Struggling with drug and alcohol abuse can be a scary situation for anyone, but when someone is finally ready to get help with their addiction they might ask: What is rehab like? The answer to that question can depend on a few different factors, but the bottom line is that it is not as scary as you may think. In reality, a drug and alcohol rehab program is a safe and comfortable environment which is there to help people get over their drug and alcohol addictions and learn to live a clean and sober life.
There are a number of different types and specialized forms of rehab facilities which may have differences which can include the living arrangements and accommodations to the types of therapists and treatment methods that they offer. When deciding on a rehab it is usually best to do some research in order to make sure that the program you are choosing is the best fit for you or your loved one.
This search for a rehabilitation program can be a scary and mysterious process for anyone, as most people find it difficult to envision leaving their life of drugs or alcohol behind and leaving their care in the hands of a residential facility. While this anxiety is completely normal, this guide is to help remove some of the mystery behind what a rehab facility is like and help make the process easier for future patients.
What is rehab like? [Calling the facility]
The first step in the process typically involves calling the rehab facility and speaking to an admissions coordinator. This person is the first point of contact for every patient and their job is to make you feel welcome and begin the process of your admission. Typically the admission call will last around 30 minutes and will include all of the pre-admissions processes such as.
- Initial consultation
- Clinical/Medical pre-screening
- Insurance verification
- Intake scheduling
- Transportation arrangements
During this process the admissions coordinator will ask you questions about your history of substance use, any previous treatment experiences, your current support network and living situation, as well as your goals for treatment. With this information the admissions counselor will help you decide on the best treatment program to meet your needs, which may include detox, residential, outpatient or all of the above.
Once the proper treatment program has been mapped out, they will continue to work with your needs to schedule transportation and an intake time/day which works with your situation and needs. They are also there to answer any questions you have about the facility and to help you prepare for your stay in treatment by advising you on what to bring and what not to bring. Above all, they are there to help you get excited and motivated about treatment and your first step towards a new, exciting and sober life!
What is rehab like? [Getting to the facility]
Arriving at the facility can happen a number of ways. Your admissions coordinator will evaluate your situation in order to help you decide on the most appropriate way for you to get to the facility. If you are going to a local rehab, you may want family to bring you there so they can meet the staff and tour the facility with you prior to your intake. This is an option that many people choose, however there are some people who prefer that the facility pick them up and bring them to the facility. Most programs offer transportation options to the facility where they pick you up from your home and bring you directly to the facility. This is often a prudent choice as the drive to the facility offers you a chance to meet another staff member and ask them more questions about the facility, getting comfortable with them and the program before you even arrive.
Many people also choose to go to rehab programs which are not in their home state. This has been shown to increase overall success rates considerably as patients who attend treatment out of their local area are less at risk for leaving early due to a craving to get high. If you are going to rehab out of state, your admissions coordinator will help arrange and transportation needs once you arrive by making sure that a staff member is waiting for you at the airport or bus station to pick you up and bring you directly to the facility.
What is rehab like? [Intake process]
Once you arrive at the facility the staff will greet you and give you an extensive tour of the facilities and introduce you to the rest of the staff. This will allow you to begin to get comfortable with your surroundings before beginning your intake. As soon as the tour is completed the intake coordinator will bring you to the intake office and begin your intake process. This will last anywhere between 1 to 2 hours and will include:
- Extensive substance use history
- Explanation of the structure, daily schedule and program rules
- Completing insurance and consent to treat paperwork
- Matching you with a primary therapist based on your needs
- Answering any questions you may have
During the intake process the intake counselor will ask some questions about your history in order to make sure that they are able to match you with the most appropriate therapist. While these questions are not designed to make you feel uncomfortable, you by no means are obligated to answer anything that you do not feel comfortable talking about. The main goal of the intake process is to make sure that as much information as possible is gathered at the beginning of your treatment in order to best personalize your treatment plan and treatment team to make sure that your experience in treatment is the most effective it can be.
What is rehab like? [Medical evaluation and detox]
Once you have completed your intake, the next step is to meet the medical staff so they can assess your medical needs and help you with any potential detox or withdrawal symptoms. One of the scariest parts of getting clean can be worrying about the uncomfortable symptoms that can arise when someone stops using drugs or alcohol. This is why the medical staff is here to help. They will do a physical examination, checking things like blood pressure and heart rate, as well as look at your substance use in order to implement a medical treatment protocol.
Depending on your situation, this may or may not include the use of some detox medications to help you stay comfortable and safe for the first few days of your treatment while the drugs or alcohol are leaving your system. Everyone experiences detox differently, but the most important thing to remember is that the medical staff is there to help you with any symptoms and concerns you may have. Just remember, you are in good hands.
Most people will be in the detox portion of treatment for anywhere from 1 to 10 days. During this time you will be medically observed and evaluated regularly to make sure that the medical treatment plan which was created for you is being effective. Some people may feel well enough to begin to participate in some group or individual activities at this time. If so, that’s great! The earlier you can get involved in your recovery the better, however if you are not physically up for it quite yet don’t worry. The main goal of detox is to get you feeling healthy and ready to join the rest of the program.
What is rehab like? [Orientation and clinical evaluation]
As soon as you are feeling better physically, the doctor will evaluate you and medically clear you from detox. This means that they feel you are ready to leave the detox portion of treatment and join the rest of the group in the main program. It is at this time that you will be taken to your room in the residential portion of the program and introduced to the rest of the patients. Some rehab programs have individual rooms, but most have rooms which are double occupancy in order to give you a person to get to know and interact with.
Some people are afraid of meeting the other patients in a rehab program, not knowing what to think, but the most important thing to remember is that they are here to get help with their substance abuse problems just like you. Many people establish lifelong friendships with some of the people that they attend treatment with, and those friendships can be a huge asset to a person’s long-term recovery.
This is also when you will begin to meet with your primary individual therapist. During the first meeting the therapist will most likely ask you some more in-depth questions about your history. These questions are designed to help the therapist decide on what different forms of therapy are going to be most effective for you. For many people it is in these individual sessions that they make some of the most profound breakthroughs about themselves and the root of their substance abuse, so go in with an open mind and everything should be fine.
What is rehab like? [Individual and group therapy]
Depending on how long of a treatment program you have entered, your daily schedule may vary a bit. However one thing that is quite constant across most treatment programs is the utilization of daily activities such as individual therapy sessions, group therapy sessions and support group meetings. Your individual sessions can range from being once a week to every day depending on the program you have chosen and your specific needs and usually consist of highly individualized forms of treatment designed to address your areas of concern.
Along with the individual programs, you will also be participating in group therapy and support groups. It is very normal for people to be apprehensive about these group sessions, fearing the need to open up in front of strangers. That is okay! You will not have to begin to share with others until you are ready. Sometimes patients will become comfortable with their peers very quickly and begin sharing within the first day, but sometimes this process can take a week or so. No matter how long it takes you to get comfortable with sharing, just remember that everyone’s journey in treatment is different and as long as you are trying then you are doing great!
Along with individual and group therapy programs, many programs also offer various other daily or weekly activities which can include:
- Equine therapy
- Art therapy
These are just a few of the things that can be offered, and there is also some time to relax and clear your mind. During this free time you are free to do things like watch TV, call your family, go swimming, or read.
What is rehab like? [Aftercare planning]
As you continue your treatment program you will also begin meeting with a case manager or discharge planner. Their job is to make sure that you have a solid plan for once you leave treatment. This aftercare plan is often times just as crucial as your inpatient treatment, as the first few months after completing a rehabilitation program are the most common time for a relapse. However, don’t let that scare you or discourage you, most people who have a good aftercare plan and follow it closely are able to continue to be successful and stay sober outside of treatment.
Your case manager will talk with you about your goals, your outside support network and your options for after treatment. While everyone’s situation is different, the most common suggestions for aftercare include at least 2-3 months in a sober living environment and an intensive outpatient program (IOP). Most residential programs have their own IOP classes for their alumni, and your case manager can help set your transition up for you.
If you are from out of state, then the case manager will help find you a sober living and/or IOP program in your home city for you to transition to. The most important thing to remember when planning your aftercare is that it is only a short investment in time to make sure that you are able to translate the multitude of things that you learned in inpatient rehab into your everyday life.