A good quit smoking program will combine a strategy for eliminating nicotine with techniques for getting rid of your psychological dependence.
Regardless of whether you choose a residential, class-room, or home-study program, the psychological factors around quitting are the same, so whatever kind of program you choose, make sure it has a strong psychological component.
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In residential quit smoking programs, you actually live at the program site for the duration of the program - usually a week or so. (If you're looking for info about other types of programs, you can also read about quit smoking classes, where you attend sessions outside your home, and home study programs, where you get program materials to use in the comfort of your own home.)
A residential quit smoking program is likely to be the least convenient, since you actually check into a facility for a period of time in order to quit smoking, and they are also the most expensive, ranging from around $3500 to $5000+. However, for some people the intensity of a full-time, week-long quit smoking intervention is just what they need to give them the jump start they need to be successful.
A residential program should be all-inclusive, dealing with physical nicotine addiction issues as well as psychological dependence issues. Importantly, this type of program removes you from your regular environment while you quit, which can make it easier initially. However, going back to your regular routine after learning to quit in a controlled environment can be pretty challenging. For this reason, for a residential program to be effective, it must include techniques designed to help eliminate smoking triggers in your regular environment so you can go back to your normal life without also going back to smoking. Generally this means a residential program should include lots of opportunities for follow-up help and support after the 'residential' portion of the program is over.
Residential Quit Smoking Programs in the US
I was able to find information about three dedicated residential quit smoking programs in the U.S., although there may be more. There are several commonalities, and also some differences between the three. I spoke with representatives from each of the programs to get more information.
The three programs I found were St. Helena's Center for Health, the Mayo Clinic, and Hazelden's Next Step program.
Effectiveness of Residential Quit Smoking Programs
Residential programs in general tend to be pretty effective. The ones I was able to find quoted success rates in a similar range: between about 45% - 65%. This is about 10 times the success rate quitting cold turkey, and five times the increase studies have shown for using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or prescription medication for quitting. (It's fair to note that most inpatient programs also use pharmacological techniques, including NRT or prescription medications as a part of their program.)
However, it's also worth noting that none of the residential programs offered any kind of a money-back guarantee.
How it Works
In all of the residential programs that I looked at, the process is similar: You arrive and check in on a specific day of the week. Generally this is followed by some sort of assessment and/or group session, and then everyone discards their cigarettes. For the next week or so, the days are filled with group sessions, lectures on various aspects of smoking, individual sessions to address specific issues related to smoking, exercise sessions, and usually some scheduled leisure activities. Of course, there is no smoking on site, and off-site activities generally occur with the group.
This provides a very controlled environment that helps prevent 'slip-ups' during the week of the program. Program participants generally leave with a plan for how to deal with situations back in their normal routines, information about local support groups such as nicotine anonymous, and contact information from the other group participants.
Compare Residential Quit Smoking Programs
Nicotine Addiction Program at St. Helena Center for Health
St. Helena, California
~$4,100 - $4,500
Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center
Hazelden's Next Step Smoking Cessation Retreat
Center City, Minnesota
~$3000 - $3700
Pros and Cons
What are the pros and cons of residential quit smoking programs?
Intensive program, with generally high success rates over the long term
Initial quitting done in an extremely supportive/controlled environment, so it may be easier
Very expensive - up to $5,000 or even more
May have to travel to get to one, adding to the overall expense
Must take time off from work or other responsibilities to attend
While initial quitting may be easier since you're in a controlled environment, going back to your 'old life' may be especially challenging because it will be your first exposure to many smoking triggers since you quit.
The Mayo Clinic web page says, "Mayo Clinic Residential Treatment Program is for people who have tried EVERYTHING, and haven't been able to stop smoking." I have to agree: I think that a residential quit smoking program is a last resort, for folks who have truly tried everything, and found nothing that has worked for them. If that's you, and you have the time and the money to spend, then I would seriously consider a residential program. My favorites of the three are St. Helena's program, followed closely by the smoking cessation program at the Mayo Clinic.
If it's not in your budget to spend that kind of money, or if you haven't yet exhausted all of the other options, then I would look at other, less expensive alternatives, such as quit smoking classes or a good home study program. Another benefit to trying classes or home study programs is that unlike residential programs, classes and home study programs often come with a money-back guarantee, so there is less risk for you.