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Once you’ve decided on residential addiction treatment, you still need to decide where to get it. Insurance coverage/cost issues and location preferences may limit the pool of available choices, but ideally, you’ll still have the luxury to choose between rehab programs to find one that best fits your needs and wants.

Finding a quality rehab that fits well with your expectations and worldview increases the likelihood that you’ll stay through the program to completion – and this raises the odds of a successful and lasting recovery enormously.

Don’t make any treatment decision before getting informed and thinking about what you truly need and want from a treatment experience. To help in this process, review the glossary of common rehab program options listed below and consider which types of programs might be a good match for you.

12 Steps Based or Non 12 Steps Based

While many if not most residential treatment facilities incorporate at the very least an introduction to 12 steps programs like AA or NA, some facilities consciously avoid such an introduction; citing many people’s discomfort with the spiritual/faith based side of the groups and a lack of evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of these programs. If you’re really not comfortable with the whole idea of a higher power, then a non-12 steps based rehab may be right for you.

Although 12 steps groups aren’t considered an evidence based therapy, there is value in introducing those new to recovery to a group that can provide long term sober community based support. For many people, a rehab that incorporates 12 steps programming with other therapies and medications offers a very well rounded base for continuing sobriety.

Adolescent Programs

Adolescent programs can vary greatly in scope, effectiveness and specialization, but for a teen in trouble, an adolescent specific program should be the only option worth considering. Teens do not do well in programs not specifically designed for them and not filled with teen peers in like situations.

Christian or Other Faith Based

For many people, divorcing faith from a recovery experience makes no sense at all. If you believe in God and if your faith gives you strength and inspiration, then you should consider a program that will help you in exploring how your relationship with God can assist you in your recovery journey.

Many faith based programs will also offer the best of secular addiction treatment knowledge and science.

For those on limited budgets and without insurance, faith based programs offered at little or no charge to those in need can be found in every state of the nation.

Co-Occurring Disorders Rehabs

Failing to deal with a mental illness leaves a person vulnerable to relapse at the end of a treatment stay, no matter how effective the rehab program.

People dealing with both an addiction and a mental health challenge need treatment that will address both disorders concurrently. If you’re dealing with depression, anxiety or other psychiatric disorders, finding a facility with expertise or specialization in the treatment of co-occurring disorders (dual diagnosis) should be at the top of your priority list.

Executive Rehab (Luxury)

If you have a choice between a longer stay at a respected but not luxurious treatment facility or a briefer stay getting pampered at an executive facility, you’d be wise to choose the longer stay. Private massage treatments, trips to the spa, chef cooked meals and resort quality surroundings sure sound nice, but in all honesty, they don’t contribute much to your odds of maintaining sobriety.

However, if you can afford the price tag of a reasonable length of stay – some of the benefits of an executive rehab program include:

  • More luxurious accommodation, food, facilities and sports/recreational programming
  • More time spent working one on one with a private therapist or councilor
  • More flexibility to accommodate any particular requests you have for your stay

Gender Specific (men only or women only)

Gender specific rehab programs can provide a good fit for people who feel more comfortable fully opening up in front of peers of the same gender.

It’s vital that you feel safe, focused and comfortable during your recovery time. You know yourself best, and if you think that the co-presence of those of the opposite gender could be a distraction, could keep you from feeling comfortable to speak freely or could make you feel insecure in any way, then a single gender rehab program might be a good fit for you.

There is no one right program for everyone – only a right for you program!


It is important that you get help in a program that makes you feel safe and comfortable. Make sure that any program you consider commits to tolerance and acceptance of all, and if you feel more comfortable in an environment with others of a like sexual orientation, it may be worth searching out a GBLT specific treatment program.


Rehab programs that describe themselves as holistic typically focus on the healing of the body, mind and spirit and in doing so will often offer conventional addiction treatment complemented by more alternative programming, such as yoga, massage, meditation, martial arts, sweat lodge, equine or animal assisted therapy and many other modalities.

Long Term (Therapeutic Community)

Treatment can’t be rushed to fit into a busy schedule, and so those that offer the moon in a week or two of treatment do not paint an honest picture of the recovery experience. In general, longer stays in treatment are associated with better outcomes – with three months of treatment offering a lot more than a single month of care.

Treatment, however, need not always continue on an inpatient basis, and many people find that an initial period in a primary care residential rehab followed by a secondary participation in an intensive outpatient program provides an excellent foundation for continued recovery.

Therapeutic communities are long term residential programs (typically a few months to as long as 2 years) that have those in recovery live and work within a community of other residents in recovery. These programs offer conventional addiction treatment, but also strive to re-teach normal living and life skills to those that may have spent a very long time with lives that revolved mostly on the procurement and use of drugs or alcohol.

Sober Living Homes (Halfway Homes)

People coming out of a primary care treatment center may choose to ‘step down’ into a sober living home (halfway home) before returning to the complete freedom and temptation of their home environment.

Sober living homes typically offer affordable accommodation for people who have just completed a stay in a primary care treatment environment and who are continuing with treatment on an outpatient basis, or who are reintegrating back into community employment or schooling. These homes offer temptation free and supportive ‘sanctuaries’ to those who are ready to put the lessons of rehab into practice in the real world, but who may not be fully ready for a return to complete independent living.

Sober living homes are particularity recommended for people who may lack a safe or sober home to return to, for those who’ve been drinking or using hard for a very long time and for those who deal with co-occurring disorders.

Therapeutic Boarding Schools

Therapeutic boarding schools are tailored for children and teens who deal with substance abuse or addiction, and or emotional, psychiatric or behavioral issues. These long term live-in programs generally feature a very high staff to student ratio, very structured living, individually tailored academic programming - and counseling and emotional wellness programs.

Wilderness Programs

Typically aimed at adolescents and younger adults, wilderness programs have proven effective in helping those with, family, behavioral or substance abuse challenges mature into more responsible and thoughtful members of the community.

Teens with serious addictions to drugs or alcohol will generally have to first complete a stay in a primary care treatment facility before they can be admitted into a wilderness program.

Young Adult Programs

A person in their early twenties may have as little in common with a man in his 40’s as they do a kid in her early teen years!

It can be useful for people to enter into a recovery program with others who have similar experiences, outlooks and worldviews, so for those just out of their teen years with addiction or behavioral issues, or for those seemingly unable to thrive, young adult programs may be an appropriate choice.

Many of these programs will combine substance abuse treatment services with academic or vocation programs that help a young person get back on their feet, as well as other life skills training and independent living skills training.

Rehab Programs Summary

Finding Effective Treatment

Some programs are better than others and some are a better fit for you than others. Never commit to a program without first doing your homework. You need to know what to look for to find an effective program and you need to know what type of program you want and need before you can hope to get that perfect match.

The Length of Treatment Is Important

Although luxuries can be tempting, you’ll get more for your money by staying for longer at a quality rehab than you’ll get from a briefer stay at a luxury facility.


Some programs won’t use medication on philosophical grounds. Should you enter into a program that chooses to ignore some of the most effective tools in the addiction treatment arsenal? Certain medications, when combined with other forms of addiction treatments, are proven to greatly increase a person’s chances for long term recovery.

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Page last updated Aug 15, 2016

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