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When considering addiction treatment, you may be wondering what to expect during a standard day in a treatment program.
There are many types of substance use treatment programs out there, many of which are designed to treat a wide array of substance use disorders, but most follow a standard framework of therapies and treatment modalities.
Residential inpatient treatment programs are very structured and organized, with similar activities and therapies available at most treatment centers. This minimizes stress and uncertainty among residents, and also allows for the safest and most supportive environment for healing and recovery. Depending on the setting and the amenities offered, daily activities may vary.
Here is an example of what a typical day in treatment might look like.
Sleeping in is not part of the program, so expect to rise early in the morning to enjoy a healthy breakfast. Some programs offer morning classes where you’ll have an opportunity to take part in activities such as yoga, meditation, exercise, or prayer opportunities to help start your day in a relaxed state of mind.
Part of the treatment and recovery process centers on developing new, healthy habits that are intended to become routine once you return to your life outside of a treatment center.
I met a lot of great people and learned how to change my old behaviors on a daily basis. Go in with an open mind and be willing. Do it for you, not anybody else.
There is often a group session following breakfast led by a counselor or therapist that focuses on topics related to the treatment process, the 12-step program, addiction, and recovery. A significant focus during treatment is on achieving clarity about the issues, people, and surroundings in your life that have resulted in substance use becoming your primary strategy to cope with discomfort or stress.
These daily meetings, in the safety of a controlled therapeutic environment, will help you to recognize patterns of your behavior that can be changed, or how to recognize certain triggers that can cause relapse post-treatment.
The middle of the day provides an opportunity to continue the therapeutic process. After a healthy lunch, it is typical to begin a series of therapeutic sessions.
These often include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective methods used in addiction treatment centers. CBT is a therapy aimed at recognizing how your emotions impact your thoughts (or vice versa), and their overall impact on the behaviors you take. CBT, as well as other therapy approaches, focuses on how to safely manage your emotions in recovery.
Once those are identified, the therapist will guide you toward new, healthier responses to those triggers. These one-on-one therapy sessions provide a safe environment for you to feel free to open up and share any fears or concerns, allowing the therapist to provide you with tools and alternative behavioral responses to these sources of stress. The afternoon is also an excellent time to review things you’ve learned in these sessions to better understand and apply them to your recovery journey.
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Participation in group sessions provides a certain level of comradery with others in treatment, as all participants have experienced the struggles of substance abuse and addiction. During group therapy, the therapist will use this collective understanding to drive powerful conversations about recovery and all its elements (accountability, honesty, open-mindedness, willingness, etc.). It can be very beneficial to the participants to share their personal stories to allow for emotional healing. The group members often develop a deep connection during the weeks in rehab, and as trust grows, they become more open in their sessions and develop sincere compassion and understanding for each other’s battles.
This leads to continuous healing and support when finding a group to belong to after treatment, often found in traditional 12-step communities like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Some common forms of group therapy include psychoeducation groups on emotional recovery topics, process groups on difficult emotions, life skills groups designed to develop skill sets, medical groups for medical education, and recreational groups to relearn how to have fun again without any substance use.
Some treatment centers provide specialized therapy sessions through the use of specially designed therapy techniques or modalities. These could be tailored for anger management, stress management, trauma experiences, or even grief counseling; offering coping techniques to help improve your ability to handle issues in a controlled manner rather than feeling the need to use drugs or alcohol.
Some treatment programs offer specialty tracks that provide tailored treatment to different populations such as first responders, veterans, members of the LGBTQ+ community, healthcare professionals, and young adults among many other types. Oftentimes, attending a treatment program that is specialized in helping those within a specific population or career can provide a powerful sense of community and healing.
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Family support is often a crucial element of treatment, which is why most treatment centers include it in their programs. Addiction impacts not only the addict, but the entire family as well, often culminating in destructive codependency, enabling behaviors, or intense feelings of anger and resentment.
During family therapy sessions, many issues are uncovered and negative feelings are addressed in a safe setting, allowing everyone involved to become vulnerable in their feelings. Key to the long-term success of any substance abuse treatment program, family participation factors heavily in future support for the addicted person after they are discharged.
Many treatment centers have family programs designed to include residents’ loved ones in the treatment plan, and even provide visitation or family weekends that include educational seminars for loved ones who attend. This can be a powerful event in which the family becomes more aware of addiction and the ways to help their loved one feel supported in early recovery.
In addition to therapy, treatment centers may also host speakers who share their own stories, offering residents a sense of hope for their future. Sometimes, the speakers delve into practical issues like rebuilding careers post-treatment, or simply offer inspirational speeches to help lift spirits. Many celebrities and politicians have been known to spend their time providing hope and motivation to those seeking recovery. Other times, it may be past residents who have maintained their recovery and wish to share with others what worked for them.
Some treatment centers have various supplemental therapies available, offering more of a variety of options.
Alternative therapy forms may include:
There are usually a couple of hours of free time available in the afternoon to be used however you see fit.
Activities like billiards, ping-pong, basketball, soccer, and volleyball may be available depending on the facility you attend. At some facilities, there may even be larger amenities available such as a pool, sauna, or spa area. At most treatment centers, there are generally evening activities offered to keep residents socially engaged with their peer group as well as provide outlets for sober recreation.
Some activities are designed to allow the residents the opportunity to perform activities while sober which they may be familiar with doing while intoxicated in the past. Examples may include karaoke, art activities, movie nights, fitness activities, yoga, and holiday-based activities based on the time of the year.
Some people choose to spend their free time reading or journaling, while others may use the time for prayer or meditation.
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After dinner, there may be an opportunity for another short group session. Typically, a 12-step program is available in the evenings, which is highly recommended. Depending on the treatment program, you may attend the 12-step meeting on-site with a small group from an outside program, called Hospitals and Institutions (H&I), leading a small AA or NA group with residents.
Other programs may bring their residents to local AA or NA meetings in the community for a more authentic experience that allows locals an opportunity to build sober relationships when they complete treatment. These meetings provide a safe, respectful, and anonymous environment in which relationships can be fostered — which serves as an intrinsic element for long-term sobriety
Bedtime is encouraged to be at a reasonable hour, as healthy habits like a proper sleep schedule are being promoted during the residential program. By getting enough sleep, residents are more alert and have more energy to experience peak participation in daily treatment.
Now that you know what to expect for a typical day in drug rehab, the next step is finding treatment. Contact a treatment provider to discuss available treatment center options.
Travis Pantiel, LMHC, MCAP
Travis Pantiel is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a National Board-Certified Counselor with specialized expertise in the co-occurring disorder treatment field.
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