5 Ways You Can Help a Friend in Inpatient Care

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Have you seen someone you care about suffer from addiction? If you have, then you know the feelings of heartbreak, confusion, and fear. When the situation seems overwhelming, you might ask yourself, “how can I help?” Supporting someone in active addiction can feel like an uphill battle. Such support can tax your resources, emotions, and family.

At the height of their addiction, your loved one may need a higher level of care.1 Inpatient rehab can serve as the first step to help someone start their journey to recovery.

How do you help a loved one as they enter into treatment? Below are five ways you can support someone as they engage in inpatient care.

1. Understand the Need for Treatment

Inpatient rehab, or psychiatric hospitalization, may seem scary and overwhelming. Pop-culture may cast inpatient rehab and treatment providers in a daunting light.

In reality, the choice to seek treatment requires bravery, consideration, and motivation. People receiving treatment must step away from their daily lives. They engage in a regulated routine, following professional guidance as they confront addiction. Though it may seem intense, inpatient rehab serves an important role in interrupting the cycle of substance use. This level of care addresses a high level of need within communities and families.

Someone engaged in excessive substance use may experience lapses in judgment. Impulses may cause a person to act in ways that put their health or life at risk. Their behavior may even put someone else at risk. They may experience painful or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms and mental health disorders.2

Inpatient rehab facilities offer medical supervision, medication, routine, and therapeutic interventions. These tools can guide those in recovery toward healthy living. Professionals may recommend inpatient care to ensure a safe recovery process.

You can help an addict recognize that engaging in treatment can save their:

  • Relationships
  • Health
  • Family
  • Career
  • Legal standing
  • Life

Inpatient rehab starts with humans helping humans. Your support can help a loved one understand the need for treatment. Honesty can help them take the first steps towards sober living.

2. Build and Maintain Supportive Communication

Successful completion of treatment often requires constant support. Learning how to communicate with a loved one can help them stay motivated for treatment. You may have strong feelings about the way your loved one acted while active in their addiction. If you address these concerns, you can build a foundation for creating a new lifestyle.

Discussing these painful experiences may trigger arguments and heighten emotions. Painful memories might dominate the dialogue.

If you use a supportive communication style, you can turn a conflictual conversation into a caring confrontation. This does not mean you should push your feelings down until they explode. Supportive communication happens in a direct fashion. With respect for boundaries, you can approach hard conversations with compassion in mind.

If you find this task easier said than done, you are not alone. Treatment can offer resources to help you help a loved one as they engage in treatment. With the patient’s permission, treatment staff can foster dialogue between family members. Inpatient rehab often includes family therapy.

Licensed therapists or treatment providers can offer guidance in these sessions. Family therapy can help an addict and their loved ones to see the bigger picture and confront unseen pain. To speak to a treatment specialist about options for care, call 800-681-1058 (Info iconWho Answers?) .

Improve communication, in or out of session, by:

  • Using “I” statements3,4 to reduce blame and improve understanding
  • Listening to your loved one with an open mind
  • Setting rules5,6 for the conversation
  • Acknowledging you or your loved one’s limits
  • Taking a break when you need it

The path from addiction to recovery can pose unforeseen challenges for you and your family. Even the strongest of systems may need support in weathering the storm of addiction.

Broken promises, unmet expectations, and the trauma of addiction may have strained the bond between you and your loved one. If you communicate with care and support, you can help make painful conversation a matter of healing.

3. Stay Curious and Offer Feedback

If you stay curious and offer feedback, you will show your loved one a spirit of care and concern. Such attitudes can help a loved one stay motivated as they embark upon the life-changing path of substance use treatment. Considerate questions can promote self-reflection. They can also foster a connection to life beyond the inpatient rehab facility.

Your willingness to learn about your loved one’s experience can open their eyes to unseen strength. This act of curiosity can remind them that they have a life to return to when they complete treatment.

Seek to understand your loved one’s experience by remaining curious about:

  • Success and challenges with daily activities
  • Personal goals and improvements made in the treatment
  • Concerns related to the course of treatment
  • The quality of care received
  • Ways you can support them” on the outside” as they engage in care
  • How you can become involved in the treatment process
  • Items or creature comforts you can bring, as allowed by the program

If you offer feedback throughout the course of treatment, you will encourage your loved one to reflect on their progress and areas for growth. If at all possible, share your concerns with your loved one’s treatment providers.

Your insight can help an addiction treatment team develop individualized plans. Your perspective might bring attention to hidden concerns that your loved one has. Your openness to feedback can foster feelings of togetherness as your loved one completes the treatment process.

Each person experiences addiction in their own way. Knowing your loved one’s unique history, preferences, beliefs, and background can help inform their choices in care. You may hear important feedback on the nature of their care. This information may come in the form of compliments or complaints. As a member of their support team, you have an opportunity to advocate on your loved one’s behalf.

If you have complaints or concerns about the quality of care, contact a patient advocate or administrator. You and your loved one also have the right to contact state licensing and regulation departments to address ethical concerns.

It takes practice to share your thoughts and feelings about addiction and recovery. Discussing your role in your loved one’s relapse prevention plan can set the foundation for healthy boundaries. These boundaries can protect you, your relationship, and their long-term recovery. Call 800-681-1058 (Info iconWho Answers?) to speak to a treatment specialist about rehab options.

4. Promote Choices and Foster Boundaries

If a person is involuntarily engaging in inpatient rehab, their sense of agency may be undermined. They may think they have lost their independence, and it may also amplify feelings of intense vulnerability and shame.

Choosing treatment means that a person has willingness, humility, and openness to support. The voluntary choice to receive care can help a loved one obtain the full benefits of treatment. Whether this is your loved one’s first or tenth time in treatment, the key to their success lies in their motivation.

You might have the opportunity to help a person with substance use disorder see the choices they have in treatment. You can help them weigh the risks and benefits that therapeutic support has to offer. Offering your loved one choices can empower them to say yes to recovery, even if their mind or body tells them no.

To help a loved one, you must first help yourself. You likely already know that addiction takes a toll on the person experiencing its effects. It may be hard to see the toll that another’s addiction has had on you and your support system. Early recovery and inpatient rehab offer space for your loved one to heal and for you to heal as well. If you are learning how to set firm boundaries, you will help foster safety and support for your loved one. You may need to pay attention to patterns of codependence.7 Self-reflection can ensure you keep yourself whole while helping another into recovery.

Take time to think about how you can enable a person to remain in recovery. Prepare to respond to potential lapses and relapses throughout your loved one’s recovery. Consider the benefits of engaging in therapy for yourself. Your choice to seek professional support can help model humility, vulnerability, and willingness. This can set an example for your loved one to follow as they engage in inpatient rehab and treatment.

5. Have Compassion

Compassion offers a crucial ingredient for a successful recovery. It can strengthen the motivation you and your loved one need as you take the journey to long-term wellness. Though we cannot define another’s path out of addiction, our compassion can help an addict see healthier choices.

Addiction may involve intense feelings of shame, failure, unworthiness, or unlovability. Treatment can call for immense sacrifice for those who seek it. It can also call for sacrifice from those who want to help a loved one back to health. Journey with your loved one into the depths of self-reflection. Nurture yourself with kindness and understanding for the suffering you have experienced.

Inpatient rehab can offer safety, insight, and connection for people in early recovery. If you or a loved one need support in understanding your options, help awaits. Call 800-681-1058 (Info iconWho Answers?) to speak to a treatment specialist about what options are available to you.


  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US): Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2006). Substance Abuse: Clinical issues in intensive outpatient treatment.
  2. Darke, S., Larney, S., & Farrell, M. (2016, August 11). Yes, people can die from opiate withdrawal. National Drug and Alcohol Research Center. 
  3. Therapist Aid. (2017). “I” Statements.
  4. Pipas, M. D., & Jaradat, M. (2010). Assertive communication skills. Annales Universitatis Apulensis: Series Oeconomica, 12(2), 649.
  5. Therapist Aid. (2020). Fair Fighting Rules (Worksheet).
  6. Greeff, Tanya De Bruyne, A. (2000). Conflict management style and marital satisfaction. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 26(4), 321-334.
  7. Selva, J. (2020, December 10). Codependency: What Are The Signs & How To Overcome It. PositivePsychology.com.
Pen iconAuthor
Ruben Bermea, LPC
Licensed Professional Counselor, Author
Ruben Bermea, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has had the privilege of serving Texans as they navigate personal and mental health challenges. Ruben has provided therapy to clients in inpatient, residential, private practice, and community mental health settings. His personal and professional interests include the intersection between technology and mental health, the impact of misinf