How to Heal PTSD: In-Patient & Residential Programs

heal ptsd symtpomsHow to heal PTSD: in-patient and residential programs — which are the top choices?

I often receive inquiries about where to go for posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and treatment. During my own recovery, I slogged it out in therapists and practitioners offices while trying to maintain a life at home (disclaimer: I wasn’t always successful and had lots of meltdowns!). Some people, however, find terrific results with more structured approaches. If you’re wondering if something more hands-on might benefit you, this post will get you started on finding answers.

Defining In-Patient vs. Residential Programs

There’s often a lot of confusion about the difference between in-patient and residential approaches. To clear up the chaos, here are two working definitions:

A residential treatment center, sometimes called a rehab, is a live-in health care facility providing therapy for substance abuse, mental illness, or other behavioral problems.

In-patient: At this high-level of treatment you receive 24-hour care in a safe and secure hospital environment. These programs are for survivors who are severely depressed or suicidal, psychotic, or unable to find positive results in low-level treatment environments. These are usually short-term programs that focus on stabilizing symptoms and developing a plan for treatment in a less intense care location.

Residential: In this lower-level treatment program you live in an intensely structured and secure environment similar to in-patient but in a more home-like environment. While medical staff is on call, attention is not offered on a 24-hour bases. You must be medically stable prior to admission and the focus of work will be to have ongoing supervision and treatment for disordered behaviors too habitual or addictive to be effectively eliminated without advanced guidance.

In addition to these intense programs, many facilities also offer:

Day treatment: Structured programming for people who do not need 24-hour supervision but do require services that provide support, medical attention and education throughout normal daytime hours, especially those blocks of time that provide challenges in managing symptoms and behaviors. In this type of program patients engage in therapeutic support groups, structured activities and planning for self-care outside of the treatment facility. Often, day treatment is the next logical step after in-patient or residential programs.

Outpatient treatment: In this type of program you remain on your own and work with professionals one to three times a week for counseling, support, guidance and feedback.

Respected Trauma and PTSD Treatment Programs

Finding the right PTSD treatment program is a highly individual process. Many factors come into play including time, location, funding and your comfort level with each type of intervention. The following is a partial list of some of the top programs that have come to my attention. I have not visited them personally, so you will need to do more research on your end. However, in each case I’ve added them to the list because I either know the people who run the facility and greatly admire their philosophy, integrity and treatment approach (as is the case with the first two on the list who are also our CHANGING DIRECTION radio sponsors), or because survivors have recommended them to me based on their own research and experience.

Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center (outside Chicago, IL)

The Refuge-A Healing Place (central Florida)

Sheppard Pratt trauma unit  (Baltimore, MD)

River Oaks (New Orleans, LA)

McLean Hospital  (Boston area)

The Meadows (Boston area)

Timberlawn Trauma Program  (Dallas, TX)

Forest View Hospital  (Grand Rapids, MI)

The National Treatment Center for Trauma Stabilization and Resolution Del Amo Hospital  (Torrance, CA)

The Shepherd Center (Atlanta, GA) This program,  Share Initiative, is specifically for post 9/11 military members

 If you know of other programs to recommend, please share them in the comments!


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