Types of Programs

Four main styles of residential care

In our Directory, you will find four types of program.  As you read about these approaches below, please remember two important points: 

First, within a category, programs vary quite a bit, one from the other. There is a flavor to each facility, an ambience, that is all its own. Certain treatment methods are favored. There may be more of particular types of activity. Staff and residents interact in a characteristic way. 

Second, there is much overlap among the four styles. Just about every program in our Directory has features associated with other styles of residential program. For example, many facilities that we categorize as “clinical residential programs,” while having the features of this type of approach, also offer different levels of independence, including supervised apartment living, which is the dominant feature of the residential treatment style we call “apartment-based communities.” What’s more, some ARTA facilities offer a sequence of care consisting of three or four completely different program styles, each fully developed.  In addition, programs of any style may offer opportunities to continue your education and to work at jobs in the community.

This overlapping of styles – and in some cases, the availability of several distinct program styles under the umbrella of one facility -- will be helpful to the person you are placing: It means residential communities offer a richness of options within their own programs, which a resident can take advantage of as their needs change or as they grow more independent.

What you see below are general features of each residential style:


  • Clinical residential treatment programs. Their home-like atmosphere and strong sense of community help residents build self-esteem, develop relationships and improve skills. At the same time, residents benefit from intense, professional treatment that is provided daily on-premises. Treatment can include individual psychotherapy, group therapy, vocational/educational counseling and support, and treatment for co-occurring addictions.  Because clinicians treat residents where they live, they see the full picture of a resident’s functioning and use that perspective and insight to fine-tune therapy.  
  • Group residential communities. Often called “group homes,” their caring, family-like atmosphere is a major therapeutic tool through which residents repair self-esteem, build skills, develop relationships, and learn to manage symptoms. The therapeutic strength of these communities is their creation of a stable, long-term living arrangement conducive to increased quality of life and continued growth, as this is defined for each person. Clinical treatment may be optional and occurs off-site. Length of stay varies and can be for an extended period.
  • Farm-based and work-based residential programs. Residents participate in daily work programs, and this work is key to their growth and recovery. Meaningful, necessary work with tangible results builds self-esteem and fosters supportive connections among teammates. Some farm communities offer other kinds of work opportunities, such as building maintenance and repair, and helping in the program’s retail outlet, and residents may build skills that can be marketable. The nature and degree of clinical treatment varies, with some programs offering a rich array of therapies.
  • Apartment-based communities. Residents live in individual or shared apartments while participating in a program of therapeutic activities, supportive relationships and treatment. In some programs, clinicians move in and out of residents’ apartment “homes” each day, thus gaining unique insight that enhances treatment and recovery. Apartments may be close to a central “therapeutic community” gathering place. For some, this style of residence minimizes the “stigma” of living in a mental health facility. It can offer a greater degree of independence than other settings. The nature and degree of clinical treatment varies.
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ARTA -- The American Residential Treatment Association
Hope • Community • Healing