Alcohol abuse rehab centers: What’s the process of rehab like?

Learn more about what to expect in rehab BEFORE you go. A review of typical stages of treatment here, with a section for your questions at the end.

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Are you getting ready to go to rehab?

Good for you!

We’ll help you get prepared. Here, we review the goals and expectations of alcohol rehab centers. Then, we invite your questions in the comments section at the end. In fact, we try to respond to all questions with a personal and prompt response.

Alcohol rehab: The main goals

While each individual in treatment will have specific long and short-term goals, all specialized substance abuse treatment programs have three similar generalized goals:

  1. Reducing drinking or achieving an alcohol-free life
  2. Maximizing multiple aspects of life functioning
  3. Preventing or reducing the frequency and severity of relapse

For most people, the primary goal of treatment is getting and staying sober, but this may take numerous attempts and failures at “controlled” use before you can find enough motivation for long term sobriety. Until you accept that a life of abstinence is necessary, many rehabs will try to minimize the effects of continuing use and abuse through three main therapies:

  • counseling
  • education
  • self-help groups

The idea is that you’ll want to reduce risky behavior, build new relationships with drug-free friends, change recreational activities and lifestyle patterns, and reduce the amount and frequency of consumption… but need to learn how. Alcohol abuse rehabs aim to teach you the “HOW” and “WHY” part of becoming sober. The ultimate goal? Having you , become individually responsibility for becoming abstinent. Total abstinence is strongly associated with a positive long-term prognosis.

Alcohol abuse rehab centers and the stages of treatment

All stages of alcohol treatment (early, middle, and late stage) differ generally. What can you expect during these stages?

What to expect in early treatment

In early treatment, expect to feel emotionally fragile, ambivalent about your choice to stop drinking, and resistant to treatment. Alcohol rehab should concentrate on the following during this time:

  • achieving abstinence
  • managing cravings (with medications, possibly)
  • preventing relapse

You’ll be working to establish a stable working group for therapy and working with an individual therapist during this time, too. Emotionally charged factors, such as catharsis and reenactment of family of origin issues, are deferred until later in treatment.

What to expect in the middle of alcohol rehab

In the middle, or action, stage of treatment, you’ll begin to examine (in detail) how drinking causes many of your problems and blocks you from getting things they want. During this time, you’ll need help managing loss and finding healthy substitutes for drinking. It’s like losing a lover, or a medicine, really. Often, people in rehab will need guidance in understanding and managing emotional life, as the alcohol no longer covers up problems from the past or present.

What to expect as you complete treatment

Late stage treatment spends less time on “substance abuse” per se and turns toward identifying the treatment gains to be maintained and risks that remain. You’ll celebrate your victories and plan for what’s next. During this stage, rehab centers will help you focus on the issues of:

  • adopting a more introspective, relational view of yourself
  • living (sober housing)
  • reducing shame
  • relapse prevention planning
  • resolving guilt
  • social or support services needed

Alcohol abuse rehab centers: Can you have visitors?

Yes, usually.

Alcohol rehab centers are divided into inpatient and outpatient programs. Inpatient programs require participants to live at the rehabilitation center for the duration of their treatment. Participants may or may not be allowed to leave the center or have visitors, depending on the specific center’s rules.

On the other hand, outpatient programs allow people to live at home and are less disruptive to your life. These programs are designed for recovering addicts who don’t need intensive interventions.

For the visitor: What are visits to a rehab centers like?

Visiting a person at an alcohol abuse facility will bring you real understanding on how recovering addicts cope with alcoholism. You may be introduced to the concept of the “disease model” of addiction and spend time in both educational sessions and family therapy.  Alcohol abuse rehab centers create a sense of community and closeness for your loved one through various activities and counseling.

A typical day at a residential rehab comprises of:

a) Waking up at the same time, and then eating breakfast.
b) The counselor gathers the group and discuss about the daily activities and objectives.
c) Usually after the meeting there is a form of ‘treatment’ varying on the condition. Treating includes group therapy in behavioral, educational, or therapeutic topics. Some individuals may need medication for their addiction so they will briefly move to a separate room where they are given the prescribed dose. Around the same period, an individual session with therapist is organized.
e) In the afternoon lunch will be served usually followed by a lecture.
f) After lunch, patients have free time to exercise, take a walk, or go to the gym.
g) In the evening, Dinner is served. Following dinner patients will attend a program similar to a typical 12 step program such as NA or AA.

When you go in a visit, you will probably be searched on your belongings to assure that you don’t bring any drugs, alcohol, or pills (sometimes even your cell phone) into the rehab center. Many times, visits are formal and will be arranged with a family counselor.

Alcohol abuse rehab questions

Do you have a better feel for what happens in alcohol rehab? Do you still have a question?

We are here to provide you with Q&A regarding process or expectations of alcohol abuse rehab centers. We welcome your questions and comments in the section below. And we will try to respond to you ASAP!

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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