Going to rehab is a big decision. Before you or a loved one goes to rehab, it's important to consider whether rehab best suits your treatment and recovery needs.
Here's what to do to help you decide if rehab is right for you.
When you're making this decision, don’t go it alone. To determine whether rehab is the right option for you, it’s important to get professional advice. Get an independent assessment of your treatment needs by a clinician who has experience in substance use problems but is not connected with or employed by a treatment center.
Your primary care physician may be able to perform the assessment or refer you to someone who can. Ask for a clinician who has been trained in substance use treatment and has earned the following credentials:
Physician (M.D. or D.O.): Find a physician specializing in substance use disorders using the American Board of Addiction Medicine locator.
Licensed psychologist (Ph.D. or Psy.D.): Find a psychologist using the American Psychological Association Practice Association locator.
Licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), marriage and family therapist (LMFT), or mental health counselor (LMHC, LPC, or LCMHC).
Addiction counselor who is licensed (meets state requirements) or certified (meets the requirements of professional certification boards).
If you are considering rehab, you may find yourself overwhelmed with questions. Beyond a doctor's or clinician's assessment of your treatment needs, you will want to consider costs and insurance coverage, your ability to travel, and how your decision will affect your family, job, and personal life.
You also will need to determine which type of rehab is right for you, and particularly whether to have outpatient care by appointment or inpatient care, living at a treatment center.
Inpatient rehab is one of the most intensive treatment options. It’s effective for people with moderate to severe addiction, or those who need treatment for physical or mental health conditions in addition to their substance use problem.
Finding a recovery coach can help you decide on a treatment center. While recovery coaches are not typically clinicians and cannot necessarily perform a clinical assessment, they can help you choose the appropriate treatment setting based on your needs and values.
To make your treatment decision, you may be wondering how long you’ll need to commit to rehab. There is no one right answer.
Your program length is one of the most important indicators of how successful your treatment will be. The most common program length is 28 days, but many patients need much longer for their treatment to be effective. In fact, inpatient and outpatient treatment programs are more successful when individuals participate for 90 days or more. In one study, about half of those undergoing a typical 30-day treatment program were still off alcohol and other drugs after one year. But the majority of patients (over 80 percent) who participated in a treatment program lasting more than 30 days were substance-free one year later.
In other situations, a shorter length of stay in a residential rehab can actually better support your recovery. People who can benefit from shorter stays may have strong community supports. Or they may be eager to get back to work or school, because they know that staying busy will keep them away from drugs. In these situations, long-term outpatient treatment can be an important option.
Rehab isn’t just about getting off alcohol and other drugs. Therapy is the key to long-term success.
Most rehab programs include therapy — both in groups and individually — along with counseling, which can help patients improve their relationships with loved ones. Therapy will also give you tools to figure out and overcome the triggers that lead you to drink or use drugs. Recovery is a lifelong process of working on those relationships and using those tools to increase your chances of maintaining your abstinence from alcohol and other drugs.
A resumption of use — temporarily using alcohol and other drugs after rehab — doesn’t mean your treatment failed. About half of people in recovery resume substance use, sometimes known as a relapse.
Remember, treatment for substance misuse involves changing deeply imbedded behaviors, and a return to alcohol and other drugs only means the treatment needs to be restarted or re-assessed.
Learn from your experiences. What made your recovery easier? What worked? What made it more difficult? Were there particular triggers or situations that made you want to use again? What can you do differently this time?
Content reviewed by Dr. Jasleen Salwan, MD, MPH, FASAM, February 2023.