Making the decision to go get treatment for an addiction at a rehab center is not easy for anyone. It can be even harder actually going to rehab and getting admitted as a patient, and the experience can be intimidating if you don’t know what to expect.
Getting an idea of what to expect from a drug and alcohol rehab stay can help prepare someone who may have reservations or uncertainty. It can also help them to maximize their experience in treatment so they get as much out of it as they need and want to.
What to Expect from Medical Detox
Drug rehab facilities provide varying levels of care and clinical services. Depending on the patient’s drug of choice and severity of dependence, medical detox may be a prerequisite part of their treatment. A treatment facility might have its own detox unit and medical staff that can provide these services, but if not, patients are usually required to undergo detox treatment elsewhere to be medically cleared before getting admitted to the rehab facility.
Alcohol and benzodiazepines are some of the most dangerous substances to withdraw from. Symptoms can be life-threatening, so you should never attempt a self-detox. Opiates and stimulants can also be very difficult to detox from, with extremely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Clinical detox facilities can be expected to monitor symptoms and prescribe medications to ease the process and prevent health complications such as dehydration, irregular heart rate, and high blood pressure. Once the detox phase is over, that is when recovery work begins.
What to Expect from Inpatient Treatment
The level of care is usually determined by how severe the addiction is based on length of time, high-risk behaviors, type of drugs abused, and stability of the patient. Inpatient treatment is typically a shorter length of stay than residential, and the purpose is more geared toward medically stabilizing the patient and identifying coping strategies.
With inpatient drug rehab, patients can expect an introduction to behavioral therapy, a structured recovery program, and an individualized treatment plan. The expected length of stay is normally anywhere between one and three months, or however long is considered in the patient’s best interests for successful recovery.
What to Expect in Residential Treatment
Residential treatment tends to go for an extended length of time, which continues long after the patient has been medically stabilized. The time length varies, but some residential rehabs offer long-term stays between three and six months, or up to a year.
Residential treatment helps the patient acclimate to a sober lifestyle and get well established in therapy. Some rehabs follow the 12-step recovery model and encourage patients to work through the steps during their stay, as well as attend AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings. It also allows time for the clinical team to diagnose and treat co-occurring mental disorders that exacerbate substance use while helping patients identify their triggers, develop healthy coping skills, and address their emotional trauma.
What to Expect during Outpatient Treatment and Aftercare
In preparation for their discharge dates, patients usually work with clinicians and individual counselors on treatment goals and aftercare plans. An aftercare plan outlines goals for sobriety and strategies for relapse prevention. Recommendations are made for outpatient treatment, including individual and group counseling, recovery work with a sponsor, and follow-ups with a primary care doctor.
Outpatient treatment can be almost as structured as inpatient or residential, but the patient lives independently outside of a facility. Sometimes sober living is recommended as part of outpatient treatment if that is a feasible option. Patients can attend partial hospitalization programs (PHP), which can be up to five days per week in the mornings and afternoons, or intensive outpatient programs (IOP), which are a step down in intensity from PHP. Both programs can be expected to last from three months or longer, depending on the patient’s progress, and extent of their health insurance coverage.
Rehab Structure and Rules
Once the level of care that one can expect to receive at rehab is determined, they can plan accordingly. Although it is common for patients to not know their discharge date until after they have completed intake and had a full clinical assessment at rehab, it helps to have an approximate idea of what the length of stay will be. Rehabs usually provide specific lists of what personal items are not permitted, such as mouth wash, sharp objects, certain items of clothing, razors, and electronic devices. It helps to know what or what not to pack in preparation for going to rehab.
Rehab schedules tend to be highly structured, with clearly defined rules to follow and appointments to keep. The structure of rehab is designed to help patients feel settled and know what to expect each day without the familiar chaos of addiction.
Rehab rules can sometimes be surprising to new patients, such as no fraternization policies, which mean that patients of the opposite sex are supposed to have limited or no interactions. The purpose of this rule is to prevent patients from getting romantically involved with each other and getting distracted from their treatment.
Other rules can stipulate no violence or aggressive behaviors, no substance use on rehab property, no destruction of property, no use of cell phones, and adherence to specified phone times. Some rehabs have more rules and restrictions than others, and it is best to learn about the rules before committing to a short-term or long-term stay.
Going to Rehab with Positivity
Every rehab is different, but most patients should expect to have a roommate and spend a lot of time in group settings. Rehabs discourage patients from isolating, since many people isolate in their addiction.
Going to rehab can feel strange and uncomfortable for those who aren’t used to being around a lot of people. It is especially hard to be vulnerable around strangers who come from different backgrounds and have different substance use disorders. For those going to rehab for the first time, it can be an eye-opening experience that teaches tolerance, acceptance, humility, and gratitude.
For some, going to rehab is like starting over. It can be like the beginning of a challenging yet rewarding journey. The best approach is to embrace the experience and go into it with willingness, positivity, an open mind, and an open heart.