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What You Need to Know About the Addiction Rehab Process

Four Phases of Addiction Treatment

Though individual experiences may vary, in general, people who complete an addiction rehab program can expect to progress through at least four distinct phases of treatment—intake, detox, rehabilitation, and aftercare/ongoing recovery. Intake consists of a comprehensive evaluation, which is then used to create an individualized treatment plan. Detox manages unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

What does Rehabilitation Involve

Rehab involves extensive therapy, which aims to rectify drug-seeking behaviors, instill better coping mechanisms, and teach important relapse prevention skills. As part of ongoing recovery, various outlets of aftercare provide individuals with long-term support and continued relapse prevention opportunities.

Understanding the Addiction Rehab Process

The journey from a substance use disorder (SUD) to a healthy, sober life is not a quick and easy one. For many, it takes a lifelong commitment of dedication and hard work. The road toward sobriety may be difficult, but professional treatment helps many people start that endeavor.

Rehab programs can cause confusion and anxiety. Need help understanding what’s involved in rehab? Our admissions navigators are here to walk you through the process and answer all your questions.

Phase 1: Intake—Creating a Customized Care Plan

Build a complete recovery plan according to patient condition

Admissions and Assessment

While there is no one process used by every rehabilitation facility, it is likely that the intake process will involve meeting with a professional to discuss treatment options and figure out what approach will work best for you. The goal is to develop a personalized treatment plan based on assessment of your medical, emotional, and social functioning.

During intake, the treatment team may carry out extensive assessments that may include a medical examination, a psychological assessment, and a psychosocial assessment. In addition to information on your personal drug use history, family history of addiction, and even financial arrangements for treatment, these assessments will help best determine how the program can most optimally tailor its treatment plan to you and your needs.

Co-Occurring Disorders and Dual Diagnosis

If you have medical issues and/or a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis, you will discuss additional treatment options to ensure that you receive the appropriate level of support and care. Dual diagnosis typically applies to people who suffer from a mental illness coupled with a SUD.6 Historically, there has been a split in the U.S. between mental health services and addiction treatment. A group that has fallen through the cracks of this divide is people who’ve been given a dual diagnosis.

If you have a co-occurring disorder or a dual diagnosis, you will discuss additional treatment options to ensure that you receive the necessary support and care.

Phase 2: Detox—Safely Removing Addictive Substances from Your Body

Detox rehabilitation program to remove drug from the body

Detox may involve uncomfortable and even possibly dangerous symptoms. Medical supervision of withdrawal can ensure the patient’s safety and comfort throughout the withdrawal period.

The withdrawal syndromes associated with certain types of physical substance dependence can be markedly unpleasant and/or dangerous. People at risk of developing these dicey withdrawal syndromes benefit from the added supervision, monitoring and, potentially, the pharmacologic interventions availed by medical detox settings. 1,2,3 In many instances, medication will be given to ease the withdrawal symptoms associated with certain drugs, including heroin and prescription opioid drugs.1,2,3

Medically Supervised Detox

The method of treatment—including specific treatment medications—received during detox will depend on the specific substance(s) being abused.4

Prior to detox, you will be assessed by professional medical personnel to determine certain withdrawal risks and the likelihood of a complicated withdrawal, as well as the specific types of medical intervention(s) that may be needed to mitigate these risks during detox.4 [This is not an exhaustive list; there are other medications that may be used to address detox symptoms. Read more here.]

The precise pharmacotherapeutic regimen needed during detox may differ according to type of substance dependence as well as the potential severity of the associated withdrawal syndrome.

Fear of withdrawal can keep you from taking a step toward recovery. Our admissions navigators are here to guide you and address all of your fears. You are not alone. There is more to a substance use disorder than drug use. Ready to address the underlying issues that are driving your substance use? Call our help line at for assistance. Learn more about who answers and what to expect.

Phase 3: Rehab—Building the Foundation of Long-Term Treatment Efforts

3rd phrase of the recovery process

With the successful completion of detox, the next phase of recovery is rehabilitation. This phase allows for intensive therapy where you can examine the underlying issues that lead you to your substance use disorder.

When it comes to selecting a treatment setting, it is important to familiarize yourself with the available options.

Inpatient, Outpatient & Partial Hospitalization

Inpatient treatment programs strive to remove those struggling with SUDs from their old ways of life by taking them out of a potentially problematic home environment and placing them into a treatment facility that offers 24/7 care from staff personnel.1

If you have significant work or familial obligations—such as caring for children or elderly parents—outpatient care allows you to maintain some of those responsibilities.1 Outpatient care is a good option for those with more mild or short-lived addictions, but may be a less optimal choice for those with serious, long-term addictions or for those with dual diagnosis conditions.

A partial hospitalization program (PHP) is a hospital-based form of outpatient drug rehabilitation. While a PHP can take place in the same setting as an inpatient treatment program, the levels of care are distinct.7  PHPs provide care to patients who have mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms that likely won’t be extreme or potentially fatal and do not require medical supervision around the clock.7  Different PHPs may be tailored to meet the needs of adolescents or adults.

Rehab Therapy

Effective withdrawal management and successful detox completion will allow closer focus on longer-term recovery, and that’s where the rehabilitation phase comes in. The therapy-heavy period of rehabilitation is the foundation of longer-term treatment efforts. It is through extensive counseling and therapy that you are able to address the underlying issues behind your addictions. This is when patients get to the core reasons behind their addictions, addressing those issues so they can effectively move on with their lives without going back to drugs, alcohol, or otherwise resuming their addictive behaviors.

Individual Therapy

In individual behavioral therapy:1-4

  • Patients often do some self-analysis by identifying when they began using the substance and why they started misusing it.
  • Patients receive strategies on how they can redirect their time.
  • Time management skills are taught to allow patients to better use their time.
  • Patients learn to identify drug use triggers and how to deal with these triggering situations to avoid relapse.

This type of behavioral therapy helps individuals reform their thinking patterns and make behavioral changes that will better route them toward a healthy, sober life.

Group Therapy

The addiction rehabilitation process usually includes group therapy.1-4 In fact, group sessions are the mainstay of many rehab programs. The group setting allows those recovering from addiction to interact with others who are in similar situations. It is often helpful for recovering individuals to know that they are not alone in their struggles. This sense of community support is integral to the recovery process.

Family Therapy

Many addiction rehabilitation facilities offer family therapy as part of their program. In some rehab programs, family members are encouraged to participate in family therapy sessions. Family therapy can help to resolve issues so the family can serve as a pillar of support once their loved one leaves the rehabilitation facility.2-4

Facility Amenities and Services

Participants in any SUD rehab program can expect certain aspects. At standard inpatient treatment facilities, the rooms are often basic, with a comfortable bed, a bathroom, and space for personal items. Costs may be lower at these facilities if the patient is willing to share a room. There might also be access to a swimming pool or an on-site gym, although that is not guaranteed. There is also the possibility for additional services including massage therapy.

Beyond standard treatment options, there are also luxury and executive facilities. These facilities tend to be in beautiful locations and can offer upscale amenities and services—including acupuncture, equine therapy, spa treatments, and more—in addition to the treatments common at all rehab facilities.

There is more to a substance use disorder than drug use. Ready to address the underlying issues that are driving your substance use? Call our help line at for assistance. Learn more about who answers and what to expect.

Phase 4: Recovery and Aftercare—Continuing Healing for Long-Term Recovery

aftercare treatment program to maintain sobriety for a long period

Regular therapy sessions post-rehab, both individual and group therapy, can help patients stay accountable to their sobriety on their path toward recovery.

Even after patients have completed their initial rehabilitation program, they are not finished with recovery work—in fact, recovery is a lifelong process. Prior to completion of an addiction treatment program, the patient will meet with counselors to discuss a plan for aftercare.

Building a solid plan of aftercare is important, but the individual components of aftercare may differ from one person to the next.

Sober Living, Continued Therapy, and Support Groups

Many addiction rehab facilities host their own follow-up programs to assist patients as they return to their daily lives. Such aftercare programs might consist of additional counseling, meetings, and classes for alumni of the treatment program as well as other people in the community.

Or, a patient may live in a sober living facility for a while with other individuals recovering from addiction.

Many addiction rehab facilities offer follow-up programs to assist patients as they return to their daily lives.

Many patients maintain regular therapy sessions post-rehab, and some submit to scheduled drug testing as a way to keep them accountable to their sobriety. Regular group therapy attendance is a wonderful method for building a support system in your local area.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are a couple of the more well-known 12-step groups that host meetings throughout the country that many individuals recovering from addiction attend on a regular basis.

Recovery is a lifelong process. Are you ready to start on your path toward sobriety? Call our help line at for assistance. Learn more about who answers and what to expect.

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  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): Types of Treatment Programs.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). DrugFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction: Treatment and Recovery.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): Principles of Effective Treatment.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): Is the use of medications like methadone and buprenorphine simply replacing one addiction with another?
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). DrugFacts: Comorbidity: Substance Use Disorders and Other Mental Illnesses.
  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). TIP 45: Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.

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