What to Expect From Your Residential Treatment Center Visit

We at ResidentialTreatmentCenters.me have all taken an anonymous stance in regards to letting you know who we are, but I’ll tell you this much. I’m the guy who worked at a wilderness treatment facility for over five years! I worked and lived there more than I did my own home. I slept in a cabin for more nights of the week than I did my very own bed at home and I don’t regret a single minute of it. Let me tell you what it was like where I worked so that you can have a better idea of what’s what if you decide to visit a treatment center for a while.


intakeI worked primarily with a teenage population, so they usually weren’t visiting us by choice. Their parents either convinced them, forced them, or they were court ordered for treatment. That’s a good thing if it has come down to that, but they usually came in kicking and screaming. Some surrendered to the idea immediately once they understood what was happening, but I saw many “new intakes” who had been tricked into coming. They were told that the family was going on a vacation and to pack a bag. Next thing they knew, they were being led to the professional building for an official intake and assignment to a group of other youngsters to work out their issues.

The Unit

Now, once these young guys and gals were ready, they were led to “The Unit,” which really was kind of a holding tank. I hate to use terms like that because it’s not quite like that, but I’m sure it varies based on the level of acuity at each different treatment center. But the point of The Unit was to hang out for a while and be assessed. If you were calm, mentally stable, and behaviorally cool, you could be moved out to the cabins within 24 hours, or more commonly, about three days. You were given time to snap, you know. Lots of kids were able to fake it for a long time, so patience was the key here.

The reason this was allowed to happen was for everyone’s safety. The Unit was a locked group room that was specially designed with safety in mind. Anything that could be brandished as a weapon was removed. The chairs were super heavy and filled with sand so they couldn’t be picked up and thrown, and other precautionary measures were taken. Unfortunately, there were some kids who spent their entire visit in the Unit because they couldn’t pull it together.

The Milieu

So, you’ve done a good job and moved out of the Unit. That’s not a place you want to stay long because there’s lot of angry people or people dealing with withdrawal from substance abuse, etc. But now, you’ve been given your shoes, belts, various clothing articles, pencils and pens and whatever else was restricted, and moved on to one of the wilderness cabins! People were still upset about being there, but man, really… it was like going on a prolonged summer vacation to the woods. People pay good money to have vacations like these, but because the teenagers were aware that it was “treatment” related they were upset. Oh well, they came around.

This is getting lengthy, so let me summarize. We would spend our time going to school. The treatment facility had it’s own school with legit teachers and we even held yearly graduation ceremonies if you were around for it! We would perform what amounted to cleaning up the various areas like the cabins and bathhouse or doing yardwork during a period called “voc” which stood for “vocational work.” It was to get us all used to the idea of structured work, which we will all face for life, you know.

We’d also have plenty of free time to read or write or hang out and converse. There was also structured free-time that acted as forms of therapy as well. It was a great time, honestly. I loved it so much, especially as all of my young friends were making so much progress in their internal lives.


group therapyWe were there for therapy, when you really shed all of the other stuff away. It was about getting better. We would have a group therapist come to our cabin twice a week or so and we’d have long group therapy sessions. There were also scheduled family therapy sessions where the children would visit the therapist in their office along with their parents and siblings to work out family issues. In addition, there were sessions where it was just one-on-one time with the therapist. This was all very essential.

The best part for everyone was the “furlough” where you were allowed to go home for maybe an overnight period. Then you’d work your way up to several days, or a week at a time. Once everyone was re-accustomed to being home and they proved they were able to handle their old environments, social groups (or having found new groups), and triggers, you were ready to move on to the next step…


Every week we held what was called “Treatment Group,” where all of the cabin counselors, the therapists, the teachers, the psychiatrist, and anyone else involved would come together at a conference table and talk about each patient. Their progress would be evaluated. If you followed your treatment plan and all was well, you’d be eligible to discharge, meaning it was time to go home! You are doing much better now and everyone feels that you are strong and trustworthy and want to be better.

Congratulations! You’ve now experienced a very surface level idea of what a stay at a residential treatment facility is like!

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