Inpatient or residential rehab is a 24/7 program where you are required to live onsite and take time away from work, family, and/or school to get the help you need for a substance use disorder.1 Not everyone needs to enter an inpatient program. Ultimately, your rehab environment should be the least restrictive setting that is possible for your specific needs. Rehab should keep you safe, help you enter recovery, and avoid relapse.
Inpatient treatment is the most intensive type of drug rehab, followed by residential treatment, intensive outpatient, and outpatient programs.1 Outpatient programs vary in the hours of treatment provided but are generally less than 9 hours per week and you reside in your own home.
Sober living houses are another residential setting for individuals in recovery. Most sober living homes do not provide treatment, but typically have a community where residents meet and hold each other accountable, share the responsibilities of running the home, and encourage or mandate attendance at self-help, 12-Step programs.2
A Day in Residential Rehab
When you are thinking about entering a drug rehab program or seeking drug or alcohol rehab for a loved one, you may have questions such as what it’s like, if individuals can leave rehab on weekends, and what people in rehab do each day. While no two programs are alike, drug and alcohol rehab programs are structured and follow a schedule. Most programs incorporate individual and group therapy, specialized activities, support groups, and time for reflection.
For example, a typical day in rehab can look like:
- 7:00 am: Wake up, breakfast, and medications.
- 9:00 am: Treatment group.
- 10:30 am: Personal time.
- 11:00 am: One-on-one counseling.
- 12:30 pm: Lunch.
- 1:30 pm: Activities, such as exercise, yoga, or meditation.
- 3:00 pm: Afternoon group treatment, such as art, equine, or music therapy.
- 4:30 pm: Personal time.
- 5:30 pm: Dinner.
- 6:30 pm: 12-Step meeting.
- 8:00 pm: Evening group session.
- 9:00 pm: Personal time.
- 11:00 pm: Bedtime.
Only staff members at the specific program you are interested in can tell you exactly what a day in rehab will be like. Programs will vary from this exact schedule. Still, the sample schedule above gives you a good idea of what you will do in rehab.
How Does Rehab Work?
Most rehab programs follow a similar set of steps when you first enter treatment. These steps include:3
- Intake, which is a process of undergoing a thorough assessment of your medical, behavioral, and social background to help determine the best course of treatment.
- Detoxification, which is the process of ridding your body of certain harmful substances. This is often the first phase of rehab, especially if you have been using alcohol, opioids, or benzodiazepines. Detox involves having medical oversight while withdrawing from substances to prevent complications and achieve stabilization.3
- Entrance into treatment in an inpatient or outpatient program.
Types of Therapy Commonly Available During Rehab
While there can be many differences between drug rehab programs and their approaches to treatment, most programs incorporate a few common methods, such as the following:4
- Individualized behavioral therapy teaches coping skills to reduce your chances of relapse. This approach also addresses multiple areas of your life, such as employment, legal issues, or family conflict to solve problems that can impair recovery.
- Group therapy incorporates peer support as part of the process of recovery. Group therapy can be used along with individualized therapy.
- Family therapy is an important component of drug rehab programs. Families can be helpful in the role of providing accountability and ongoing support while you are in treatment and recovery. In addition, family members can learn to avoid behaviors that help maintain substance use disorders within the family.1
During drug and alcohol rehab, whether in an individual or group setting, treatment will typically take one of several approaches that include:5
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is a commonly used treatment technique that works to help you change the way you think about drugs or alcohol and find other ways to cope with stress.
- Motivational interviewing, which seeks to help you overcome resistance to change. It is intended to motivate you to participate in drug treatment.
- Contingency management, which involves incentives for staying in recovery. Treatment programs may offer prizes or vouchers for items as rewards for completing treatment goals. For example, a program may give you movie tickets for submitting 3 consecutive negative urine drug screens. Another may give vouchers for diapers to moms or dads.
Frequently Asked Questions
You may have specific questions about drug or alcohol rehab centers, such as the rules, what to bring, and how to prepare. While many of these questions should be directed to the facility since each treatment center will vary, here are a few frequently asked questions that may help.
What Happens if You Use Drugs or Alcohol in Rehab?
The consequences of using drugs or alcohol in rehab depends on the program. Some drug rehab programs may dismiss you, but others may work to get you back into recovery as soon as possible.
Can You Bring Your Phone or Computer to Rehab?
Whether you can bring your phone or computer to rehab also depends on the drug rehab program. Typically, a program will ask you to leave computers at home, but phones may be allowed in limited circumstances. Some programs allow you to access your phone for short periods of time. The idea in rehab is to concentrate on recovery and not focus on outside work or relationships.
Can You Leave Rehab Early?
The ability to leave rehab early depends on the rules of the program, or if you are there voluntarily. For example, if you are committed to treatment through something like the Marchman Act (a Florida statute that allows family members to petition the courts for mandatory assessment and treatment of a substance use disorder), you may be allowed to leave rehab without a doctor’s approval.
Can You Make Someone Go to Rehab?
Many people wonder if you can make someone go to rehab. While in some cases, you may seek involuntary treatment under something like the Marchman Act for a family member, there are other approaches to getting someone into treatment who does not want to go.
For example, CRAFT, which stands for Community Reinforcement and Family Training, is an evidence-based approach that family members can use when they want to get someone into treatment who is refusing to do so.
CRAFT teaches family members skills, such as communication, positive reinforcement, and implementing negative consequences for the family member’s ongoing substance use. This approach is reported to be successful in 7 of 10 cases to get someone to go to rehab.6
How Should I Prepare for Rehab?
There are things you will need to take care of before entering a rehab program. One thing you need to consider is what to bring. You will need clothing and some personal items, but it is best to leave large amounts of cash, valuables, and expensive items at home. You will also need to have an official form of identification, such as a driver’s license or passport. Also, don’t forget to bring your insurance information and verify your insurance before going.
It is a good idea to call ahead and ask what is contraband and what can be kept with you, such as cell phones or hair dryers. You can also ask about dress codes, as some programs have rules about certain types of clothing, and about medications that you are taking.
You may also need to arrange for someone to take care of your responsibilities, such as caring for children or pets. You may need to contact your workplace or school to let them know you will be out. In addition, do not neglect to make sure your home is ready when you return, in that you should ensure that any substances, such as alcohol, are not available for you to use when you get out of rehab.
How Long is Rehab?
When you ask how long rehab takes, it is important to note that everyone is different. This answer is based on many factors, such as the intensity of the substance use disorder, mental health, and physical health, just to name a few. Some stays in rehab can be shorter, lasting about 28 to 30 days. Some programs are designed to last 60 days or 90 days, while some last 6-12 months or longer.4
What to Expect After Rehab
Once you are ready to leave inpatient rehab, there are aftercare services that can help you maintain your recovery. Aftercare has been shown to help prevent relapse in high-risk people, as well as increase the chances of long-term recovery overall.7 Some of these services include:4
- Outpatient treatment, which can help reinforce coping skills to avoid relapse.
- Individual counseling, where you can receive ongoing help for sustaining your recovery process after rehab.
- Sober living homes, which can provide a drug- and alcohol-free, structured environment to help facilitate your recovery.
- Medication management, which can help to address psychiatric needs, such as medication for depression or anxiety, to help prevent relapse. In addition, medications for substance use disorders can help people maintain recovery.5,7
- Self-help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, which are based on the 12-Step model.
- Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. A Guide to Substance Abuse Services for Primary Care Clinicians. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 1997. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 24.) Chapter 5—Specialized Substance Abuse Treatment Programs.
- Mericle, A. A., Mahoney, E., Korcha, R., Delucchi, K., & Polcin, D. L. (2019). Sober living house characteristics: A multilevel analyses of factors associated with improved outcomes. Journal of substance abuse treatment, 98, 28–38.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Treatment Improvement Protocol—TIP 45: Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, June 3). Types of treatment programs.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017, January 19). Treatment approaches for drug addiction drugfacts.
- Meyers, R. J., Smith, J. E., & Lash, D. N. (2005). A program for engaging treatment-refusing substance abusers into treatment: CRAFT. International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 1(2), 90-100.
- McKay J. R. (2021). Impact of continuing care on recovery from substance use disorder. Alcohol research: current reviews, 41(1), 01.