Length of Stay

People who pursue a residential treatment option have usually already tried other methods of addressing their issues and have not found success. Consider this: Attending a therapy session for one hour each week means that the attendee is spending 167 hours out of session, giving that person 167 unsupervised hours each week to fall back, and/or to be pulled back, into old habits. When an individual is struggling with a compulsive behavior, what we call “eruptions,” breaking their habitual cycles is a crucial step. When an individual is struggling with “eruptions, we find that removing them from their situation to prevent relapse, so they can get the therapeutic work done is the best course of action. For many individuals, a residential program is the only way that this can be accomplished. Residential means an in-house bubble that protects residents from the outside pressures and temptations and gives them and the program team the optimal environment to retrace the vine to the roots and heal the system. That’s the only chance of getting changes that last.

When people think of inpatient therapy, they often think of a 30-day program; however, the 30-day inpatient-rehabilitation program, used for decades, was not actually based on research, nor what is best for the patient. Instead, the 30-day rehabilitation program grew out of a program designed to assist alcoholic service men. The Armed Service already had systems in place to release soldiers on 28-day furloughs, and the rehab program was designed to fit into this timeframe. Today, research has shown that the body is still in a state of detoxification 30 days into treatment.

We find that the young men we work with are generally just beginning to get into the rhythm of the program at this stage. Thirty days in, they are starting to get down to the deeper levels of their issues, getting used to the schedule, getting healthier physically with good food, workouts, sleep and fully scheduled days. Because of modern research on the 90-day program, many centers are now adopting longer programs. Research has shown that people who went through 90 days of rehabilitation are more likely not to relapse. One reason for this is that for the 90 days that a young man is under our care, he cannot relapse. By the time he leaves, he has developed new patterns, habits and strategies. Over a 90-day period of being drug free, the brain gets a chance to heal, not completely but significantly. For some young men, the only way to break the cycle of their habits is to completely remove them from their situation, then give them adequate time to heal their wounds. If a young man is repeating a destructive cycle, only removing them from the situation can affect change.

Professional studies, as well as experts in the field of drug abuse, state that longer treatment programs are crucial to ending the relapse-rehab cycle. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) researchers referred to well-organized and conducted 90-day programs as “the gold standard” in treatment. Dr. Harry Haroutunian, director of the licensed professional program at the Betty Ford Center, was cited as saying that the first 28 days largely consist of coping with withdrawal symptoms and establishing a relationship with a therapist. It is often afterward that therapists discover other problems that, if not identified and treated, can bring the person back to their drugs. Capstone’s program averages between 90 and 96 days.

  • Read more on the research about 90+ days in the LA Times article The 30-Day Myth.

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