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What Is Rehab Actually Like? (Worth It or Not?)

If rehab is something you would like to explore, the experience can be vastly different depending on where you go and with whom you talk.

Generally, rehab consists of several important parts that can vary based on which program you choose:

  • Medical detox
  • Facility setting
  • Education
  • Therapy
  • Family and peer support
  • Aftercare

Surprising to many, there are no actual standard rules or procedures that qualify a program as a rehab center. Because of this, there is also no established way to quantify a rehab’s success rate.

Though there is no clinically established way to measure it, rehab centers typically gauge success on whether a client completes the program and remains sober, through interviews they conduct.

Because of how subjective the definitions of “success” are in recovery, success rates tend to fall anywhere between 30 and 90 percent.

An Addiction Epidemic

Death by overdose has become the number one cause of injury-related death in the United States. Overdoses killed approximately 44,000 people in 2015.

While America is one of the wealthiest countries, it also has one of the highest rates of overdose. This indicates that addiction rates are not necessarily tied to earnings, and addiction is a disease the afflicts the wealthy and impoverished alike.

Another troubling statistic is that an estimated 90 percent of people who need drug rehabilitation and treatment the most do not receive it, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. We are facing a serious mental health problem in America.

This epidemic does not appear to be getting better, but worse. In 2017, the number of overdose deaths rose to nearly 72,000. This number beat out suicide and pneumonia. Diabetes-related complications are some of the only health-related death causes that outrank overdoses.

About 150,000 are estimated to die in accidental deaths each year, including car crashes and overdoses. This means overdoses account for almost half of all accidental deaths in the U.S.This epidemic has caused a number of institutions to collaborate in a coordinated effort to do something about it. Rehab centers have stepped up their outreach programs to let people know that help is out there.

What Is Rehab Really Like?

Part of the reason individuals with drug dependency problems don’t seek treatment is that they don’t know what to expect, and there are many misconceptions.

Many people believe they will be locked into rehab, essentially imprisoned. In most cases, this is not true.

While some court-ordered rehabs are mandatory, for the most part, rehab is a completely voluntary experience. This means that there are no locks on the doors. You are welcome to leave the center whenever you like.

Even those who are admitted into a rehab center because of criminal charges can leave if they like. They will simply face the consequences through the justice system later for violating the terms of their release, but the center itself will not hold them.

In most programs, you’ll go through a step-by-step process. Each rehab center will follow a general template, but the specifics of how they accomplish each step will vary greatly.

The Detox Phase

Getting your system clear from drugs is an important first step in treatment. Many residential rehab programs have their own in-house detox program. However, many centers require that clients detox before they are admitted into the program.

Often, clients go through the detox phase at a specialized facility where they can get the best possible care. Most detoxes occur in a short period of time, usually five to seven days. According to an article published by TIME, the overall rehab industry is changing, and a shift to dedicated detox centers is part of this.

The Facility

How the rehab facility is set up is important, and this can vary greatly depending on the program.

For example, some programs prefer a more natural setting, such as a campground. A lot of the nature-based programs are for troubled teens. In other cases, the facilities are luxurious, modeled after spas or yoga retreats. This means that each facility can be vastly different in style, design, and treatment modality.

For the most part, the kind of setting you experience in rehab will depend largely on what you can afford. Whether you are using insurance or paying out of pocket, these factors will determine the quality of surroundings you will have at your facility.

While the setting can be important to your overall comfort level, and this can influence how long you stay in the program, the therapies that make up the program are more important than the locale.

The Core Curriculum

Each rehab center will have a different approach and methodology for treatment. No matter what facility you attend, they all will include education about substance abuse.

Part of the education process is about getting you to examine where you are in your addiction realistically. The more honest you can be in assessing your level of need, the more likely it is that you will be successful in recovery.

This educational process also helps to change your belief system surrounding drugs and alcohol. Many people who have struggled with addiction glorify or justify drug and/or alcohol use without acknowledging the repercussions and side effects that often accompany use. During early recovery stages, it is typical for a person to be in denial about the extent and severity of their abuse.

Behavioral Signs of Someone on Meth

Individual and Group Therapy

According to an article published by Psychology Today, rehabs can run into efficacy problems when they try to be cookie-cutter options. That is why personal therapy is an important part of a rehab program.

Most rehab programs will include individual counseling from a trained addiction counselor. In addition, it is likely that you will attend daily group therapy meetings with others seeking the same treatment. This is an effective exercise in part because it helps each client know they are not alone, and they can learn from collective experiences.

The individual sessions are designed to teach clients the skills they need to start living their lives free from drugs and alcohol. Part of what these sessions work to accomplish is to help clients recognize and avoid situations that act as triggers and prompt them to drink or use drugs once again. These sessions also teach coping skills to use when cravings arise.

The group sessions are designed to show clients how to seek guidance and help from others. Often, reaching out can mean the difference between standing strong in sobriety and relapsing.

Group therapy allows participants to hear the stories of others, which can give them perspective about their own journeys and habits. As people gain more time in sobriety, they can be a source of inspiration for others.

Family and Peer Support

Families can be critical to recovery. According to Psych Central, programs that involve family members generally have more success. The research supports that the more family and friends involved in the recovery process, the more likely it is that treatment will have a lasting effect.

Some programs take this a step further and involve the family from the intake process all the way to the end of the program. These family meetings encourage clients to finish the program, and they begin to repair relationships that were damaged in active addiction.

Peer support meetings, such as 12-step meetings, can also be vital to recovery. They provide a support network that can be crucial in ongoing recovery. They are run by peers rather than a therapist, making them distinct from group therapy.

A Personal Account

The rehab experience is different from person to person and from facility to facility. To get a true understanding of what it is like, it is best to talk to someone who has been through it all before.

According to a personal account published in The Huffington Post, one woman described how she burst into tears in front of everyone. She wrote, “To this day that is one of the times in life I have been the most furious and humiliated. It was also a turning point for me.”

In short, her story began the day after she had been hospitalized with a 0.34 BAC level that could have killed someone with a lower tolerance for alcohol. She talks about the intake process, how nervous she was, and how awkward and strange individual and group counseling was.

At first, she had a lot of resistance to the process, and she felt like she was nothing like the other people in rehab. In time though, she looked forward to therapy, especially after the breakthrough moment mentioned above.

Was It Worth it?

For Beth Leipholtz, the author of this personal account, rehab was well worth it. With 15 months of sobriety under her belt at the time she wrote her account, her treatment was a success.

Many wonder if others experience the same kind of success in rehab. The answer appears to be a mixed bag.

According to The Washington Post, despite some rehabs reporting a 90 percent success rate, rehab “success” has subjective standards. Depending on your measure of what success means, that success rate could be anywhere from 30 to 90 percent.

Those who approach rehab with the mentality of wanting to get off drugs have a good chance of at least experiencing some success. Getting family and friends involved also seems to help most programs increase efficacy. Ultimately, whether rehab is worth it or not depends on your level of commitment, though this can greatly increase as you progress in treatment.

Do your research beforehand to find a facility that meets your needs and preferences. Then, get your friends and family involved.

Finally, try to maintain a positive attitude about getting better and a realistic assessment of your problem and your progress. Again, this is something that will improve as you move through treatment.

Together, these are all the hallmarks of a successful treatment process.