A Comprehensive Guide to Inpatient Drug Rehab and Alcohol Treatment

A Comprehensive Guide to Inpatient Addiction Treatment

Residential inpatient treatment centers are highly structured and organized, designed specifically to make the addiction recovery process smoother for patients. The actual treatments and therapies used may be different for each person. Just as the triggers behind every person’s addictive behaviors are unique to them, the treatments and therapies used also should be customized to suit their individual needs.

How Does Inpatient Drug Rehab Work?

How Does Inpatient Drug Rehab Work

Inpatient drug rehab provides a safe environment for people struggling with drug or alcohol addiction to begin the recovery process. 

While a recovering person is staying at a residential drug rehab center, they are effectively away from people, places, and situations associated with substance use. This makes it easier to focus solely on recovery.

Inpatient Rehab

From the Beginning

 Beginning the recovery process in the safety of an inpatient drug rehab facility offers medical supervision and monitoring and medication management throughout the detox process. When detox is complete, the recovering person is introduced to a range of treatments and therapies designed to begin working on some of the underlying psychological triggers behind addictive behaviors.

What Happens in Inpatient Drug Rehab?

Residential inpatient drug rehab programs begin by conducting a thorough assessment of each patient’s unique needs. The objective is to determine the right combination of treatments to improve outcomes.


The first step towards recovery begins with the detox process. Depending on the type of drug being taken, some people may be at risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, symptoms of withdrawal can be unpleasant or uncomfortable. In other cases, there is a risk of developing symptoms that could be potentially life-threatening and may require emergency medical assistance.

What Does Detox Do?

The Goal of Inpatient Rehab

Detox simply eliminates the effects of the drug from the body. On its own it does nothing to address the psychological reasons behind the addiction.

The next step in the recovery process involves a customized program of individual counseling sessions. Counseling may incorporate various therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing. Specialized therapy sessions may also be necessary for some recovering people. 

These may be tailored to work on anger management, stress management, family therapy, or to address any underlying mental health conditions that may need attention.

Group Therapy

Group therapy sessions are also a big part of the treatment process. Spending time in group therapy sessions helps reduce feelings of isolation. Peer interaction within the group also helps provide support and motivation through recovery. Aside from traditional treatments, intensive rehab programs also integrate a variety of alternative or holistic therapies. Alternative therapies are designed to teach recovering people healthy, natural ways to cope with symptoms during recovery without the need for drugs or alcohol.

A Typical Day in an Inpatient Program

A Typical Day in an Inpatient

Most people have no real idea what will happen while they are in an inpatient rehab facility. They imagine being locked away in a room, or spending endless hours on a hospital bed. What you might not realize is that each day within an inpatient drug rehab program is highly structured for a specific purpose. The objective is to create healthy new habits and routines that can be maintained even after leaving rehab. Here is a look at what a typical day in rehab treatment might be like:

Healthy Breakfast

Each day begins early with a healthy breakfast. As many people recovering from drug or alcohol addiction may have nutritional deficiencies, eating healthy meals plays a big part in restoring good health.

Yoga or Meditation

Some drug rehab programs offer morning classes that could include yoga or meditation sessions. These sessions are designed to help recovering people start each day feeling relaxed. Yoga and mindfulness meditation have an added benefit of helping reduce symptoms of stress, and relieve symptoms of anxiety or depression (1).Group therapy session: Group sessions are led by a counselor and generally focus on a range of topics related to the recovery process. Participation in group therapy sessions begins to build new peer relationships with people facing the same challenges. Group sessions also reduce feelings of isolation and provide motivation.

Healthy Lunch

Maintaining regular meal times may seem trivial at first, but the importance of establishing daily routines is more important than many people know. Eating a healthy lunch not only reinforces new routines, but it also provides essential nutrients that promote good health. Studies indicate that nutrition education can improve outcomes for substance abuse treatment programs.

Intensive therapy sessions

After lunch, many rehab treatment programs focus on individual counseling and therapy sessions. Typically, an addiction specialist counselor will customize the right types of therapy for each person’s unique needs. Common individual therapy sessions might include cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and other forms of specialized counseling. Relapse prevention planning may also be included throughout counseling sessions.

Relapse prevention planning

Learning different ways to live a happy, productive life without drugs or alcohol is only one aspect of the recovery process. Learning how to avoid relapsing back into a pattern of substance abuse after leaving rehab is equally as important. Many counseling sessions begin helping each individual person develop their own unique relapse prevention strategy. The triggers and associations that could lead to a potential relapse are different for everyone. Counseling helps recovering people understand and recognize their own triggers and then develop strategies designed to deal with those situations in positive ways.

Afternoon Alternative Therapies

Many residential centers provide a variety of different therapies during the afternoons. Some afternoon sessions may begin to incorporate different alternative or holistic therapies.

Common alternative therapies might include:

  • Art or music therapy
  • Dance therapy
  • Equine or animal therapy
  • Exercise programs
  • Neurofeedback
  • Biofeedback
  • Life skills development

The objective of alternative therapies is to teach people in recovery natural alternatives to improve mood, relieve symptoms and boost self-esteem.

Family Therapy

Most people automatically assume that treatment is only for the person affected by addiction. However, most family members are also affected by the person’s addictive behaviors in some way. Research shows that family therapy support sessions are a crucial part of the addiction recovery process. Family therapy sessions can help to work through different attitudes and behaviors, resolve complicated emotions and relationships, and begin building support and trust. Family therapy also helps family members to understand their role in the recovery process. Another benefit is that family members are encouraged to visit the inpatient center, so the recovering person knows they aren’t left alone throughout the treatment program.


After a day of structured activities and therapies, each person sits down to a healthy dinner.

Evening activities

In many residential rehab facilities, evening activities are limited to shorter periods of time than daytime activities. Sometimes 12-step programs are available for people to join in with, while other evenings may simply offer free time.

Lights Out

In most inpatient treatment programs, people are encouraged to go to bed and get a good nights’ sleep at a reasonable hour. Many people struggling with substance abuse disorders often have problems with sleep disturbances, so initiating a regulated sleep schedule can help reduce problems with insomnia. Research also indicates that poor sleeping patterns can increase the risk of substance abuse problems in many people. Developing a regular sleeping pattern can help reduce that risk.

How Long Does an Inpatient Drug Rehab Program Take?

The length of time each inpatient rehab program can take may vary, depending on each person’s individual needs. Some programs last for 28 or 30 days, while others may extend for up to 90 days.

What Can You Take Into Inpatient Rehab?

What Can Take Into Inpatient Treatment

One of the more common things people ask before entering into a residential rehab treatment program is, “what can I take into rehab with me?” It should be obvious to most people that an inpatient drug rehab center is drug and alcohol free. After all, the objective is to achieve abstinence.

No Mobile Devices

The majority of people entering into rehab programs don’t realize they can’t take mobile devices with them into treatment. That means no internet access, no social media and no private messaging with friends or acquaintances during treatment. The rule isn’t intended to be a punishment. Rather, it’s designed to reduce access to connections or people who may be associated with substance use. The rule also helps protect the privacy of others in treatment, as even a single photo of another person in rehab shared on social media can seriously damage another person’s reputation or rights to privacy. Not all rehab facilities ban mobile devices completely, but those who do allow cell phones or tablet PCs may severely restrict access to only certain times throughout the day.

No TV or music

When people hear that they can’t watch their favorite TV show or catch a movie to relax or just listen to some tunes while in rehab, they often feel as though they’re being punished. Yet many forms of entertainment can be strong triggers for substance use in many people. Removing those triggers is an important part of the early recovery process.

Benefits of Inpatient Drug Rehab

Benefits of Inpatient Drug Rehab

There are plenty of benefits to seeking treatment in a residential drug rehab facility. Aside from providing a temptation-free environment to begin the recovery process, staying at an inpatient treatment center also offers supervision and monitoring throughout the detox process. When the detox process is complete, each recovering person has the opportunity to learn new habits, strategies and tactics that can be invaluable for helping them continue to live a drug-free life after leaving rehab.

Too many people the highly structured rules and activities planned for each day during inpatient rehab might seem restrictive or somehow irrelevant to the treatment process. While the intention or effectiveness of such regular routines might not be obvious immediately, they are really important to the recovery process. Introducing new habits and routines into a recovering person’s life can help them to find new ways of getting through each day without the need for drugs or alcohol in their lives.