What is Rehab: What It’s Like & How It Works

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What you will learn:
How long residential rehab, also known as inpatient treatment, can take.
Different types of therapies used during inpatient treatment.
Understand the difference of inpatient vs outpatient addiction treatment.
Why call us?

What is Rehab?

Rehab is the process of treatment for those suffering from addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. This may include a combination of medical treatment and psychotherapy.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 20 million people were in need of substance abuse treatment in 2015. Rehabilitation is a carefully crafted process that gives people suffering from addiction their best chance to manage their disorder on a long-term basis.

Types of Rehab

How Long Does Rehab Take?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction treatment should last at least 90 days to be effective, though the entirety of this period does not need to be spent in an inpatient rehab facility. Oftentimes, clients may begin with a month or so of inpatient rehab and then transition to an outpatient program for the remainder of their time in structured treatment.

Specific schedules will vary from program to program and according to individual client needs, but there are some consistencies between most addiction treatment programs. With this information, incoming clients can have an idea of what to expect from an average day in rehab.

Additional Resources

A Day in Residential Rehab

Below is a sample of what one may expect during a day in one of our residential treatment centers

  • 7:00 a.m. Breakfast
  • 7:45 a.m. Meditation
  • 8:30 a.m. Physical Wellness Training
  • 10:00 a.m. Behavioral Health Group
  • 11:00 a.m. Relapse Prevention Group
  • 12:00 p.m. Lunch and Reflection Time
  • 1:00 p.m. Nutrition and Wellness Group
  • 2:00 p.m. One-on-One Therapy
  • 3:00 p.m. Expressive Therapies in Recovery
  • 4:00 p.m. Therapeutic Community Group
  • 5:00 p.m. Dinner
  • 6:30 p.m. Recovery Meeting
  • 7:30 p.m. Clean & Sober Structured Activities/Recreation
  • 10:00 p.m. Lights Out

Life in rehab is very structured. Each day is filled with activities and therapies to eliminate boredom and downtime during which clients may be tempted to relapse to drug or alcohol use. By learning a new way to live with a new schedule, a person can avoid reverting to old tendencies that could threaten their recovery. Strict structure can also distract clients from any cravings they may experience related to their drug of choice. In rehab, there is some personal time available between meals, activities, and therapy sessions, but much of the day is planned out for clients.

Breakfast occurs at a set time each day, often around 8 a.m. Clients eat together in a communal setting, helping to foster relationships that are formed in rehab. Some type of therapy often follows breakfast. The first session of the day may be individual therapy where clients meet one on one with a therapist. These sessions range in length from 45-90 minutes.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Many therapists use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which has seen success in the treatment of addiction, according to NIDA. CBT helps clients correct problematic behaviors that led to their substance abuse by addressing the thought patterns underlying the behavior. By anticipating triggers for relapse that may arise during recovery, clients can devise strategies to address these triggers, helping them to avoid a return to drug use. One of the major strengths of CBT is that it has been found to be effective even after clients leave treatment, thus teaching them retainable skills to assist in long-term recovery.

Lunch is commonly followed by an afternoon therapy session. If individual therapy took place in the morning, the afternoon session may consist of group therapy. This involves one or two therapists leading a group of clients through the session. Clients who are dealing with similar issues are generally grouped together, providing an opportunity for them to learn from each other’s experiences and support each other in the recovery process.

After a brief break following group therapy, clients may participate in a complementary or alternative therapy, such as art therapy, music therapy, equine-assisted therapy, or adventure therapy. These forms of therapy are often fun for clients, helping them to express themselves creatively or try a new activity. By learning new skills or exploring new things, clients may build renewed self-confidence and acquire a better understanding of themselves.

While most days at rehab will follow a similar schedule, there may be special activities or events throughout the week that will alter the schedule. For example, special events may be held on family visitation days or a group of more seasoned clients may take an off-site visit for a particular type of therapy or activity.

Why do People go to Rehab?

People may choose to attend rehab for a variety of reasons. Some common reasons people attend rehab are:

  • They have reached rock bottom, and are looking for a change.
  • They have strained relationships with people they love.
  • Someone has suggested they have a problem with addiction.
  • They have tried to quit unsuccessfully on their own.
  • They have relapsed and need help getting clean again.

How Does Outpatient Treatment Vary?

The schedule of intensive outpatient programs may resemble that of an inpatient program, just on a shortened time schedule. For example, clients may show up to treatment around 10 a.m. and begin with an individual therapy session. After lunch, they may participate in group therapy followed by a complementary therapy. After that point, they return home for the day.

Since clients continue to live at home during outpatient treatment, a good portion of therapy may be dedicated to addressing temptations faced in the outside world. It’s imperative that clients have a strong support system at home and a substance-free home environment in order to thrive in outpatient addiction treatment.

About The Contributor
Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
Author, American Addiction Centers
The editorial staff of American Addiction Centers is made up of credentialed clinical reviewers with hands-on experience in or expert knowledge of addiction treatment. Read More
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