I would think that there are other instances where this could be somewhat practical to do.

  • Kendall R

    July 7th, 2016 at 6:24 AM

    It is a good idea to do as much research as possible before choosing a residential treatment center. Searching for reviews will help you know if the staff is kind and caring and if they will truly help you out. Also, you make want to get reviews from friends and family. If you trust them, than you may trust their opinion. Either way, the more research you do, the better!

  • Maggie A

    August 1st, 2016 at 1:07 PM

    It’s really nice that there are treatment centers available that are more comfortable than centers located in a hospital. I agree that it would be nice to go to a treatment center that focused solely on addictions, especially since they are so different from other types of conditions. After all, addiction is something that affects both the mind and body!

  • Rebecca W

    January 10th, 2017 at 9:15 PM

    Thank you for the information! Choosing for the right residential treatment facility is very important to have a proper treatment from the substance dependency and some behavioral issues. The facility must have the license and qualified mental health professionals because they are experts in handling these people.

  • Olivia N

    February 9th, 2017 at 3:08 PM

    I agree that you would want to ensure that a treatment center’s program is accredited. I would imagine that this would show that the center is qualified to really help you with your issues. I’m looking for a treatment center for my sister so I’ll have to find one that is accredited so she can get the help she needs.

  • Ashley T

    December 4th, 2017 at 7:03 PM

    Thanks for mentioning that there should be a residential treatment center in your area, but you should be sure to find one that specializes in the area you need it to. My sister has been suffering from an eating disorder and she has finally agreed to seek help. So I will definitely start looking for residential treatment centers who specialize in eating disorders first of all and hopefully close by as well.

  • Ellen

    July 12th, 2018 at 4:33 PM

    It was helpful that you suggested checking the Better Business Bureau and the online reviews of the treatment center that you’re interested in to know more about them. My nephew confessed that he is suffering from substance addiction, and he wanted to get the help that he needs. It’s important for me to find him an addiction treatment center that has a proven record of happy clients in the past to give me peace of mind that my nephew is going to be in good hands.

  • Duncan

    August 1st, 2018 at 1:33 PM

    You really do have to do a lot of research before choosing a treatment center to help with your addiction. As is suggested, one question you might want to ask is how families can get in touch with you. After all, family can help a lot when it comes to addiction recovery, so you’ll definitely want to be able to communicate with them.

  • Jocelyn M.

    January 10th, 2019 at 7:12 AM

    My cousin has always struggled with substance abuse, and she asked if I could help her find a good rehab center to help her overcome her alcohol addiction. Your article had some great tips for choosing a center like this, and I liked how you said when choosing a residential treatment center, we should make sure its is accredited and their treatment programs are administered by licensed, qualified professionals. Thanks; I’ll share this with my cousin to help her find a good alcohol rehab center.

  • Jocelyn M.

    January 23rd, 2019 at 8:18 AM

    My cousin has always struggled with drug abuse, and she asked me to help her find a rehab center she can go to for recovery. Your article had some great tips for choosing a place like this, and I liked how you said to consider the services offered, as these can include 24-hour supervision, recovery programs, counseling, activities, educational services, social skills training, vocational training, and relapse prevention services. Thanks; I’ll share this with my cousin to help her get into an addiction treatment center.

  • jack stiles

    December 27th, 2019 at 8:12 AM

    It is helpful that you mentioned that you need to consider the types of disorders that a treatment facility treats when you are considering which one to hire. We need to find one for our son to help him through his recovery from substance abuse, and it will be important for us to find the right one. I will be sure to check if they treat substance abuse before we choose to hire them.

  • Shammy

    September 21st, 2021 at 3:49 PM

    You got my attention when you said that the cost of treatment will vary depending on the condition that is being treated and the services provided. This is something that I will share with a close friend who recently confessed his substance addiction problem since she lost her husband due to an auto accident almost a year ago. Since she wanted to find a counseling service provider that she can afford, I will share your tips with her.

  • Ava

    January 5th, 2023 at 1:14 AM

    I found it helpful when you suggested checking online reviews to learn as much as you can about a treatment center. My uncle is interested in finding a rehab center that offers alcohol detox services. He wants to find a detox center that has a good track record of satisfied patients in the past, so it will make sense for him to consider your tips.

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