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What’s It Like to Have a Family Member in Rehab?

The effects of addiction touch the entire family, not just the person struggling with addiction. When a person decides to go to rehab, the whole family is affected.

The good news is that there are ways to assist a family member in rehab. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration advocates for family therapy being part of every person’s recovery.

Including family in recovery can make a huge difference in the person’s overall success. It allows the entire family to examine damaging patterns and behaviors, improve communication skills, and repair relationships.

A Typical Day at Rehab

It helps to understand what your family member or loved one will go through in rehab during their stay or with their visits if they are in an outpatient program.

Writer Beth Leipholtz relayed her rehab experience to The Fix in February 2016. Leipholtz was in an outpatient program. She said there were moments when she felt uncomfortable during the program because she had to deal with emotions she had not dealt with before.

She also said that people in her program felt comfortable openly challenging each other to be better people, and this can take some getting used to. She wanted to give up at various points during treatment, but she didn’t.

Everyone can expect the following basics during rehab:

VOLUNTARY TREATMENT

Most facilities do not have locks. Clients can leave the program if they want to; no one forces them to stay.

DETOX AS A FIRST STEP

Detox can take five to seven days, depending on the substance. Some clients will be able to detox as part of the comprehensive program, while others may be expected to detox at a different facility that specializes in withdrawal first.

EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS

Every treatment facility provides educational programs. In these sessions, clients learn about the effects of drugs and/or alcohol on their bodies and the aftermath of continuing to misuse substances.

THERAPY

Individual and group therapy is essential to recovery, and most programs include both. Clients are expected to do group therapy daily in most treatment plans.

FAMILY THERAPY

In these sessions, the client and their family learn how to stop behavior that enables drug use, mend relationships, and find resources that can help the client stay sober. Some treatment facilities make it mandatory for family members to attend group meetings such as Al-Anon before visiting their loved one. This is meant to help family members understand addiction better and create an environment that is conducive to recovery.

What You Can Expect

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says you can expect treatment to be personalized. Each client’s treatment plan will be different, and you can expect your family member’s treatment to change if and when needed.

Relapse is common, and it does not mean your relative has failed. Instead, your family member should be encouraged to seek treatment again or to make adjustments to their treatment plan. Their therapist will be able to tailor the changes to the situation.

Tips for Helping a Family Member at Rehab

According to NIDA, it is best to ask your relative’s provider for the best ways to offer support. Depending on your family member’s needs, you may be advised to do some of the following:

  • Limit contact at the beginning of treatment. Your family member will have limited contact with the outside world during the first part of their care. Expect that you won’t talk to them during this time.
  • Let your family member know you support their treatment and applaud them for taking steps toward recovery.
  • Express any concerns without becoming accusatory. If you suspect your loved one is using or has relapsed, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation suggests that you refrain from speaking from a place of mistrust, which could make them less likely to ask you for help. Instead, start the conversation from a place of love and concern.

Family Member in Rehab

If the client is a teenager, NIDA says that family involvement in therapy is even more important.

Even though you want your family member to recover, it may be difficult for you that your loved one is going through changes. You must come to terms with your feelings about your family member’s choices.

EXPECT LIMITED INFORMATION INITIALLY

Treatment centers are bound by confidentiality laws, and you will not get information about your family member’s recovery right away due to these federal regulations.

KNOW THAT YOUR FAMILY MEMBER IS IN THE RIGHT PLACE

You may think your relative needs you to be there physically, but if your family member is in rehab, they are receiving care from addiction specialists. This is where they should be.

EXPECT MORE CONTACT AS THEY PROGRESS IN TREATMENT

You may get an invitation to participate in family day or other activities that allow more open contact between you and your family member. These events give you a taste of what your relative is going through and give you a chance to participate.

PARTICIPATE IN FAMILY WORKSHOPS

Workshops are not meant to be therapeutic sessions. They provide education about the effects of rehab and addiction. They also teach families how to stop behaviors that enable drug or substance misuse.

It can be tough to have your family member in rehab, particularly in the beginning. But as you see them progress in recovery, the process gets easier. At the end of rehab, you may find that you have a stronger, better relationship with your family member than you’ve ever had.