Alcohol abuse rehabilitation centers: What’s it like?

A basic guide on what you can expect if you’re planning to go to a rehab for drinking problems. Your questions are welcomed at the end.

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This main goal of any rehabilitation process is becoming substance-free. But, this step is only a beginning in your new sober life.

What can you expect during a stay in an alcohol abuse rehab center? What’s the inner process like? We review here. Then, we invite your questions about what happens during rehab at the end.

Alcohol abuse rehabilitation centers: Can you have visitors?

Yes, you can have visitors during your stay at rehab.

Visits from your loved ones will help restore relationships, establish healthy communication, and provide support. Alcohol rehabs have different visitation procedures, but most of them do not allow patients to contact anyone for their first week of treatment in hopes to adjust to their new environment and settle in.

Since alcohol rehab is a time to focus and truly look into one’s self, most facilities have designated visiting hours. Sobriety and recovery is a personal matter, so establishing boundaries with family members allows your to further your growth and establish self-esteem, accountability and responsibility.

For the visitor: What are visits to a rehabilitation center like?

Research shows that visits from friends and family are important supports to people during their stay; they help to reduce anxiety and isolation and to improve healing and recovery.

A visit to a rehab center will most likely be highly structured. Many rehabs offer educational sessions to family so that you can first understand more about addiction. You may be invited to join a family therapy session with your loved one, or to participate in a fun activity.

Often, visits can be very emotional. Know that rehab offer support and you will not be asked to participate in activities that make you feel too uncomfortable. Ask for help from rehab staff anytime you feel overwhelmed.

The stages of treatment: The inner process

We are sure that many of you are wondering what is the alcohol rehabilitation process like? To help you be prepared and know what to expect we decided to outline the three (3) general rehab stages. The first thing that you need to know about rehab is that progress through the stages of recovery from alcoholism is not timebound. Each stage of treatment (early, middle, and late stage) will be based on your individual case, which therapies are most effective for you, and your own internal timeline. In fact, some people go through a 28 day rehab, while others need 3 to 6 to 12 months before they leave. Still, the major stages of change remain the same for everyone.

What are the major stages of treatment?

1. Early alcoholism treatment – During the initial stage of treatment, therapists help you acknowledge and understand how alcohol abuse has dominated and damaged your life.

During this time, you will go through detox from alcohol and be exposed to group and individual therapies. Keep in mind that cognitive impairment from alcohol is at its most severe in these early stages of recovery. So, in the early stage of treatment, you may not be ready for total change. You may be feeling ambivalent about quitting drinking. You may tend to be rigid in your thinking and limited in your ability to solve problems. Even those who sincerely intend to remain sober can be shaky in this phase of recovery.

2. Middle stage of alcoholism treatment – In the middle stage of treatment, you take action and tackle major life issues.

Often, you can struggle with issues related to alcohol dependency for a few weeks to several months after you first enter rehab. You may need lots of help maintaining behavioral changes throughout the middle, or action, stage of treatment. Issues will come up related to your childhood, past trauma, or negative patterns in your life. This is why group educational, process, and support groups are critical during this time.

In fact, interpersonal process groups are particularly helpful in the middle stage of treatment, because the authentic relationships within the group enable you to experience and integrate a wide range of emotions in a safe environment.
You will continue to see an individual therapist and resolve underlying trauma which caused you to start drinking.

Cognitive capacity usually begins to return to normal in the middle stage of treatment. Therapists will work with you to strengthen your motivation for change. The goal during this phase of recovery is to help people perceive the causal relationship between alcohol abuse and current problems in their lives. You will probably start to learn to differentiate, identify, name, tolerate, and communicate feelings. You may even feel more confident in expressing and exploring them.

3. Late stages of treatment – During the late stage of treatment, you work to sustain personal growth AND learn to anticipate/avoid relapse.

When the internalized pain of the past is starting to resolve, you can then begin to understand and experience healthy mutual relationships. You learn to resolve conflicts without the influence of alcohol. If the underlying conflicts are left unresolved, however, keep in mind that you are at increased risk of other compulsive behavior, such as excessive exercise, overeating, gambling, or excessive sexual activity.

More and more, alcohol abuse rehabs help prepare you for the possibility of relapse and help you understand and avoid dangerous “triggers” of resumed drinking or drug use. You will be taught how to recognize cues, how to handle craving, how to develop contingency plans for handling stressful situations, and what to do if there is a “slip.”  So, to deter relapse, you work to identify and cut out the systems that once promoted your drinking.

What else do you need to know about alcohol abuse treatment?

Most people who go through alcohol abuse treatment have multiple and complex problems in many aspects of living, including:

  • medical illnesses
  • mental illnesses
  • disrupted relationships
  • underdeveloped or deteriorated social skills
  • underdeveloped or deteriorated vocational skills
  • impaired performance at work or in school
  • legal trouble
  • financial troubles

These conditions may have contributed to the initial development of a alcohol use problem or resulted from the disorder.

Rehabs help you in resolving these problems so that you can assume appropriate and responsible roles in society. This entails maximizing physical health, treating independent psychiatric disorders, improving psychological functioning, addressing marital or other family and relationship issues, resolving financial and legal problems, and improving or developing necessary educational and vocational skills. Many programs also help participants explore spiritual issues and find appropriate recreational activities.

Alcohol abuse rehabilitation questions

Do you have a a question about alcohol abuse treatment? Need help for alcohol addiction? Please leave your comments in the section below. We’ll do our best to respond to you personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: NCBI: Specialized Substance Abuse Treatment Programs
NCBI: Stages of Treatment
Ottawa hospital: Visiting Hours & Guidelines


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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