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Residential Alcohol Abuse Treatment: How It Works

By Neha Kashyap
Medically Reviewed by Arpan Parikh, MD, MBA on August 11, 2021
Here's how and why inpatient alcohol rehab can help treat alcoholism.

Residential alcohol treatment centers can provide a safe and organized way to get help for a severe drinking problem without life distractions. 

A medical professional might recommend rehab for you if you’ve been diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder (AUD), more commonly known as alcoholism. Here’s some information on why and how rehab works.

Benefits of Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehabilitation entails living in a treatment facility for at least a month in most cases. 

“The primary benefit of residential treatment — as opposed to outpatient — is a contained, safe environment free of the triggers and barriers that derailed previous attempts at sobriety,” Aaron Weiner, PhD, a clinical psychologist and addiction treatment specialist in Chicago, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “The second significant benefit is having a very large amount of structured treatment activities daily, at some facilities as much as 12 hours per day.” 

These activities can include life skills training, daily meetings with a counselor, and group therapy. In addition, rehab can provide a stability and consistency that some people with an alcohol use disorder can’t get at home. 

How It Works

According to experts, rehab is a phased process that involves several steps. These include intake, detox, treatment, and outpatient services.

Admissions and Intake: Intake is an orientation and assessment process that determines eligibility. During intake, you would meet with a counselor to discuss your concerns and history.

This phase helps the rehab center “get each patient off on the right foot” so their unique medical and mental health concerns can be addressed, says Vikram Tarugu, MD, the CEO of Detox of South Florida in Okeechobee.

Detox: Detoxing happens when the body adjusts to a lack of alcohol. It is important to get detox under medical supervision, as the process can be painful and possibly dangerous. Symptoms of detox can include hallucinations, tremors, heart rate and blood pressure changes, nausea, fever, and in some extreme cases, seizures.

Treatment: A stay in rehab can include individual and group therapy, life building activities and in some cases, medication. 

“The specific therapies an individual may undergo differ greatly from facility to facility, but most are intended to help the individual learn for themselves, recognize their condition and symptoms, and develop useful coping skills,” Tarugu says. “The aim of hospitalization is to support each patient in maintaining sobriety and provide them with the requisite information, techniques, and routines to live free of addiction until they exit the institution.”

Ideally, rehab would prepare you for sober life, which could include new sober friends, making amends with the past, and managing triggers that drove you to drink in the past. 

Outpatient services: After rehab, you begin readjusting to daily life in your community. Some centers offer outpatient services, which can include therapy several times a week.

Outpatient services can sometimes help you find sober housing or possibly even a new job. In some cases, state social services can help when a facility cannot. Joining support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous is another way to readjust to life after rehab.

Get Help Now

If you’re wondering about rehab for you or a loved one, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. Alcoholism is a condition that only gets worse without treatment. It could lead to dashed hopes and dreams, and possibly, irreparable bodily harm or even death.

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