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What Is Rehab? Drug & Alcohol Rehab: What to Expect

Written by Melissa Carmona

& Medically Reviewed by Eric Patterson, LPC

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Last Updated - 12/29/2022

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Updated 12/29/2022

Rehabilitation for substance use disorders is an essential treatment to help people recover from addiction and begin a period of sustained sobriety.

For many people addicted to alcohol and other drugs, rehab is essential to move towards recovery, but the rehab process is not easy. Rehabilitation is a wide-ranging term to describe many professional treatments that aim to safely eliminate substance abuse and achieve a lasting period of sobriety. Because all people need personalized treatment plans, rehab can look different from one person to the next.

Stages of the Rehab Process

Although unique and suited to the specific person, rehab consists of several stages. These stages outline a general path someone may take as they shift from addiction to sobriety. Not all people will require all stages of rehab, but these stages are available for those in need.


All trustworthy rehab programs begin with a thorough intake evaluation performed by a mental health, medical health or substance abuse expert. This assessment will focus on gaining as much useful information about the person and their substance use as possible.

Topics covered during an intake include:

  • Current prescription, illicit and over-the-counter substances consumed
  • The dose, frequency of use and duration of abuse
  • Current mental health issues
  • Current and former physical health problems
  • Active supports and stressors like financial, legal or family problems

With this information, the professional can recommend the best choice for the next stage in rehab. They’ll also take time to discuss insurance and payment options before you start, so you’re comfortable moving forward.


People who are likely dependent on substances will need a detoxification period to safely and comfortably rid their body of drugs in a safe environment. This stage is especially necessary in alcohol, opioid or sedative dependence, as withdrawal can be very dangerous and potentially deadly.

Medical professionals may offer medications during detox to ease symptoms or simply observe them to track their symptoms and make them comfortable. In either case, medical detox is focused on minimizing distress caused by withdrawal to foster recovery.


Some people will consider rehab the total treatment process, while other people will use the term to refer exclusively to therapy and medication management. People often think of inpatient rehab when they hear the word, including living at a treatment center with other people in recovery, away from people, places and things that trigger their substance use.

However, it doesn’t always look like this. Depending on your addiction treatment needs, rehab can involve:

  • Living in a residential treatment program or at home
  • Attending individual, group and family therapy sessions
  • Meeting with a prescriber to discuss available medication options
  • Learning about addiction, mental health issues and coping skills
  • Building bonds with other people in recovery
  • Preparing to re-enter life as a sober person
  • Exploring ways to improve your whole life and overall well-being

Different treatment programs will have varying levels of structure and freedom. Most people in rehab treatment start in a more structured environment suitable to their needs. As you continue to recover and improve, The Recovery Village at Baptist Health helps you step down to less intensive levels of care until you can enter regular life in recovery.


Aftercare is always a critical part of rehab. When someone completes treatment at the rehab facility, the risk of relapse increases. They are now in the regular world, where they may come to face relapse triggers and daily struggles without substances. Aftercare programs support you so you aren’t alone in the recovery journey. Relapse prevention plans, continuing therapy outside the facility, online therapy, support groups and alumni support networks are just some of the aftercare programs that help you avoid relapse and continue life in recovery.


In addiction, recovery is never a destination. It is always a journey. Because of this, people should plan to continue with some level of professional and nonprofessional care for the foreseeable future.

During your life in recovery, you may still have regular but less frequent appointments with a therapist and other prescribers. You’ll most likely attend a support group regularly and continue engaging with the recovery community. Appointments with therapists and prescribers may be more spread out with month-long gaps. The Recovery Village at Baptist Health offers alumni events and resources for you to use.

See Related: Life After Rehab

Approaches To Rehab

Detox, rehab and aftercare programs are some of the stages of recovery, but where these stages take place will vary depending on the person’s symptoms, risks, supports and stressors. Available options for rehab services include:

  • Inpatient Rehab: Inpatient rehab is the most intensive level of care designated for people with the most severe needs or for those who have not succeeded with lower levels. Inpatient or residential programs involve the person living at the treatment center and following the direction of staff, who are available 24 hours a day. Time will be structured with therapies, meal times and other activities geared towards recovery. Inpatient services help by allowing the person to escape their home lives and environmental triggers that may make their recovery harder.
  • Outpatient RehabOutpatient rehab is less intensive for people with less urgent needs and fewer risk factors. During outpatient rehab, treatment can range from 30 hours each week to one hour each month. After their session, the person will return to their home, school or work. People in outpatient treatment will have more freedoms, which could expose them to environmental triggers.
  • Online Rehab: Online therapy options continue to expand and now include all phases of rehab besides inpatient care. A person can readily receive therapy, medication and support group services through video conferencing tools and phone calls. With online rehab, treatment is available by phone, tablet, or computer, which allows for the highest levels of freedom and flexibility.

The Recovery Village at Baptist Health offers a full continuum of care, where patients step down through the levels of rehab as they recover depending on their needs. For example, a person detoxing from opioids would move to a period of inpatient rehab, then going to outpatient and then online rehab. A person managing marijuana abuse could begin treatment at an outpatient level.

Understanding Therapy

Therapy is an invaluable tool to help people connect their thoughts and feelings to the addictive behaviors that create so many problems. People who attend detox alone tend to have more negative recovery experiences and shorter periods of abstinence from alcohol and other drugs. Detox can rid the physical dependence, but it cannot resolve the psychological addiction.

Therapy helps people understand what factors trigger the urge to abuse substances and the ones that reinforce addiction. Therapy can also:

  • Identify and treat other mental health symptoms and conditions that may co-occur with substance use disorders
  • Teach helpful strategies for communicating, relieving stress, regulating emotions and accepting challenges
  • Help prepare for future triggers and cravings to use substances
  • Provide a sense of control and empowerment over their thoughts, feelings and behaviors

Often, therapy is uncomfortable and frustrating at first. A person may feel like they are not getting the desired outcomes right away. Staying with the treatment plan can make a significant difference with time. Without continued therapy, recovery is more challenging.

We are here when you are ready.

Speak with a Recovery Advocate today to talk about your treatment options.

Rules In Rehab

All rehabs will have a set of rules and regulations people need to abide by. Not only do these rules help keep people sober, but they also help staff and others in recovery feel safe and succeed in their goals.

Outpatient rehabs will have a few rules, while inpatient and residential programs tend to be structured around rules to keep order and organization in the treatment center. Some common rules in rehab include:

  • No illicit, prescription or over-the-counter substances with addictive potential are allowed in the center. It may seem obvious, but people always try.
  • Because healing is your first priority, keeping distractions to a minimum is key for recovery. In most levels of care, cell phones are securely stored upon arrival. Specified facility phones are available for use following a 72-hour adjustment period. Residents completing their medical detox will receive phone access during family therapy sessions only. Clients in our intensive outpatient program may use cell phones during specific days and times.
  • Treat staff and peers with respect. Everyone shares the goal of sobriety, so being offensive and rude helps no one.
  • Participate. Just being in the room during a therapy session does not help the recovery process. Because of this, rehabs often have the rule that people need to fully participate in individual, group and family sessions.
  • Be honest. No one can thrive in a rehab environment if they are dishonest with themselves, peers or staff. Honesty is necessary.

Rules vary by rehab, so anyone considering a stint in treatment should become aware of the rules and how to follow them. The Recovery Village at Baptist Health’s What to Expect guide can help new clients adjust.

Success In Rehab Depends On You

Rehabs, support groups, therapy and medications are all useful tools a person can use to find sobriety, but these things do not create recovery on their own. Your achievements in rehab largely depend on you.

The way a person views rehab will dictate their recovery. To create a better chance of sustained recovery, a person should:

  • Acknowledge the severity of their condition
  • Be humble and willing to learn
  • Accept that experts may know information that they do not
  • Minimize resistance
  • Try new things and new ways of thinking
  • Find benefit in being open and honest
  • Maintain the treatment plan
  • Commit to lifelong substance abuse treatment

Even in the best of situations, where the person makes good decisions, relapse is possible and common. Relapse is not a failure or a sign that treatment was not successful. Instead, it’s an opportunity to refocus on recovery, update your prevention strategy, and consider if you need further support or treatment.

Overcoming an addiction to drugs or alcohol is often difficult, but you aren’t alone. Rehab treatment can give you the support, understanding and tools you need to live a substance-free life. Our helpful representatives can answer any questions you may have and discuss treatment options that may work for you. Contact us today and start your journey to recovery.


What Is the Difference Between Rehab and Therapy?

Rather than being separate things, people should see therapy as just one component of successful rehab. Other rehab services include detox, medication management and support groups. Therapy is one of the main driving forces in professional rehab treatment.

What Is a Rehabilitation Center?

The rehabilitation center is one place where rehab will occur. It’s a treatment facility that can include spaces for drug detox, residential services, therapy, recreational activities and more.

Does Rehab Work? How Will I Know?

Professional substance abuse treatment offered by experienced and educated addiction clinicians works. People who participate in extended periods of treatment are more likely to experience extended periods of recovery. While rehab treatment may not work for everyone, it has helped many people live happier, healthier lives without substances. Success does not only hinge on staying sober, and relapse does not mean failure. If you learn about addiction, recovery, underlying mental health concerns, triggers and coping skills, you’ll be able to keep going and working towards lifelong sobriety.

How Much Does Rehab Cost?

The cost of rehab varies widely, depending on the location, amenities, expertise of staff, duration and intensity of the program. Your cost will also depend on your health insurance coverage if using insurance. In general, a program that offers renowned professionals, luxury accommodations, spacious grounds and cutting-edge treatments will cost more than centers with fewer resources and amenities.

View Sources

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction: DrugFacts.” January 17. 2019. Accessed 20 Oct. 2020.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).” January 2018. Accessed October 20, 2020.

Springer, Dave. “Substance Use Disorder Continuum of Care: Engaging the Community,” Department of Health and Human Services. October 31, 2015. Accessed October 20, 2020.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.” October 2015. Accessed October 20, 2020