Long-term alcohol rehab: How long?

A look into how you can decide on ideal treatment length for an alcohol problem. Plus, where to seek help and what you can expect during the process.

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What is “long-term” rehab?

Long-term alcohol rehab is considered to be alcohol rehab that lasts more than three months. These longer rehab programs give recovering alcoholics more time to focus on treatment.

But who benefits most from long-term stays?
What happens during treatment?
And what can you expect when rehab ends?

More here on what to expect during a long-term stay in rehab. Plus, a section at the end for your questions. In fact, we welcome your questions. We try to answer all real-life situations with a personal response.


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Who benefits most?

Long-term alcohol rehab is best for individuals with serious alcohol addictions and for those who are completely unable to control their drinking. It can also be helpful for people who need an immediate change in environment due to lack of support at home. This length of stay can also be helpful for people who were unsuccessful in their attempts to quit drinking in the past, or for those who need increased focus after attending less intense or short-term alcohol rehab.

REMEMBER: A drinking issue is a medical issue. Alcohol problems respond to medical treatment. As such, it is best to seek trained, professional help in order to overcome a problem with alcohol. You are not alone!

How do you know long-term is right for you?

The length of time a person must spend in alcohol rehab is usually recommended after an initial assessment of a drinking problem. Not everyone respond the same way to different treatment program lengths, and choosing the right program length for you is critical.

So, what determines this very important decision? The length of alcohol rehab stay can depend on sever factors, including:

  • the level of severity of a drinking problem
  • your financial situation
  • your personal preferences
  • your need for a suitable recovery environment

For many people, though, choosing a long-term alcohol rehab program of at least 90 days is often the best bet to making a successful recovery. In fact, research has shown that successful outcomes increase when a person commits to 2-3 months of addiction treatment. So, if you’re serious about getting sober…a long-term stay could be right for you.

Long-term alcohol rehab duration

Different alcohol rehab programs were designed for different situations. Each different type of rehab program varies in duration. Some of the most common types of long-term alcohol rehab and their durations are listed below.

Classic rehab duration – A traditional inpatient alcohol rehab program will usually last roughly a month, or – more specifically – 28 days. Depending on a person’s individual needs and situation, they can last up to a few months.

Inpatient long-term duration – For more severe alcohol addictions, a long-term alcohol rehab program is usually recommended. Long-term alcohol rehab program durations can range from a few months to a year or longer.

Outpatient duration – An intensive outpatient program (IOP) for alcohol addiction could be the answer for people who are unable to commit to inpatient treatment. The duration of these long-term alcohol rehab programs is usually between 12 to 16 weeks, with additional time required for aftercare and maintenance. Often, outpatient programs extend for a year or two after treatment in order to help maintain healthy abstinence.

Short term vs. long term

It can be a difficult decision to enter long-term alcohol rehab. The short-term vs. long-term treatment decision should be made with the help of an addiction specialist or other mental health professional. Not everyone is suited for or needs long-term alcohol rehab, but many do. Who can help provide professional advice?

Any of the following medical professionals can help assess an alcohol problem. They are also capable of making a preliminary suggestion for rehab duration. Short or long-term stays can be recommended by:

  • A Medical Doctor who specializes in addiction
  • A Licensed Clinical Social Worker
  • A Licensed Clinical Psychologist
  • A Psychiatrist

Overall, individuals who are diagnosed with severe alcohol addictions should consider a long-term alcohol rehab solution. This includes people who are:

  1. physically dependent on alcohol
  2. can not control their drinking
  3. experiencing several problems in their lives because of their drinking

A handful of individuals with drinking problems, on the other hand, may benefit from short-term treatment solutions, such as the traditional 28 day treatment model. These include people who are at the beginning stages of an alcohol problem. They might start blacking out during drinking, but have not yet become alcohol-dependent. Oftentimes, though, this short treatment length is not enough time to tackle and overcome a chronic alcohol addiction.

Long-term alcohol rehab average time

The traditional 28 day alcohol rehab model is just as it sounds. It requires roughly a month long stay in an inpatient rehab facility. The problem with this treatment model is that 28 days is not always enough time to conquer an alcohol problem. Many studies have shown that short-term treatment is less effective than long-term treatment, which has an average time of three months to a year. For example, one study has shown that 15% of recovering alcoholics in treatment for less than 90 days relapsed within a year, while only 9% of those in treatment for over 90 days relapsed within a year.

Long-term alcohol rehab has a number of advantages over short-term alcohol rehab. First and foremost, a change of environment for an extended period of time is one of the biggest advantages of long-term alcohol rehab. Alcoholics who are away from the temptations of alcohol have more time to focus on treatment and recovery. The treatment in a long-term alcohol rehab program is also usually more intense. Plus, treatment is reinforced by community participation.  This enables people to gather necessary resources and to practice sobriety in safety.

Long-term rehab timeline

It’s difficult to put one general time-frame on something as individual as an alcohol use problem. Each person is different and may require different sets of interventions and therapy approaches in rehab…all of which have a different duration of time. So, the answer to how long does alcohol rehabilitation take is: It depends!

However, whether you choose a short-term or long-term alcohol rehab, each alcohol rehab program typically offers the following list of treatment options and services.

STAGE 1: Assessment and evaluation

An initial assessment and evaluation will be performed when you enter any rehab program, and periodic assessments will be performed as you go through treatment. These are used to initially determine the extent of your addiction and create an individualized treatment plan, and to track your progress throughout treatment.

STAGE 2: Medical detox & Pharmacotherapy

The initial alcohol withdrawal that many people experience when they stop drinking is often very uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous. To prevent potential health complications, you may be encouraged to enter a medical detox program, where you can be monitored by medical professionals, before entering treatment.

Further, some medications may be helpful during treatment. Medications used to treat alcohol addiction are designed to ease withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings for alcohol, or produce an unpleasant reaction when alcohol is consumed. Not everyone needs medications to treat alcoholism, but those with more severe addictions may find them very useful.

STAGE 3: Psychological treatments

The main treatment methods used during most alcohol rehab programs are based on psychological treatments. While in an alcohol rehab program, you will most likely be required to undergo individual behavior therapy as well as group therapy. Many recovering alcoholics and their loved ones are also usually encouraged to participate in family counseling sessions during recovery as well.

STAGE 4: Supportive services

Most people need a great deal of support in a number of areas during treatment and recovery. Reputable rehab facilities will typically offer a variety of supportive services to alcoholics in recovery, including emotional, vocational, and legal support. A good rehab will also help you transition from treatment back into a stable living environment upon program completion.

Long-term alcohol rehab time

If you have an alcohol problem and are considering entering long-term alcohol rehab, time should not be wasted. Getting treatment for an alcohol problem early greatly increases the chances of a successful recovery. If you have any other questions about treatment and long-term alcohol rehab time, feel free to leave any questions below. We’ll do our best to answer to address each of your concerns in a timely manner.

Reference Sources: NIDA: FAQs about treatment length
Psych Central
Alcoholism About Treatment FAQs
Michael’s House: Facts about treatment
NIDA: Typicla length of a therapeutic community
NCBI: Chapter 4. Services in Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs
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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