Rehab 101; what to expect

Rehab 101; What to Expect

Drug and alcohol rehab is an effective form of treatment for people who are struggling with substance addiction. Rehab can be a fairly intensive process and it’s important to understand as much as you can about rehab before signing yourself up.


This article explains everything that you’ll need to know about rehab. By the time you’re finished you’ll be able to decide for yourself what sort of treatment program you need and how you can go about applying for it.

What Is Rehab?

Rehab is a program designed to help rehabilitate drug and alcohol users. All rehab programs share a similar purpose: to help struggling drug and alcohol users develop the skills and techniques that they need to stay sober and live a successful life without relying on substances. 


Despite the fact that rehab companies share a similar goal, no two are exactly alike. Different rehab programs may offer different services and some may cater to specific populations. Understanding the differences between various rehab programs is important if you want to choose the program for you.


Rehab employs a number of different tools, classes, meetings, and gatherings in an effort to educate drug users and alcoholics. During your attendance to these classes you will be able to learn all that you need to return to life without the aid of drugs or alcohol.

Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab

There are two main forms of rehab: inpatient rehab and outpatient rehab. These two types of rehab vary significantly. While the end goal of each is the same – to have you return to life sober – each tackles the problem of addiction somewhat differently.


Inpatient rehab is a more intensive program, whereas outpatient is a program for people with less serious addictions. Each type of rehab has a number of benefits as well as a number of drawbacks and it’s a good idea to carefully consider both treatment options before signing up.

Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient rehab is a less intensive form of rehab. During outpatient rehab you will not be committed to the facility. In other words, as long as you make it to your scheduled meetings, therapy lessons and courses, you will be free to come and go from the facility as you please.


There are a number of benefits to this type of treatment, as well as a number of drawbacks.


Outpatient rehab pros:

  • During outpatient rehab you’re free to come and go from the facility. This allows you to maintain relationships with family members and friends during the course of your treatment.
  • During outpatient rehab you’ll be able to hold a job or continue going to school.
  • Outpatient rehab is generally more affordable when compared to the more intensive inpatient rehab.

Outpatient rehab cons:


  • Since you’re able to come and go from the facility, you will have nothing stopping you from a relapse. People attending outpatient rehab are able to continue socializing with friends who use drugs or alcohol and there is nothing stopping them from calling their dealer.
  • At outpatient rehab you won’t have access to medical professionals around-the-clock. This means that if you find yourself in a crisis situation you may not be able to reach out immediately.

Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehab is a more intensive form of rehab. Generally inpatient rehab is recommended for people who have serious addictions or for people who have failed to complete an outpatient program.


Because inpatient rehab is more intensive it generally has a higher success rate. However, there are also some disadvantages to this type of treatment program.


Inpatient rehab pros:


  • During inpatient rehab you will have access to medical professionals around the clock. They will be able to assist you during any crises, such as a psychological breakdown or some sort of medical emergency.
  • While you’re in rehab you’ll be surrounded by either addiction workers or other people who are interested in recovery. This keeps your focus on recovery and can make you more determined. 
  • Inpatient rehab prevents you from being able to relapse. Since you’re unable to leave the facility you’re also unable to pick up drugs or alcohol.


Inpatient rehab cons:


  • During inpatient rehab you won’t be able to keep up relationships with family members or friends. Visiting hours will be limited and you may not be allowed to use your cell phone at the facility.
  • Inpatient rehab is generally more expensive than outpatient rehab considering that your cost includes room and board.
  • You will have to take time off of school or work while you’re attending inpatient rehab.

Do I Need Rehab?

If you’re unsure of whether or not you need rehab it’s important to consider your current situation. If you’re experiencing any of the following then it might be a good idea for you to attend a rehab program.


  • You have noticed an increase in drug tolerance (needing more drugs or alcohol to achieve the same effect) or the onset of withdrawal symptoms

  • Your drug or alcohol use is having an adverse impact on your social life, your work life, or your school life

  • You are starting to notice physical or mental health problems as a result of your drug or alcohol use

  • You have made an effort to stop using drugs or alcohol but seem to find yourself unable to

  • You’re spending more money than you intend to on drugs or alcohol

  • Friends or family members have commented that you seem to have a problem with drugs or alcohol

  • You find that your behavior has changed for the worse because of drugs or alcohol

If you believe that any of the above statements are true, it’s worth your time to consider a rehab program. If this is the case you should decide whether or not you need to go to outpatient rehab or inpatient rehab.

Do I Need Inpatient or Outpatient?

Deciding between inpatient and outpatient rehab is one of the most important factors of your recovery. Inpatient and outpatient can both be effective, but to maximize their efficacy it’s important to make sure that you place yourself in the right program.

Do I Need Outpatient Rehab?

If you’re uncertain as to whether or not you should attend an outpatient program, consider the following statements. Compare them to the statements in the next section, Do I Need Inpatient Rehab? If more statements in this section are true then you may want to commit to an outpatient rehab program.


  • This is your first time trying to get sober from drugs or alcohol

  • You would not consider your drug or alcohol problem to be serious or life threatening

  • You are aware that your drug or alcohol use could cause problems in the future, but you have not experienced many of these problems yet

  • You want to stop your drug or alcohol use before it causes harm to you, your friends, or your family

Do I Need Inpatient Rehab?

As mentioned, inpatient rehab is a more intensive form of treatment. It is often more successful than outpatient rehab. However, many also consider it to be a last resort – something that may not be necessary, should outpatient rehab prove successful.


If some of the following statements apply to you then you might need inpatient rehab.


  • Your drug or alcohol addiction is serious (you experience withdrawal symptoms, have developed a significant tolerance, etc.)

  • Your drug or alcohol use has caused significant problems in your life

  • You have come to physical or mental harm as a direct result of your drug or alcohol use

  • Your employment or school has suffered as a result of your drug or alcohol use

  • You have tried to sober up with the help of outpatient rehab with no success

What Will I Experience in Rehab?

Once you have decided that you want to attend a rehab program, it’s a good idea to get a general idea of what to expect once you’re there. This section details some of the things that you will likely experience once you attend your rehab program.

Intake and Assessment

The first thing that you will experience during your recovery is an intake and assessment. This is a process detailed by the rehab facility that allows them to decide upon the best possible treatment for you.


During your intake and assessment you will likely be asked a number of questions that relate to your mental health, drug addiction, and personal history. The answers that you give to these questions will help the facilitator determine which counselors to match you with and what sort of program would be best for you.


In some cases the intake and assessment can be done over the phone. Other facilities prefer to do these assessments in person.


As a result of COVID-19, many rehab facilities have changed their intake and assessment protocol to include questions relating to an individual’s physical health and travel history. These questions help to determine if you pose the risk of introducing COVID-19 into the treatment facility.


Not everyone who attends rehab will have to go through a detox program. Detox is a program for people who are physically addicted to drugs or alcohol.


A medically supervised detox has a number of benefits, not the least of which is that it can save your life. If you are going to be quitting a drug like alcohol or benzodiazepines, withdrawal symptoms can put you at risk of death. These drugs affect a neurotransmitter known as GABA, and when the GABA system falls out of balance, seizures can result.


Withdrawal from drugs like opiates and amphetamines will not kill you, but it can certainly be uncomfortable. Many people find that they are prone to relapse during the initial withdrawal phase because the symptoms are so unpleasant. A medically supervised detox can help support you and, in serious cases, offer medication to help ease the worst of the symptoms.


Detox programs can vary in length depending on the severity of your addiction. Generally detox programs range from 3 to 14 days in length. 


Therapy is one of the core components of rehab. It is during therapy that you’ll learn most of the skills and techniques that you need to return to life as a sober member of your community. There are many different types of therapy that rehab companies offer. These are some of the most common.

Individual Therapy

During an individual therapy session you will be working one-on-one with your therapist. The purpose of these meetings is to help you to examine and understand yourself. The therapist will help guide you through a type of self-exploration during which you will get to understand yourself, your emotions, your triggers, and your addiction much better.


Many people struggle to overcome their addiction because they don’t understand it. Therapy provides you with an avenue by which you can understand your addiction and, therefore, gain power over it.


Your therapist will also likely have you identify your specific addiction triggers. These are cues (which can include emotional, environmental or social experiences) which make you feel like using drugs or alcohol.


After you have identified your triggers then your therapist will guide you through certain coping mechanisms that you can use to overcome them. By teaching you how to take power away from your triggers, your therapist will help you reduce the chance of relapse.


There are a number of different types of therapy that are offered at rehab. However, research seems to acknowledge that behavioral therapy is one of the most useful forms for managing addiction. Behavioral therapy can be applied in a large number of circumstances.


Therapy sessions may be held in your therapist’s office. They may also be held online, especially for those who may be at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Family Counseling

Many recovering users are surprised to find out that their family plays a large role in their addiction. Our upbringing and our relationship with our immediate family members influences our development as children. This plays into the way that we approach life as teenagers and adults.


Understanding the role that your family played in your emotional development can be tremendously helpful for overcoming addiction. Furthermore, family counseling can help you resolve long standing resentments or emotional traumas that may be contributing to your active addiction.


Family counseling also extends to the benefit of your family members. You may not realize, but your family members are likely affected by your addiction. By communicating with them in a therapeutic setting you may be able to resolve some difficulties, provide them with a sense of comfort, and develop more determination to overcome your addiction.


Your family will also have a chance to learn more about your addiction. This may provide them with the chance to communicate with you in a more effective manner.

Group Meetings

Group meetings are included in most rehab programs. Group meetings are held with other patients at the rehab facility. They may or may not be guided by a therapist or another facilitator, or they may be less structured.


The purpose of group meetings is to allow people in recovery the chance to communicate and connect with each other.


  • During group meetings you’ll be able to share your own personal experience with other recovering drug or alcohol users. This allows you to recognize that there are others who have been through similar experiences. This can be an empowering feeling. Knowing that you’re not going through this process alone provides reassurance.

  • Group meetings allow you the chance to receive advice and experience from other people. Many recovering users develop their own skills and techniques to work through their cravings and triggers. These can be immensely valuable pieces of information that you might not receive during individual therapy.


Aftercare planning involves creating a plan for continuing your recovery even after you have completed rehab. Your personal aftercare plan is usually put together by you and your therapist or counselor. Aftercare helps to reduce the chances of relapse.


There are a number of different things that may be included in your aftercare plan. Ultimately it depends on you, your current stage in recovery, and your personal needs. Common aftercare supports include:


  • Signing up for transitional housing. A transitional house or sober living home is a house occupied only by recovering drug users. They may be staffed by medical or mental health workers. These sober living homes allow you to focus on your recovery with others who are in a similar situation.

  • You may want to engage in follow-up therapy with your rehab counselor or another addiction therapist.

  • You may want to participate in routine medical checkups to ensure your good health.

  • You may be recommended to ongoing support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous

  • You may be guided through a plan to develop a safe living plan which involves distancing yourself from other drug users, finding new hobbies and activities, and building a life that doesn’t involve drugs or alcohol.


A Typical Day in Drug & Alcohol Rehab

This is an example of a common day during an inpatient rehab program.

Morning Time

Generally you will be awoken at an early hour. During inpatient rehab you will be given a healthy breakfast. Certain rehab programs allow you to participate in healthy morning activities such as yoga or meditation which can help promote focus throughout the day. The purpose of this is to help you develop healthy habits to replace your old ones.

You will likely start your meetings in the morning. Mornings often involve group meetings which are led by a therapist. These meetings help you find clarity and encourage your later discussions.


Some rehab programs offer their most intensive therapy and meetings during the afternoon. After fueling up during lunch time you will likely participate in one-on-one therapy with your addiction worker.

You may also be asked to attend another group meeting.


After you’ve had dinner you may have to attend another group meeting. Many rehab facilities offer 12-step meetings in the evening to help you maintain your focus and assess your current progress.

Bedtime is generally fairly early. This allows you to get a good sleep before waking up in the morning for your next day.

Free Time

You will have some free time throughout the day. Different rehabs schedule free time at different hours of the day. You will likely have a few hours of free time after your evening meeting and before bed. You may also have some free time in the afternoon.

During your free time you’ll be able to take advantage of whatever recreational facilities are available at the program. 


Rehab is a very useful program for anyone who wants to develop the skills to enjoy a sober, responsible life. Rehab programs differ and your individual experience will be tailored to your needs. 

If you think that you’re in need of a rehab program, don’t hesitate to reach out. Many people have made immensely positive changes in their lives thanks to dedicating themselves to a rehab program.

Related Posts

You guys care, you really do. This isn’t just a machine.

I feel like I’ve found somebody that was long lost and I’m still finding that person, and it’s a journey that I’m welcoming. I’ve gotten my life back and I’ve gotten my soul back.

Speak to an addiction specialist now

No commitment or obligation. All calls are kept 100% confidential.