Last updated: 09/15/2021
Author: Michael E. Wolf, PhD
Reading Time: 8 minutes
When considering alcohol or drug misuse treatment, you might wonder, “Should I travel for rehab?” Deciding whether to travel or stay close to home for treatment is a decision that should not be taken lightly; there are many important factors to consider. Perhaps most importantly is whether the facility offers the right treatment services and level of care to fit your individual needs.
Table of Contents
Choosing Where To Go For Rehab
Once you have decided to go to a drug or alcohol rehabilitation (rehab) program, the next step is to decide on a specific facility. There are many rehab facilities to choose from that are located in desirable geographical areas around the country. Some of these offer unique services, such as holistic treatment modalities. Each facility is unique in what it has to offer, including a variety of: 5
- Amenities, which can include a pool, sauna, or special services like massage therapy
- Accommodations like chef-prepared meals and private rather than communal living quarters
- Therapy options (e.g., behavioral therapy, group, individual, and family therapy)
- Programming (e.g., dual diagnosis, matrix model, etc.)
- Levels of care, such as onsite medical detox, partial hospitalization, and extensive aftercare accommodations (e.g., alumni programs)
There are pros and cons to attending a treatment program close to home and traveling for rehab. Consulting with a professional—such as your current therapist, an addiction treatment specialist, or the doctor who screened you for addiction—may help you choose the program that is right for you.
Advantages of Traveling for Rehab
As many as 12% of people seeking drug or alcohol addiction treatment have experienced favorable results attending rehab in a different state.1 Traveling for rehab has many advantages, including:5
- Enables a positive mindset of taking a physical, not just mental, journey toward recovery, allowing for a fresh start in a new place
- Offers a comprehensive range of treatment choices for those who live in a geographic area with limited treatment options
- Provides options for people in need of specialized treatment that addresses one’s specific medical, psychological, or vocational needs
- Offers a solution for those who find it difficult to heal in the same place where trauma may have occurred
- Provides an opportunity to incorporate a lifestyle different from one’s local geographic location; for example, traveling from a remote, country location to a rehab in a large metropolitan city could expose a person to broader holistic resources, daily meditation or yoga practices while traveling to a country location may provide the opportunity to participate in equine therapy and therapeutic gardening
- Minimizes the risk of leaving treatment early due to home or work pressures, lending itself to helping to ensure program completion
- Provides privacy for those concerned about anonymity
Disadvantages of Traveling for Rehab
While traveling for rehab has advantages, several factors favor seeking treatment at a local rehab, including 5
- Employing a local, community support system, such as a 12-step group, for continuity of care after rehab treatment
- Local resources can be more accessible as part of your aftercare plan
- Although family members can still be involved in your program when you travel for rehab, it may be difficult for friends and family to visit in person
- A local rehab may be financially advantageous; if you travel, it may be to take advantage of the resources offered by private rehab centers that may not accept insurance or offer discounts for cash-pay clients, and traveling for rehab involves the extra expense of travel both directions
Types of Rehab Facilities
While many rehab programs across the country offer similar treatment services—such as peer support groups, individual, group, and family therapy—you have the opportunity to choose facilities that offer additional services and resources if you are willing to consider travel.
Typically, luxury rehab refers to a program’s comforts, such as private rooms and gourmet meals. It can include services that can help a person integrate a wellness-based lifestyle into their recovery program. These specialty services often include:3
- A serene, secluded environment that can help heal the mind, body, and spirit (e.g., a luxury ocean location)
- An exceptionally high level of care, such as doctorate and masters level therapists and case managers
- Holistic therapies such as acupuncture, biofeedback, nutrition therapy, or massage therapy
- Classes on healing practices such as yoga and meditation
- Recreational activities like surfing, hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, and fishing excursions
Luxury rehab programs often provide services tailored to a person’s tastes, but treatment at a luxury rehab usually costs more than other types of treatment programs.
Private Drug Rehab
Private drug rehab programs are for-profit organizations. Because they are often more expensive and many people pay out-of-pocket expenses, these facilities tend to have high staff-to-patient ratios and offer the treatments that are considered the highest quality, including new therapies that have not yet been implemented at public rehabs.
Treatment provided at private drug rehab programs is typically primarily focused on evidence-based modalities, or therapy types that have demonstrated positive effects on recovery outcomes.2 Overall, private drug rehab programs are usually much more expensive than public rehab programs, which the government usually funds and are more likely to be covered by insurers.
Beach rehab can allow you to relax in a comfortable oceanside location. This peaceful setting can provide a welcome change in scenery. This type of facility is typically far away from a large city, including beach cities, offering privacy and serenity.
Beach rehab facilities offer many traditional treatment components in addition to some luxury amenities such as relaxation therapy and healing modalities like meditation and yoga. In a beach setting, staff may encourage walking on the sand, exploring tidepools, sunbathing, wading, swimming, body-boarding, surfing, and connecting with nature in other ways specific to the environment.
Mountain treatment centers are limited to states like Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, and other areas in the Sierra Nevada and Rockies mountain ranges, though luxury and private treatment centers may also be located in the rolling hills of the Appalachian Mountains.
Mountain rehab facilities are usually very secluded; they offer standard treatment components with programming that incorporates relaxation therapy and meditation, including guided meditation in a forested area. These rehabs often offer nature walks, hiking, wildlife spotting, and bird watching, the opportunity to study local flora and fauna, and sound-based meditation classes that teach meditation based on the sound of leaves rustling and birds calling rather than counting breaths.
A desert rehab can offer a secluded setting in a desert environment. Getting away from a cold geographic area, particularly in the winter months, can lend itself to a positive treatment experience. The seclusion of the desert can provide opportunities for reflection. In the United States, desert rehabs are found in Arizona, Nevada, and California, as well as some parts of New Mexico and Texas.
This type of rehab facility often offers modalities such as relaxation therapy, meditation, and yoga. To experience the open air and avoid the scorching daytime temperatures, you may participate in outdoor treatment in the early morning hours with the sunrise and during the evening hours, at sunset. At these times, nature walks, meditation, and art therapy allow you to take advantage of the natural surroundings of a desert climate.
Choosing a Rehab Program Remotely
Once you’ve decided to look for a rehab facility outside of your immediate area, the next step is to select the specific program you want to attend. Remember that costs for rehab programs differ based on many factors, including location and program type. Insurance often covers at least a part of treatment for SUD, but this may not be true for luxury rehabs and some private programs.4
Steps to select a remote rehab include:4,5,6
- Check with your insurance provider for coverage information. The length of your treatment program, the program’s accreditation, the services offered, the qualifications of staff, and whether the program is in-network with your insurance provider may affect coverage.
- Consult with your health care provider for recommendations on national rehab facilities and ensure that the prospective program can meet your specific needs, such as a dual diagnosis facility.
- Gather information about treatment types and how the addiction rehab process works and compare that information to each potential rehab facility’s programming, noting whether each facility offers detox—if needed—inpatient, outpatient, or aftercare planning programming.
- Check the credentials of each potential facility as well as of the staff members.
Arranging to Travel Long-Distance for Rehab
It is essential to make the necessary arrangements with your employer, family, and close friends before traveling to rehab. If you work, you may be required to request time off through your employer. If you work full-time for a qualified employer, you may qualify for partially paid or unpaid leave where your job and healthcare benefits are protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Familiarize yourself with what you can take with you to your chosen rehab facility because you will likely be unable to easily access personal items while you are gone. Pack the clothing you need along with any credit cards and family pictures you want to take. Bring your cellphone and phone charger for communication with family and friends during your stay. Note that your facility may have rules about when cell phones can be used, such as only allowing use while in common areas.
When you travel for rehab, it’s recommended that you plan for bill pay and other necessities at home for the duration of treatment. In residential treatment, individuals do not leave the facility during the program with few exceptions, so you may not have the option to return home to take care of issues without formally exiting the program. Self-discharging can void any insurance coverage you received for treatment or make it difficult to return to the same facility or a sister facility.
Of course, when you travel to attend rehab, it is essential to make the necessary airline, train, or automobile travel arrangements. You must have all documentation and boarding passes that you need before traveling. Multi-day trips to reach a rehab facility or early arrival in the location of your chosen facility may also involve making hotel arrangements in advance.
After you decide to travel for rehab and have made the necessary arrangements, have confidence in your choice and commit to your recovery program. You are not alone in dealing with your addiction. Help is available when you need it. If you or a loved one is experiencing an addiction, please call 800-926-9037 Who Answers? to speak to a treatment specialist about options for addiction treatment.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). National survey of substance abuse treatment services (N-SSATS):2019.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, June 1). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).
- Breslin, K.T., Reed, M.R., & Malone, S.B. (2003). A Holistic Approach to Substance Abuse Treatment. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 35(2), 257-251.
- gov. Mental health & substance abuse coverage.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 17). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction DrugFacts.
- The Joint Commission. What Is Accreditation?