8 Key Differences Between Inpatient Hospitalization and Residential Treatment
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As of 2022, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimated that there are 1,700 residential adult mental health treatment facilities in the U.S. The average number of beds is 49. Each clinic has its own treatment philosophies, and structures for inpatient and Residential Treatment Programs can vary. We use these terms interchangeably, but there are some differences between hospital treatment settings and our Residential Treatment Centers (RTCs). Understanding these differences can help you decide which one is right for you.

This article will cover the main differences between hospitalization and Residential Treatment as well as what you can expect at Lightfully’s RTCs.

What’s the difference between inpatient hospitalization and residential mental health treatment?

The term “inpatient” often refers to treatment in a hospital setting. Hospital stays are like mental health intensive care, and they typically only last about three to seven days. Nurses provide a high level of supervision at all times, and clients primarily work with a psychiatrist. People experiencing suicidal thoughts, self-harm, mania or severe depression may need hospitalization to achieve stability.

We consider Residential Treatment a type of inpatient care because it takes place in a fully furnished treatment home. Clients are typically referred to Residential Treatment when their needs are subacute, or too intense to be managed with outpatient treatment but don’t rise to a level requiring inpatient treatment. Residential Treatment can last one to three months, sometimes more, and you can bring your own clothes and personal items. These treatment centers offer a more nurturing and intimate treatment setting. Nurses are available to help 24 hours a day. Treatments are driven by your progress, and you’ll meet one-on-one with your licensed clinical therapist frequently.

Key differences between inpatient hospitalization and Residential Treatment

Lightfully’s Residential Treatment Centers (RTCs) are a little different than most other programs. We know healing isn’t easy. You’ll encounter some intense emotions here — and start to see glimmers of hope that you can live your brightest, truest life. We’ve made our home-based environments cozy yet modern and stylish to create the best possible setting for powerful healing experiences.

Here are eight key differences that separate Residential Treatment at Lightfully from the typical inpatient experience at a hospital:

  • You’re in a home, not in a hospital

Each of our home-based treatment centers has been thoughtfully designed and decorated to support wellness and healing. Sitting rooms and lounge spaces are spacious and tranquil, with plenty of room to have a private conversation or some space to yourself. You’ll see your individual therapist three times a week and see a psychiatrist weekly, if needed. Residents meet in groups for Safe & Sound Emotion Regulation and other kinds of group therapy. Many residents leave treatment with new friendships.

  • You get weekly outings

We offer a weekly opportunity to get out for a change of scenery. This is a great time to put some of your new skills into practice, like self-soothing practices, distress tolerance techniques or practicing nonjudgment. We might take clients out to eat, visit a park, go shopping or chat in a coffee shop. Nurses and Client Care Techs or therapists will always accompany the group for your safety.

  • You have some privacy

Experienced nurses are always present for oversight, but you will have some moments to yourself in Residential Treatment. Our home environments have both individual and shared rooms. Therapy rooms provide a warm and tranquil space for both individual and family therapy sessions. Some of our Residential Treatment Centers even have outdoor space where you can get some sun and fresh air. 

  • You can wear your own clothes and bring your own stuff

This is a hugely important aspect of Residential Treatment. Our clients maintain a level of humanity that comes with expressing yourself through your appearance. We just ask that you keep your clothes clean and appropriate for treatment settings. There are a few rules about what you can and can’t bring for safety reasons. You’ll get more information about that after you talk with your Admissions Counselor.

  • You’re encouraged to take medication independently

If you take psychiatric medication, you’ll discuss it once a week with a staff psychiatrist. They may have some tips on when you should take each medication, for instance, with a meal or before bedtime. We work with our clients to find medication that works for them without prohibitive side effects, so you should express any concerns with the psychiatrist.

  • Your stay in Residential Treatment is longer

Inpatient treatment is often where people go to reach stability, which can take as little as a few days to a week. Residential Treatment is a great follow-up to inpatient where you can develop habits that will stay with you for long-term wellness — and it’s a compassionate space for stopping unwanted behaviors. Residential Treatment takes as long as you need to feel healthy and secure.

  • Yoga classes and movement opportunities are included

Being mentally well is about more than therapy. We know that mental health is closely connected with physical health, and feeling comfortable in your body is an important part of healing. Licensed yoga instructors will guide you through gentle, trauma-informed somatic practices to rekindle a connection with your body and yourself.

  • Nutritious and amazing food prepared by a chef

The last major difference between Residential Treatment at Lightfully and inpatient treatment at a hospital is the food. Our chefs have a wide repertoire of delicious and health-conscious meals that they prepare on-site. They get to know clients and their dietary restrictions so you’ll have three healthy meals per day and snacks available when you need them.

How treatment at Lightfully’s Residential Treatment Centers is unique

We don’t use one cookie-cutter treatment plan for all of our clients. Our process-based therapy (PBT) approach is designed to put the whole person at the center of their holistic treatment plan — each client’s treatment team works with them to choose interventions that synergize and support their individual treatment goals. That’s something we promise across the four levels of care we offer. 

Right now, we have four adult Residential Treatment Centers in California and two for our Lightfully Teen program. Get a better look at each one on individual location pages.

Has this article brought up some questions for you? Contact us or reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team for answers.

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