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What to Expect in Residential Drug Treatment

Have you been considering treatment in a residential drug treatment center? You’re probably wondering just what it will be like.  The idea of stopping your abuse or dependency of a substance is scary, whether it be to drugs, alcohol or both. You’ve reached a point at which you really can’t just quit on your own, and you’ve probably even had some outpatient treatment. What will happen to you when you’re admitted for residential treatment?

Scheduling an Admission

There are very few cases when someone is carted off dramatically and dropped off at a treatment center without some kind of advance planning. You will go through an assessment, which is an appointment with a licensed substance abuse counselor who will ask you all kinds of questions about your use of legal and illegal substances. You will also answer questions about your family life, social life, work life, legal problems, physical health, and mental health.

Once you agree to residential treatment, a date will be set for your admission. Depending on the facility, it may come quickly; at other places, there can be a waiting list. While the professionals will want to admit you as quickly as possible, your admission will be planned.

Your First Day

Once you’re admitted to the facility, a counselor will be assigned to be in charge of your treatment. This counselor will manage all aspects of your care, from substance abuse to family issues, medical, problems, and so on.

Usually within 24 hours of your admission the counselor will sit down with you and create a treatment plan. He will describe to you how the center’s staff will manage your care by addressing areas such as detox or withdrawal; biomedical health; emotional, behavioral, or cognitive conditions or complications; treatment acceptance; family functioning; aftercare planning; and recovery environment. Most of this will be accomplished by group counseling and some individual one-on-one sessions.

On your part, you’ll tell the counselor what you hope to achieve by going through the residential treatment program. It’s quite possible that by the time you leave, your goals will be changed, but that’s not something to think about on your first day.

Your counselor should tell you that everything he and his staff will do will be aimed at helping you to achieve a successful discharge from the facility. He will arrange for you to have an easy transition back to the life you once had, the life you lived before substance abuse—or create a new life if that’s what is needed.

Treatment Modalities

Just what is a treatment modality? It’s a therapeutic regimen or series of treatments that will help you reach your goal of quitting substance abuse. They occur outside of the group therapy sessions, and they are aimed at helping you to think about your relationship with your drug of choice. Here are examples of common treatment exercises:

  • Exploring Yourself. Your counselor might have you answer a questionnaire about the kind of person you are. It’s not so easy to come up with 25 things about yourself, for example, but if you stop and take some time to think about it, you can remember the person you really are beneath the influence of the drugs.
  • Use, Consequences, Secrets. When did you first start using? What were the consequences? What secrets were you forced to keep as a result? Your story might have begun years ago, when you were a teen. If you smoked cigarettes when you weren’t allowed, and then you got sick, but you had to hide it from your mother, that could have been the beginning of substance abuse. The idea of the exercise is to connect your behaviors with the consequences that they bring.
  • Vision Board. What do you see as your future? Certainly you have one! What would you like to do, if you weren’t mired down by the problems associated with drug use, such as feeling unwell and not having enough money or time?  Most people forget their natural gifts when they are focusing on getting their next high. Maybe you once had an aptitude for drawing or playing music, and once you stop your substance abuse, that natural skill will be something you can enjoy once again.
  • Family Tree. While you cannot blame others in your family for your substance abuse, it’s possible that others in your family have had problems similar to yours. It’s true that addiction behaviors tend to run in families.  Looking at your family tree can help you see the pattern, and it can help you make a commitment to being a good role model to younger people in your family.

It’s Not a Sunny Day at the Beach

Those are just a sample of the treatment exercises you can expect while you’re in substance abuse therapy. It’s hard to stop blaming the world around you and turn your gaze inward to critique yourself. But in order to do so effectively, the residential treatment center will limit your contact with the outside world.

That means it will be no sunny day at the beach! Your phone calls and visitations will be limited. Most likely, you will not be able to access the Internet. The treatment center will want you to get your head into treatment and focus on the path to recovery. 

Recovery, of course, does not end with your stay at the residential treatment. You have to look at recovery the way you would think of a medical disease like diabetes. If your doctor says you have diabetes, he can give you a diet and some medication, but you really must manage it your whole life.

The same thing applies to recovery. It’s like an illness, the medical diagnosis of addiction; but with the help from your residential treatment center counselors, you can manage this—and go back to a life worth living once again.

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