What to Expect in Drug and Alcohol Rehab

what to expect in drug and alcohol rehab

What to Expect in Drug and Alcohol Rehab

Entering an alcohol or drug rehab center program can be a daunting process. For many, fears about what to expect in rehab become intertwined with the anticipated physical and mental difficulties that come with detoxing from drugs and alcohol.  Without a doubt, rehab can be a difficult process that will present unique challenges to each individual.  However, knowledge of the process can help alleviate some of the anxiety that comes with the unknown.  

In this article, we’ll outline some of the basic steps and processes that you can expect when you or a loved one enters a drug and alcohol rehab center.  This will be a broad overview due to the unique nature of many treatment plans.  While the individual processes may differ, this overview can give you or your loved one some idea of what to expect and how to prepare for your journey.

Forming a Treatment Plan

The first step drug or alcohol treatment is undergoing a diagnosis and crafting a treatment plan with a qualified medical professional.  An accurate diagnosis will allow the medical professional to create a targeted treatment plan that will address the unique needs of you or your loved one.




This treatment plan will take into account the nature of you or your loved one’s addiction, lifestyle, and personality to craft a customized treatment plan that offers the best chances of a successful recovery.  A medical professional will guide you by making recommendations for treatment options, and outline those options and what they entail.  This is a critical step for addicts and their loved ones, as it outlines the path they will be taking towards recovery.  

It is important when crafting your treatment plan to be forthcoming with any questions or concerns you have, as this can help alleviate anxiety while also providing some insight into the treatment plan methodology and philosophy. It is also important to ask about what resources are available both during, and after, your rehab.  

These will typically vary depending on if rehab is conducted in an inpatient or outpatient treatment program setting.  Lastly, ensure that your treatment plan encompasses a complete continuum of care from the moment you begin treatment and through your aftercare program.  By having a comprehensive understanding of the entire process, you will have a better idea of what is expected, how long it will take, and what the totality of care you will be receiving is.

Detox vs. Rehab

Once a treatment plan is formulated, it is then time to start the work of getting clean. The first step in this process is detox. Although many people consider detox and rehab to be interchangeable terms, they are in fact not. In general, nearly every rehab program includes some detox step. Detox is the process through which the body is cleansed of drugs or alcohol, and is a critical step towards sobriety. Once a person has detoxed, they can then begin the process of rehab which helps give the support and knowledge necessary to maintain lifelong sobriety.  

For many people entering a drug rehab program, detox itself is met with a sense of foreboding.  Often people suffering from drug or alcohol addiction have attempted to quit “cold-turkey” on their own in the past. Depending on the substance of abuse, this can be an excruciating process.

With certain drugs such as heroin or other opiates, benzodiazepines, or alcohol, detoxing without medical supervision can lead to life threatening complications. Absent any medical intervention, the physical and mental symptoms of withdrawal can lead to intense discomfort, anxiety, pain, and overall strain on the bodies’ organs and systems.

Although the act of detoxing within an inpatient facility is the same at a core level, there are some key differences that significantly reduce the discomfort and severity of the symptoms experienced. Foremost among these is the fact that medical intervention can be used to alleviate some of the withdrawal symptoms.

Through the administration of medication, many of the most difficult withdrawal symptoms for some drugs can be reduced to manageable levels. Perhaps just as important as reducing the physical discomfort associated with withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, conducting a detox in an inpatient facility is significantly safer.  

Long-term drug abuse can place enormous strain on the bodies’ systems, and lead to undiagnosed illnesses or damage. Withdrawal places further strain on the body, while also bringing the potential damage to the forefront. Alongside this, withdrawal from certain drugs can lead to severe dehydration or immune system responses that may require medical intervention.

By undergoing the detox process in an inpatient facility, patients have access to care by qualified medical professionals around the clock in case any complications arise. This added layer of security makes the withdrawal process more manageable, gives patients the ability to reach out and speak to a trained professional if they have concerns, and gives family members the knowledge that their loved ones are being monitored and well-cared for.

Once your body is detoxed from drugs or alcohol, the rehab process begins. Each recovery facility has differing modalities of treatment and underlying philosophies that drive their treatment protocols. At HARP, we utilize a modified 12-step program that incorporates science-driven treatment, combined with counseling, therapy, life-skills coaching, and holistic activities such as yoga and acupuncture, to provide a comprehensive continuum of care.

We believe that each individual has unique needs throughout rehab and recovery, and the best way to achieve lasting success is to work with individuals to tailor a recovery program specific to their needs.  As such, patients will work closely with counselors and therapists throughout their time at an inpatient facility to determine their exact needs and how the program can meet them.

Counseling, Therapy and Life Skills

Close work with counselors and therapists is an integral part of a rehab program. Through therapy, the underlying issues that caused drug abuse and addiction can be ascertained and worked through over the course of treatment. Typically, patients will take part in both group and individual therapy sessions. Group sessions can be helpful for recovering addicts to share their experiences with others, including the difficulties they are facing and to learn to rely on other sober peers for support and strength.  

These sessions also teach valuable communication skills that can help with the transition back into life outside of the treatment facility. Individual sessions with a mental health professional will help patients dive into the underlying causes of their addiction, and through this create strategies to deal with the issues over the course of their life.

Individual therapy sessions will also help those in recovery deal with any underlying mental health issues that may have been suppressed, or even led to, their drug or alcohol abuse. Common symptoms of withdrawal include acute anxiety or depression, and these sessions can help patients deal with these issues in a productive and mindful way.

Family counseling sessions and workshops may also be a part of your treatment plan. These sessions, guided by a therapist or certified mental health treatment center counselor, will bring addicts and their loved ones together to begin to repair the damage caused by addiction and drug or alcohol abuse. These sessions are incredibly important, not only to begin to repair the bonds between loved ones, but also to lay the foundation for stronger and healthier relationships moving forward. Often, the damage caused by drug and alcohol abuse is most acutely felt by those closest to the addict.   

Family counseling sessions and workshops open up the lines of communication between family members, allowing them to productively work through any damage caused in the past.  Additionally, these workshops and sessions provide tools and strategies that will allow both the addict and their loved ones to communicate more effectively, interact more mindfully, and allow both parties to approach their relationship with renewed compassion and love.

This is an important step in any recovery process that can both repair old wounds, while also creating a robust support system that will give the person in recovery the best chances for long-term success. In addition to both group and individual counseling and therapy sessions, patients will take part in a wide variety of classes and activities that will help in a number of ways.

Holistic practices such as acupuncture and yoga can help the body de-stress in a natural way, while also allowing those in recovery to learn to be more grounded in their body and connected with the world around them. These practices can be crucial tools that can prove beneficial during stressful times throughout the course of their life.  

Additional courses will focus on giving patients the tools they will need to succeed with lifelong sobriety. One commonly overlooked skill in many treatment facilities is nutritional counseling, whereby those in recovery are taught how to properly fuel and take care of their bodies through nutrition.

Where these skills will become increasingly important is outside of a treatment facility, when recovering addicts are transitioning into a new, sober phase of their life. Nutritional counseling and holistic activities such as yoga provide the tools necessary to be more present and mindful of not only what is going on within our bodies and around us, but also how what we put in our bodies affects our overall well-being.

Transitioning to an Aftercare Program

The last step in a rehab program can also be one of the hardest. This is transitioning from an inpatient setting, where some have been in recovery anywhere from 30-90 days, to an outpatient setting. Leading up to this step, counselors will work with those in recovery to reinforce or modify their aftercare treatment plan depending on their needs. They will also be made aware of all of the resources at their disposal that are in place to help them maintain sobriety and health.  

It is at this point that all of the skills, knowledge, and tools that have been imparted to those in recovery become critical to their long-term success. Returning to life outside of a treatment facility can present a number of challenges, particularly if a recovering addict is returning to a similar situation that they were in before they entered rehab.

Returning to the place where you live, the job that you had, or the friends and social connections you once maintained can place unique pressures to return to using drugs or alcohol once again. For this reason, a comprehensive aftercare program is one of the most important aspects of any treatment plan.




Throughout your aftercare treatment plan you should be provided with resources near where you live, including therapists and mental health counselors that have a background in addiction recovery. Additional resources may include mentoring programs that pair you or your loved one with a sober peer that can help them navigate a life of sobriety. It is important at this point to rely on the skills, tools, and insights you received in an inpatient setting, but to also remember that your support system is there to help you maintain sobriety.

Recovery from drug and alcohol abuse is a lifelong process. Detox and rehab are one important step along this journey. By choosing the right care facility and treatment plan for you or your loved one, your chances of success become greatly increased. Through the tools and techniques learned during rehab, many recovering addicts are able to successfully remain sober throughout the remainder of their lives.  

Detox and rehab can seem like a huge hurdle. However, in reality this is a relatively short period of time that can have a profound impact on the rest of your or your loved one’s life. Medically managed detox is much safer, more bearable, and less likely to lead to immediate relapse.  Throughout the rehab program, the patterns you or your loved one create during their time in rehab will allow them to make an easier, more successful transition to a life of sobriety. Call HARP today to learn more about our treatment program and see if it is the right rehab for you.

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