Although millions of people suffer from substance use disorders, only a small percentage of them receive addiction treatment. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 20.4 million Americans had a substance use disorder in 2019, but only 2.1 million received any substance use treatment for alcohol or illicit drug use in the same year.
Substance use treatment, such as rehabilitation, is designed to provide a safe environment for people to address problems associated with their use of alcohol or drugs, including medical problems related to substance abuse. To be effective, individuals should participate in a substance abuse treatment program for at least 90 days, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. However, the entire period doesn’t need to be spent in a residential facility. Oftentimes, an individual may begin inpatient treatment and then transition to an outpatient treatment program to manage their disorder and continue the treatment process.
Specific schedules will vary based on individual needs as well as program or facility, but there are some consistencies between most addiction treatment programs. To learn what to expect, we outline a typical day in rehab and the differences between treatment programs.
Inpatient and Outpatient Addiction Treatment
Alcohol and drug treatment programs generally fall into one of two categories: inpatient or outpatient rehab. While both are focused on rehabilitation, each setting offers unique benefits and qualities. Generally, inpatient rehabs are intensive residential treatment programs for people who require 24-hour care. Outpatient rehab programs are part-time programs that enable people to receive addiction treatment while accommodating family and work life.
Residential Addiction Treatment
Residential treatment, also known as inpatient treatment or residential rehab, is commonly used for individuals with severe substance use disorders, unstable living situations, limited social support or co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders who need highly structured care. Residential treatment models vary, but all provide housing and medical care in a 24-hour environment. Generally, services at a residential treatment center include detox, medication-assisted treatment, individual therapy, group therapy, recovery coaching, family education and more. Short-term programs often last 30 to 90 days, followed by outpatient treatment. Long-term programs can last six to 12 months.
Partial Hospitalization Program
A partial hospitalization program, sometimes called outpatient rehab, is a structured outpatient service that’s designed to recreate what an inpatient stay offers in terms of treatment but in an outpatient setting. In other words, individuals are not required to stay at a facility overnight; however, the intensity of the program is similar to residential rehab. This level of care typically provides 20 or more hours of addiction treatment services a week, according to the American Society for Addiction Medicine. On average, patients visit an addiction treatment facility five days a week, with treatment sessions lasting from 4 to 8 hours a day. In the evenings, patients return home to be with family or take care of life obligations.
Intensive Outpatient Program
An intensive outpatient program is a step down from a partial hospitalization program and requires less time for treatment per day or week. Generally, patients are required to attend about 10 hours of treatment each week. An intensive outpatient program, therefore, enables individuals seeking treatment for substance use disorders to participate in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction while accommodating other obligations, such as family, school or work. Patients may receive services during the day, before or after work or school, in the evening and/or on weekends. Intensive outpatient treatment may be recommended for people who don’t need medically supervised detox or don’t need to attend rehab daily.
General Outpatient Program
A general outpatient program is usually considered a step down from an intensive outpatient program. It usually involves a reduced number of hours spent in treatment each week. On average, a patient receives fewer than 9 hours of addiction treatment services a week. Treatment typically takes the form of individual therapy or group therapy sessions.
What to Expect During a Typical Day in Residential Rehab
A typical day in rehab can vary from program to program and depends on the specific needs of the individual. However, the structured part of a day within an inpatient program at a rehab facility for alcohol addiction or drug abuse usually begins between 7 and 8 a.m. and lasts until 8 or 9 p.m. A general format is outlined below.
Sample Weekday Schedule
7:00 a.m. – Wake up
7:30 a.m. – Exercise/Gym
8:00 a.m. – Personal Hygiene/Breakfast
9:00 a.m. – Individual Therapy
10: 00 a.m. – Group Therapy
11:00 a.m. – Recreation/Free Time
12:00 p.m. – Lunch
1:00 p.m. – Art/Music/Creative Expression Therapy
2:00 p.m. – Psychoeducation
3:00 p.m. – Mindfulness Walk
4:00 p.m. – Yoga/Boxing/Anger Management
5:00 p.m. – Recreation/Free Time
6:00 p.m. – Dinner
7:00 p.m. – Group Session/Discussion/12-Steps (AA)
8:00 p.m. – Chores
9:00 p.m. – Snack/Hygiene
9:30 p.m. – Meditation/Relaxation/Journaling
10:00 p.m. – Lights Out
Addiction treatment commonly consists of a combination of individual and group therapy sessions that focus on teaching those in treatment the skills needed to stop or limit the use of alcohol or drugs. Holistic therapy courses may include:
Individual therapy consists of an individual engaging in the therapeutic process on a one-on-one basis with a therapist. Behavioral therapy is one of the most commonly utilized treatment methods used during substance rehabilitation. Forms of individual behavioral therapy may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy, contingency management and motivational interviewing, among others.
Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which a group of patients meets to discuss their concerns and issues together under the supervision of a therapist. One of the most common forms of group therapy for addiction is a 12-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. This form of drug addiction therapy aims to promote long-term recovery by engaging people with a 12-step peer support group. Group therapy may also include family therapy in the recovery process.
The stigma attached to alcohol and drug addictions can hinder positive treatment outcomes. Although addiction is recognized as a chronic disease with biological origins, the detrimental attitude persists that individuals with addictions lack moral principles or willpower. Therefore, psychoeducation, a therapeutic intervention that transfers knowledge about an illness and its treatment to help patients better understand and cope with their illness, is an important component of addiction treatment.