30 Days Vs 90 Days: How To Pick The Right Residential Addiction Treatment Program Length For You

“Who in their right mind would voluntarily go to rehab for 90 days?!” This was my exact thought when the outpatient therapist I was working with told me about an extended care program she thought would be helpful for me. I had done outpatient programs and 30 day programs but something just wasn’t clicking. Completing one program just to get back into the real world and relapse within six months was a cycle I’d found myself in. I needed something more. 

Length of stay (LOS) can vary across treatment centers. The standard substance abuse program has historically been 28-30 days. As the science behind addiction treatment has evolved, so have the lengths of stay. In this blog we’ll take a look at why length of stay matters and some things to consider when choosing the right program. 


The History


The majority of the treatment centers in his country are based on the Minnesota Model. Also known as the abstinence model, this method of addiction treatment was created in the 1950’s by a psychologist and a psychiatrist. “The key element of this novel approach to addiction treatment was the blending of professional and trained nonprofessional (recovering) staff around the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.” At the time of its creation, this model was primarily concerned with the treatment of alcoholism. The figured a month was enough time to stabilize an alcoholic. While some components of the Minnesota Model have changed with time, one thing remains - the 28 day length of stay. Once insurance companies got involved and refused to pay for anything longer than a month of treatment, this LOS was normalized.


The Complications


In 2024, substance abuse treatment programs are treating much more than just alcoholism. The rise of potent narcotics with long-lasting physical and mental effects such as fentanyl and methamphetamine, means that 30 days of treatment is often not enough time to stabilize someone and treat them. Once you factor in co-occurring mental health disorders, trauma, and underlying medical conditions, it’s a miracle that anyone finds long-term sobriety in 30 days. It speaks to the high quality work being done in treatment centers today. While the insurance companies aren't budging on LOS, the providers are evolving their programming to match the needs of their patients. More and more long-term and extended care options are offered as an alternative or addendum to traditional treatment. The results speak for themselves. The longer an individual spends in a treatment setting, the better their chances of achieving and sustaining long-term recovery.


Factors to Consider When Choosing LOS


Type and Severity of Addiction:

Some addictions are more complex than others. Prolonged substance abuse generally requires a more extensive time in treatment to unravel underlying issues and build a strong foundation. Someone who's been smoking pot for a year may not need as much time in treatment as someone who's been smoking meth for twelve years. It’s also important to consider previous treatment stays. Is this someone's first time in treatment? If so, they may be able to get what they need in 30 days. If this is someone's fifth time in treatment, chances are the 30 day route is not going to cut it. They need something more in-depth. 

Co-occurring Disorders:

Co-occurring disorders should also be considered. An individual with a meth addiction who also struggles with bipolar disorder and a history of trauma is going to need more than 30 days to stabilize, process, and start to heal. Anything less and you’re just ripping a band-aid off an open wound and leaving it to fester. Mental health and addiction often walk hand in hand. Self-medication with drugs and alcohol can hide the dual-diagnosis and it may not become apparent until an individual has been clean and sober for some time.  

Individual Progress and Readiness:

Recovery is an individual journey. It depends on a variety of individual factors. Some may take to it quickly while others are resistant or unwilling to admit they have a problem. Extended-care programs cater to those who need a bit more time to get comfortable, helping to ensure a smoother transition into everyday life.

Support System:

Recovery isn't a solo mission; it's a team effort. If your home team is strong, a 30-day program may be like a pit stop, refreshing and equipping you for the journey ahead. On the flip side, if your team needs strengthening, something a little longer can give you time to build out your roster.

Relapse Prevention:

If relapse has been a continual part of your story, chances are you need long-term treatment. If recovery is like riding a bike then relapse is constantly falling off that bike. Extended-care programs provide you a place to practice riding in a safe, supportive environment until you’re ready to get out there on your own. 


Make the Right Choice


While staying in treatment longer than the bare minimum may sound like a prison sentence, it’ll probably be one of the best things you ever do. I hear all the time people saying they regret leaving treatment early. I rarely hear someone complaining about how staying in treatment longer made their life worse. 

If you’re ready to talk to someone about treatment options, call Sunflower Recovery. We offer multiple lengths of stays and can help talk you through what the right option for you may be. The phone call is free and it doesn’t bind you to us. We’re just here to offer advice and make suggestions. Call today.

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