Alcohol addiction rehab: What’s the process like?

Are you considering a stay at an alcohol rehab? We review what happens during treatment here. Then, we invite your questions at the end.

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Q: Are you getting ready to enter rehab?

If so, you’re probably wondering what might happen. To help you de-mystify the process, we review what you can expect: from assessment to aftercare. More on what happens during alcohol addiction rehab here, with a section at the end for your questions.

Alcohol addiction rehab main goals

The main goals of a stay in an alcohol rehab can include:

  1. Achieving abstinence
  2. Active participation in support systems
  3. Behavioral changes that support abstinence and a new lifestyle
  4. Developing a positive support network
  5. Identifying and addressing a wide range of problems (housing, employment, probation requirements)
  6. Improved problem solving skills and coping strategies
  7. Relapse prevention

The great thing about alcohol addiction rehabs is that they can motivate you to stay sober, help you succeed in reaching recovery milestones, and provide incentives to grow and progress.

Alcohol addiction rehab and the stages of treatment

Alcohol addiction treatment often is delivered in sequential stages, with more intense treatment offered at the beginning of your stay. With progress, treatment intensity and duration usually taper off over the course of several weeks or months. As rehab services taper, you then assume increasing responsibility and are provided with less structure and supervision from treatment staff. But what happens during alcohol treatment?

Mostly, rehab daily activities comprise of:

1.  Waking up at the same time, and then eating breakfast.
2.  Gender based group meetings led by staff/counselors during which you discuss the daily activities and objectives.
3.  Usually after the meeting there is a form of ‘treatment’ varying on the condition. Some individuals may need medication for their addiction so they will briefly move to a separate room where they are given the prescribed dose.
4.  Around the same period, an individual session with a psychotherapist is organized, depending on the specific case.
5.  In the afternoon, Lunch will be served usually followed by a lecture or educational session.
6.  After lunch, you usually have a couple of hours of free time, so you can have a meeting with a family member or friend, take a walk or go to the gym.
7.  In the evening, Dinner is served. Following dinner, you will attend a program similar to a typical 12 step program such as NA or AA.

Further, alcohol treatment can be broken down into four sequential stages that you work through, regardless of the level of care at which you enter treatment. These include:

Stage 1 – Beginning of treatment

One of the most critical phases of rehab is when you first get there. You will be assessed for alcohol dependence, physical health, and medical/family history. You will be asked questions in an interview format and be asked to submit urine or blood testing. Additionally, you may need to go through alcohol withdrawal in a medical detox setting. If the rehab does not offer detox services, they will refer you to an outside clinic.

After initial screening and detox processes, you will be encouraged to accept a proposed treatment plan. During this initial stage of addiction treatment, rehab staff will work to create an individualized treatment program for you. With a plan in hand, you will know just about how long it’s recommended you stay in treatment, what types of modalities you’ll receive, and which issues you’ll be working on.

Then, you will start attending individual and group therapy sessions and/or educational session on the nature of addiction. During this time, you have to ask yourself one question: “Am I on board with treatment?” Many people drop out of rehab after attending only a few sessions. But this does not have to be you!

Stage 2 – Early recovery

This stage of alcohol addiction treatment is highly structured with individual counseling, educational activities, group involvement, and behavioral therapy which aim to help you develop communication skills, recovery skills, address psycho-emotional issues, and build a substance-free lifestyle. You will learn the program rules and expectations and stabilize any crises.

Stage 3 – Maintenance

The maintenance stage of rehab happens after several weeks in treatment. You build on gains made during stages 1 and 2. The goals, duration, activities, and completion criteria of this stage of treatment are:

  • continue on a path of abstinence
  • practice relapse prevention skills
  • improve emotional functioning
  • broaden sober social networks
  • address other problem areas

Stage 4 – Community support

The community support stage occurs towards the end of your stay in rehab. It is based on a detailed and individualized discharge plan for continuing recovery in the community using available resources. You will create a relapse prevention plan and may be recommended to any of the following services:

  • continued individual psychotherapy
  • continued outpatient rehab treatment
  • local support group attendance
  • rehab-specific alumni aftercare
  • sober or transitional housing

Alcohol addiction rehab: Can you have visitors?

Visits in alcohol rehab centers are allowed. Support given from loved ones is important because it increases motivation and responsibility to the person in rehab. It helps to improve the healing process and reduces the feeling of isolation.

In most alcohol addiction rehab centers, visiting periods are time limited. Visitors are usually allowed after completion of the first few weeks of treatment. Visits occur on the weekends and may include family therapy session. This limitation can give to people time for adaptation to the new conditions and environment.

For the visitor: What are visits to rehab like?

It is best to determine the time of your visit with rehab first, so that they will be prepared for you. The number of visitors that is appropriate should be determined in discussion with your loved one’s counselor. If you are planning to visit your loved one, make sure that you don’t bring any psychoactive substances with you (alcohol, medications, drugs), because your belongings will probably be searched.

During a visit, you can expect planned and supervised activities in order to help the recovering process. Educational sessions on the disease model of addiction can help you understand drinking problems. You’ll be walked through the treatment philosophy, and what you can do to help your loved one after rehab. This can help family members and friends have better insight how to best assist the recovery process.

Alcohol abuse rehabilitation questions

Have an experience of or a question about alcohol abuse rehabilitation treatment? Need help for alcohol addiction? Please leave your comments and questions in the section below. We’ll do our best to respond to you personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: SAMHSA: Behavioral Health Treatments and Service
NCBI: Intensive Outpatient Treatment and the Continuum of Care
Mass: Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center
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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