Last updated: 04/17/2020
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 6 minutes
If you or someone you love needs addiction recovery treatment, you may be wondering how does rehab work and what happens in drug rehab? Below you will find information on how to choose a program, how to get admitted, who you will meet in rehab, and answers to other common questions.
What Treatment Programs Are Available?
Before entering a program, you will want to research the best option to help ensure a full recovery. Talk to medical experts, your insurance company, and friends and family to figure out what kind of treatment program and what specific facility is the best choice for your needs. Advice and information from trusted sources should be considered, as should your gut instinct. Be honest with yourself about the level of treatment that you need to get healthy.
Inpatient centers provide 24-hour residential care to patients, as well as a controlled environment where they can recover from substance abuse. This prevents patients from using while in treatment and creates an all-day, every day, intensive treatment experience that allows for profound changes to occur in a safe space. While attending these programs, medications can be provided to ease treatment, monitored by medical experts. Inpatient treatment is almost always the best choice for recovery, especially for people battling long-term addiction, but it may not be a viable option for some people.
Outpatient programs offer treatment to patients who visit the facility daily or several times a week to receive medications and attend therapy sessions. This form of treatment is not as intensive as an inpatient program but can be an excellent option for anyone who has a healthy home environment and plenty of support from friends and family members. It can also be a great “step down” from inpatient treatment. Outpatient programs also allow patients to continue with their home lives, maintaining work or other obligations while getting help.
Both inpatient and outpatient centers also include a detox program.
Detox is the first stage in the recovery process. Both inpatient and outpatient treatment centers will ensure new patients complete a drug and alcohol detox to obtain sobriety before ongoing treatment begins. At inpatient facilities, patients are monitored 24/7, while outpatient programs rely on patients to maintain sobriety while living at home.
Additional Programs Available
Inpatient and Outpatient treatment facilities have a wide range of programs that vary from center to center. Some treatment programs offered can include:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
- Community Reinforcement Therapy
- Family Therapy
- Group Therapy
- Wilderness Therapy
- Treatment of Co-Occurring disorders (mental health)
How Can I Get Admitted to Rehab?
The first part of rehab is the intake process, which starts when you call the facility to ask about treatment. They may ask you to make an intake appointment or to just come by during walk-in hours. Although this process may feel very long, especially if you have to spend much time in a waiting room, the staff will be doing their best to get you into a program as quickly as they can. They want you to be able to act on your desire to get help, so you can begin healing as soon as possible.
Treatment at rehab will usually begin with a physical exam to assess your health and an in-depth interview with a counselor. Be as honest as you can. Your treatment providers need to understand your history of substance use to start working on a customized treatment plan for your recovery.
Some treatment programs will begin with detox, while others may want you to complete detox before you start the program—don’t attempt to do this on your own. Treatment facilities should be able to refer you to a qualified medical treatment center that can assist you safely through detoxification.
What Happens in Drug Rehab?
In inpatient rehab, you will be assigned a room, which may be private or shared with a roommate. Your belongings will need to be searched to be sure you don’t have any drugs, alcohol, or other prohibited items, such as an object that could be used to harm yourself or others. Your first day will include discussions with your counselors and doctors about what to expect and may include a tour of the facility. Some treatment centers will assign you to another patient who can show you around and answer any questions you have.
Days in inpatient treatment have a regular schedule that provides structure and routine. Some patients rebel against this structure at first, but many find the regularity to be comforting. You will wake up every day at the same time, take your medication, and go to scheduled classes or therapy sessions. Visiting hours will be restricted to certain days and times. Often, you will have free time at certain points in the day to read, write in a journal, watch TV, or enjoy recreational activities with other patients. You will have plenty of interaction with your doctors, nurses, and counselors, who can help you work through your treatment and discuss your progress with you.
Depending on your particular facility, you will experience a range of different therapies that approach recovery from a variety of angles. Some of these may include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy to help you change negative thought patterns and addictive behaviors, replacing these with coping skills, new perspectives, and positive habits.
- Diagnosis and treatment of any co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, depression, or eating disorders
- Individual and group therapy sessions
- Family or couples counseling (this can involve anyone who is an important part of your support network, not just spouses or blood relations
- Medication management
- Art, music, or other forms of creative expression therapy
- Equine or pet therapy, which has patients interact with animals in ways that allow for healing and self-discovery
- Recreational therapy gets patients involved in games or outdoor activities that foster teamwork, confidence, and trust.
- Nature therapy can be as in-depth as lengthy camping trips in the woods, or as simple as restorative experiences in a small garden. There are even Wilderness Rehabs, often geared towards younger patients, where treatment takes place on a working farm or ranch, or in a wilderness setting.
When you and your caregivers decide that you are ready to end your treatment program, you will be given an aftercare plan to ensure that you can keep practicing the skills that will help you stay sober. Often, this aftercare plan is created at the start of treatment, to make sure you can easily transition from one phase of treatment to the next.
Outpatient rehab can either follow inpatient treatment or be the first step of recovery treatment for patients. Either way, outpatient treatment will require you to visit the facility daily or several times a week for medication, educational services, behavioral therapy, support groups, and other forms of therapy that you may already be familiar with from inpatient treatment. You will discuss your progress with your doctor, and you will be able to continue living your day-to-day life at home while attending treatment.
How Does Rehab Work – What Can I Expect?
The most important part of any addiction treatment program is learning to understand your addiction. You need to uncover and address the causes of your substance use disorder and the psychological and behavioral issues that encourage addictive behaviors. You need to learn that addiction is a chronic illness and how you can best cope with it for long-term health.
Rehab guides you through the process of examining your whole life—past and present—and figuring out what needs to be done to create a better future. You will heal psychological issues while also making practical decisions and changes that support recovery, such as finding a safe place to live and regular employment. Most importantly, you will learn new ways of looking at addiction and your own life, and new coping techniques that will allow you to respond to stress and substance use triggers with healthy behaviors.
Rehab also allows you to connect with other people who are facing the same kinds of challenges that you face. For many people in recovery, the mutual support shared between patients is one of the most healing parts of rehab.