Drug and alcohol rehab centers: What to expect?

Rehab centers usually follow the same timeline of intake assessment, detox, treatment, and aftercare. Learn how to prepare for a drug or alcohol rehab center here, and ask your questions at the end.

minute read

Q: What can you expect at a rehab center?
A: A community of like minded people who want the best for you.

More here on the protocols of addiction treatment. We outline what you can expect from an alcohol or drug rehab treatment. Then, we invite your questions at the end.

What to expect during drug and alcohol rehab

There are a couple of main types of rehab programs currently operating throughout the U.S. Inpatient rehab centers require people to stay in the treatment facility during the course of their treatment. Outpatient rehab, on the other hand, does not require this. Instead, you are free to stay in your own home and attend weekly therapy and counseling sessions.

All drug and alcohol rehab centers share some similar traits. For instance, most rehabs offer most – if not all – of the following services to their clients. But, if you’d like to learn more about what drug rehab centers include, click on the link to explore more and continue reading the text.

Screening and assessment

An initial screening and assessment is usually performed upon entrance to a drug and alcohol rehab center. This gives rehab staff (usually a combination of psychologists, psychiatrists, licensed clinical social works, and/or nurses) a chance to diagnose addiction as well as any other underlying mental disorders. Addiction care plans are usually created during this evaluation.

Medical detox

Individuals who are drug or alcohol dependent are encouraged to go through medical detox. During medical detox, you are monitored 24-7 by doctors and nurses as you go through withdrawal. This helps make withdrawal slightly more comfortable, minimizes the risk of relapse, and ensures that you have the help you need in the event of a medical emergency.

If you are planning to attend an outpatient program, you may need to go through a private medical detox program first. Many inpatient rehab centers include detox as a pre-requisite treatment before program entry and offer this service on-site.


If there’s one service that recovering addicts and alcoholics can expect during drug and alcohol rehab, it’s psychotherapy. Treatment for drug and alcohol addiction generally include individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy. There are many different types of therapy available, which usually include some form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or other behavioral treatments.


“Pharmacotherapy” is a fancy word for ‘medication’. Some people respond well to medications that are used to treat addiction while others may not need medications at all. Medicines for drug or alcohol addiction are not used as stand alone “cures” for addiction, but have shown best results when used in combination with psychotherapy.

Medications used during addiction treatment work in different ways. Some reduce cravings, while others block the pleasure obtained from drinking or doing drugs or even create an extremely unpleasant feeling when a person drinks or does drugs. Medications are also prescribed to treat underlying mental health disorders and might include antidepressants, anti-anxiety, or other psychoactive medicines.

Educational sessions

In order to be better equipped to beat an addiction, a person must understand it. During drug or alcohol rehab you will probably also attend several education sessions on the nature of drug/alcohol use and its effects on the brain. These are designed to help you learn how addiction works and how you can overcome it.

Additional Services

Drug and alcohol rehab centers often offer people in all stages of recovery a great deal of support. This may range from vocational and educational support to emotional support. Many also even offer financial support to those who are unable to pay for some or all of treatment. In addition to supervising your treatment plan, a rehab center will also help you transition to aftercare.

Can you leave drug and alcohol rehab before completion?

The short answer to this question is yes – you can leave rehab before completion. No one is ever forced to stay in treatment if they don’t want to, since this is typically counter productive. However, recovering addicts who want to leave addiction treatment early are strongly encouraged to stay.

Addicts and alcoholics who do not complete rehab are not usually completely prepared to deal with the stresses that may trigger drinking. They will often find themselves tempted by drugs and alcohol, and many will end up relapsing a short time after they quit treatment.

Visiting someone in drug and alcohol rehab centers

Support from loved ones is important during rehab. So, what can you expect when visiting someone in a drug and alcohol rehab center?

Drug and alcohol rehab centers have different policies on visitation. Some facilities may only allow a few hours of visitation on designated days, while others may allow weekend visits for very close family members. When visiting someone in rehab, it’s important to know the rules beforehand. Speak with an addiction counselor before your visit and find out what you’re not allowed to bring and what behaviors you must refrain from. Also, be prepared to leave personal belongings with staff members or be searched for any drug or alcohol paraphernalia.

During a visit, you may be invited or encouraged to participate in addiction education or family therapy sessions. It’s often a good idea to participate in these sessions to show your support and be able to understand addiction better. By doing so, you’ll be better prepared to help your loved one through recovery.

Aftercare: What to expect after drug and alcohol rehab?

Addiction recovery should be viewed as a long-term process. In fact, completing a rehab program is often just the beginning for many people who want to lead a drug-free life. After drug and alcohol rehab, you are encouraged to continue self-development. Specifically, you will want to look into:

  • Family counseling
  • Individual psychotherapy
  • Outpatient rehab
  • Transitional housing: 1/2 or 3/4 way houses

Note here that it will be very important to continue attending outpatient therapy sessions. This helps you continue to learn coping mechanisms which may help prevent relapses. Addiction can also take a toll on close relationships. After drug and alcohol rehab, recovering addicts and their loved ones can benefit from family therapy. This can be a start to mending broken relationships and rebuilding trust.

Drug and alcohol rehab expectations

Drug and alcohol rehab can be an intimidating process for anyone. After you have gathered all necessary information about what drug rehab is, you are ready to begin the process. It takes a great deal of strength and courage to take the first step and enter rehab.

If you or a loved one is considering drug and alcohol rehab, don’t hesitate to leave your questions and concerns in the comments section below. We strive to help all of our readers and their families address addictions and start leading happier, healthier lives.

Get Personalized Addiction Treatment Text Support

Receive 24/7 text support right away and at your convenience. There is no obligation to enter treatment and you can opt out at any time.

Want to get help, but not ready to talk? Instead, sign up for text support to receive:
  • Resources about addiction and recovery
  • Information about our treatment process
Reference Sources: NIDA: Treatment approaches
Department of Child Welfare: Chapter 5 on Substance Abuse
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: Substance Abuse
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.
I am ready to call
i Who Answers?