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Why Length of Stay Matters

June 9, 2021

By Anna McKenzie

Does it really matter how long you stay at an addiction treatment facility? When you’re thinking about going to an alcohol or drug rehab program, you may wonder about how long it will take to start healing. You may also be concerned about the length of time you’ll need to take off from work or be away from home, and how to explain your treatment stay to friends or your employer. 

There are two main types of treatment: inpatient and outpatient. The difference between inpatient and outpatient treatment is that you’re actually staying at the treatment facility in an inpatient setting; an outpatient setting allows you to go home each night. Outpatient treatment can also leave either your days or evenings free, so you may also be able to continue working or caring for children while receiving treatment.

A shorter, less intensive program may sound appealing, as it would likely save time and money, but that’s not how to choose a treatment option. If your addiction is severe, inpatient treatment offers you a controlled environment for healing. But there are several factors that determine your length of stay at an inpatient substance abuse treatment center, and all of them are important for you to consider as you begin your recovery journey.

How Long Is Rehab? Factors That Influence Length of Stay

How long is rehab? You could say that a “typical” stay at an inpatient or residential treatment center is 30-45 days, but depending on your situation, you could be in treatment for 90 days or more. It’s tempting to want to fast-track your recovery — but the healing process takes time. 

During the first week or so, you’ll most likely be undergoing detox, where your body will be adjusting to the absence of alcohol or drugs. After this happens, you can begin the rehabilitation process, where the physical and psychological effects of your addiction will be addressed. You’ll learn a lot during this stage — the elements that contributed to your substance use disorder, how to cope in healthy ways, and how to sustain your recovery when you return home. But how long you stay is more complicated than simply how you’re doing after detox.

You’ll learn a lot during this stage — the elements that contributed to your substance use disorder, how to cope in healthy ways, and how to sustain your recovery when you return home. But how long you stay is more complicated than simply how you’re doing after detox.

Here are some factors that may influence your length of stay at an inpatient treatment center:

  • Your insurance coverage. Most inpatient treatment stays are covered by insurance, but policies can differ on what they cover. Treatment professionals work with your insurance company to approve coverage for your stay, but ultimately, your insurance company may put a limit on how much treatment they’ll pay for. As you’re considering inpatient vs. outpatient, your insurance company may also play a role in determining which one you attend or where you go first. Of course, you may also continue treatment with a private-pay option at any time or pay to attend a program that is the best fit for you but out of network with your insurance provider.
  • The severity of your condition. It makes sense that more severe addictions or complex mental health conditions would necessitate longer stays in treatment. There may be many issues to work out as you connect with a multidisciplinary team to heal not just the surface problems but go deeper to address underlying causes. Comprehensive treatment should look at emotional trauma, co-occurring disorders, and other factors that may have contributed to your substance use disorder. 
  • Where you go for treatment. There are some long-term residential treatment programs that are specifically set up to help you with different areas of your recovery. Their intent with a longer length of stay is to help you build and practice a recovery lifestyle in a safe, supportive environment. If you’re paying privately instead of using insurance coverage, your length of stay at a treatment center will be determined by your initial condition, your ongoing needs, and the progress you’re making in your recovery.

What You’ll Be Learning During Treatment (and Why It Matters)

The fundamental goal of your stay at a treatment program is to learn the following:

  • How to live life without drugs or alcohol
  • How to maximize your experience of life so that it’s functional and fulfilling
  • How to prevent relapse or reduce the severity of a relapse

As you learn how to live without substances, you also need to fill that void with a sense of self-worth and purpose.

As you learn how to live without substances, you also need to fill that void with a sense of self-worth and purpose. To abstain from drugs and alcohol for the long term, you need to be moving toward something, not just away from substances. That’s what quality treatment programs are designed to do — provide healing from your addiction while also giving you new ways to deal with life and new goals to pursue.

That’s why it’s so important to engage in the process during your treatment stay, however long it may be. While relapse is not uncommon, people who engage in their treatment experience are more capable of regaining their sobriety after relapse because they remember the skills they learned during rehab. They can establish greater awareness and resilience instead of sliding back into escapist or self-medicating behaviors. Treatment programs teach you how to take ownership of your life and establish your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.

How to Start Your Journey to Healing

Rehab is not something you have to endure — it’s an opportunity to regain control of your life, health, and happiness. You can learn how to process your emotions, repair relationships, channel your energy in positive ways, and care for both your mind and body. It didn’t take a few days to get to the point of needing help, and it won’t take just a few days to make a new start. Our treatment program at The Meadows lasts for 45 days, which is longer than many others, but we want to ensure you have the time you need to do the deep work necessary to truly heal. We are dedicated to helping you not just make superficial change but really recover from addiction, trauma, and mental health issues. If you’re ready to change your story, contact us to find out what type of program and length of stay our experts determine is right for you.