Learn / What to Expect While You’re in Rehab
Rehab is a place for you to build a sustainable life. In order to do that, you’ll develop healthy daily habits, learn to cope with cravings, and set goals. This is not a simple process. In order to create a better future, you first need to understand what led you to this point. By working through your emotional experience of your life so far, you’ll learn more about yourself and your own values. And when you truly understand yourself, you open the door to a life that can support your unique version of health.
Most rehab programs are designed to give you a type of structure you may have been missing up until now. You’ll likely have a full agenda, waking up early for a full day of activities and going to bed soon after you finish them. This schedule strikes a delicate balance. The intensive process keeps you focused on the work at hand, with little time to get too distracted by the cravings and triggers you came to get a break from. You will, however, have some opportunities for downtime to process the hard emotional work you’re doing in therapy. How intensive this journey is varies from program to program.
Because everyone is different, each rehab center offers a number of different healing modalities, ranging from individual therapy to recreational group outings. The process may feel more accessible if you have a sense of what to expect in advance.
Your time in rehab will be carefully curated by a team of healthcare providers. In addition to receiving medical care, you’ll spend time with the other residents, attending one-on-one therapy, and processing your experiences. Here’s what a typical schedule might look like:
7am – 8am Yoga
8am – 9am Breakfast
9am – 10:30am Individual therapy
10:30am – 12pm Group therapy
12pm – 1pm Lunch
1pm – 1:45pm Medical aspects or energy work
1:45pm – 3:30pm Trauma therapy
3:30pm – 4:30pm Recreation therapy
4:30pm – 5:30pm Meditation
6:30pm – 7:30pm Group Activity or Speaker
7:30pm – 10pm Free Time & Homework
You won’t have the same schedule every day, but it’s likely that each day will be tightly structured. Most facilities have time set aside for visiting hours, family therapy, and experiential therapies or outings such as skiing and rock climbing. Some rehabs offer even more flexibility. For example, at All Points North Lodge , a luxury rehab in Colorado, clients sometimes go on nature walks with their therapists during individual sessions.
As you can see, most centers maintain a balance between time alone, one-on-one sessions with a provider, and group experiences. Every one of these dynamics is an important part of healing. Because rehab is a place to reconnect with yourself, it’s valuable to learn how to be alone. Talking through your feelings with a trusted guide in a private setting will help keep you on track throughout that process. Social dynamics offer group support, and encourage clients to hone their interpersonal skills. Many clients even find the simple act of sharing meals with their rehab community gives them a helpful sense of camaraderie and support.
Some residential rehabs serve only one client at a time, offering a completely bespoke experience tailored to meet their needs. Other rehabs take a holistic approach, treating a few clients at a time using a highly individualized approach. For instance, the team at Paracelsus Recovery works very closely with each person in their care to come up with a plan perfectly suited to their recovery goals. Louis Fitzmaurice, a therapist at Paracelsus, says:
“Everything that goes on in the therapeutic environment that we exist in has been created for and directed at our client. It’s designed. It’s tailor-made for our client, everything that goes on. That’s the food, the complementary therapy, the psychotherapy, the psychiatry. That’s me, the live-in therapist. That’s the physical work. Everything that goes on in the environment is focused on our client and is for the best outcome for our client.”
This careful scheduling offers clients the structure they were likely missing before rehab. It also ensures that you’ll have the chance to benefit from a number of different healing modalities.
Individual therapy is a safe, private space for you to express yourself without being concerned about the listener’s reaction. Your therapist’s job is not to fix you, but to help you do the hard work of healing.
This is not a fast or easy process, but in the end, it’s worth the effort. By developing the skills to navigate whatever life throws at you, you can come to rely on yourself and go forward with confidence. Ryan Soave, Director of Program Development at All Points North Lodge, says that “With therapy in general, the goal is not to reach some place where nothing affects you and you’re happy 100% of the time. It’s really about building the capacity to experience difficult emotions, to experience hardship. We’re going to experience pain – it’s part of life. In fact, we can’t have joy without pain. The more we can build the capacity to experience the full amount of pain, the more capacity we have to experience joy in life.”
During individual therapy, you’ll get to process anything that’s coming up for you. You might feel called to talk about your life before rehab, your daily experience of the program, or your concerns about the future. This is also a place to discuss practical skills like how to manage cravings, how to define your goals, and how to set healthy boundaries in your relationships. Bear in mind, however, that one-on-one therapy is just a starting point. It’s your responsibility to take what you learn in this context and apply it to the rest of your life.
There are many different styles of one-on-one therapy. Depending on where you go to rehab, you may have access to some or all of these; you may even want to choose a program based on which types of therapy they offer. Some popular styles of therapy offered at rehab are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT),1 Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR),2 and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).3
As productive as individual therapy is, it’s not a simple solution to all your problems. In fact, much of the work of therapy happens between sessions. This allows you to reflect on your observations, put what you’ve learned into practice, and gain new insights into your patterns. When you return for your next session, you’ll be ready to delve even deeper into your treatment process. As you integrate the lessons of therapy into your daily experience, you’ll develop a greater understanding of yourself. Eventually, you’ll start to define what you want your life to look like after rehab.
Group therapy is another way to prepare yourself for life after rehab. This is an opportunity to connect with people at a similar point in their path. By building community with the other clients in your program, you’ll realize through sharing your experiences that you’re not alone. As valuable as it is to work with a therapist, there are some lessons that you can only learn from peers. As Lana Seiler, Associate Director of Clinical Operations at All Points North Lodge, says, “We’re social creatures by nature, so it’s a very different feel working one-on-one with someone versus working in a small group and in their community.”
If you attend a program for a specialized cohort—such as a men’s group, a women’s group, or a group for older adults—group therapy may allow you to speak in shorthand. If you’re the parent of adult children, for example, there are parts of your life that a childless 23-year-old might not understand without explanation. On the other hand, that same person can probably teach you a great deal about what it’s like to be a young adult relating to her parents in this era of history. There is no right or wrong group of people with whom to undergo group therapy, but it’s important to find the right group for you.
For many people in rehab, interpersonal skills are an area of growth. Group therapy is a safe, gentle way to learn or relearn how to build healthy relationships. Openly describing past and present experiences can help clients work against shame. “Group therapy is important for a variety of reasons. Firstly, addiction and substance use bring around a lot of isolation, shame and secrecy over time. People often feel very alone. So an important vehicle for change is to have support and encouragement from others,” says Dr. Monika Kolodziej, Program Director of McLean Fernside. This dynamic helps clients cultivate a sense of self-acceptance, which is essential in order to move forward from substance use.
Substance use can easily damage your relationships with family, partners, colleagues, and friends. As such, group therapy is a safe place to practice skills that will serve you well when you return to your community after rehab. The act of building relationships in this context provides a certain level of accountability, which may have been lacking in your life before rehab. When you see how the people around you approach their treatment, you may be inspired to commit to your own process even more fully. Data shows that group therapy can improve clients’ engagement with recovery.4
Recovery is hard work; there’s no way around that. However, recommitting to yourself and your wellness means building a better life. In support of that goal, there are many therapies that focus on relaxation and fun. Inpatient rehabs often offer complementary therapies, giving you time and space to process the more demanding aspects of treatment.
Many luxury rehabs invite clients to receive bodywork such as massage, acupuncture, and other spa services. These experiences have a dual purpose. On a therapeutic level, they help your body heal from the negative impacts of substance use. They’re also an opportunity for you to relax and enjoy yourself. Some of these modalities have a component of mindfulness, which can contribute to your emotional recovery.
Depending on where you go to rehab, you may have the opportunity to participate in recreational therapy. Arts and crafts, film, and psychodrama—to name just a few—offer a different way of relating to yourself and expressing your emotions. Veronique De Buck, Evolutionary Art Therapist at Camino Recovery, explains:
“By working with art, you can reconnect with your resources, your potential, your talents and all the beautiful things you have inside of you. Sometimes people can’t put their trauma into words. So it helps to feel, to contact their heart, to feel the emotions and to put those emotions on paper.”
Some luxury rehabs are known for their adventure therapy programs. These experiences vary widely from location to location. In California, you might hike a beautiful mountain trail. Some Florida rehabs offer beach activities from surfing to wave running. At White River Manor in South Africa, you can even go on safari. These activities are a fun and exciting way to learn about your own reactions to life in different contexts. According to Ryan Soave, these experiences are more than just a break from the intensity of therapy:
“Fun and play are super important to getting well. It actually allows people to access creative states, which we want people to be in. In behavioral health, it’s about inventing a new way of relating with oneself and others and the world around them. So being able to get out and have fun can really help their process.”
Through these experiences, you’ll develop more sustainable ways of relating to the world. And having positive memories to draw from can make the next chapter of your life feel more accessible.
People are complex, multifaceted beings. Rehab is designed to treat every aspect of self. The demanding work of individual and group therapy encourages you to delve into your reasons for being in rehab in the first place. By balancing this work with enjoyable low-stakes activities, you’ll be reminded of how much the world has to offer you. As challenging as recovery can be, it’s the first step in moving towards a life you love.
Browse our collection of luxury treatment centers to learn more about the experience of rehab.
The length of stay in rehab varies depending on individual needs, but most programs last between 30 and 90 days. Some programs are shorter or longer stays depending on the severity of addiction and the individual’s needs.
APA Div. 12 (Society of Clinical Psychology). (2017). What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?, American Psychological Association.
Shapiro, F. (2014). The Role of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy in Medicine: Addressing the Psychological and Physical Symptoms Stemming from Adverse Life Experiences. The Permanente Journal, 2014 Winter; 18(1): 71–77.
Osaji, J., Ojimba, C., & Ahmed, S. (2020). The Use of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in Substance Use Disorders: A Review of Literature. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 12(10), 629-633.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Group Therapy in Substance Use Treatment. Advisory.
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