Futures Recovery Healthcare

What to Expect When a Loved One Goes to Rehab: 7 Questions Answered


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The first step is done: Your loved one is on the way to treatment. Perhaps, it was your friend, a sibling, or child who made the decision to go on their own. Or, maybe, urging from you or other friends and family members was the catalyst to go to rehab. Whatever the motivation—the fact that your loved one is safely embarking on the road to rehabilitation is positive news. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Research that tracks individuals in treatment over extended periods, [shows that] most people who get into and remain in treatment stop using drugs, decrease their criminal activity, and improve their occupational, social, and psychological functioning.”

Seeking professional help, from a reputable treatment center that provides evidence-based practices helps give your friend or family member much-needed, reliable support and strategies to encourage long-term recovery. 

But, you may wonder…

What happens during the first few days and weeks of rehab?

Can I visit or talk with my loved one?

How long will my friend or family member be in treatment?

What happens once my loved one completes inpatient addiction treatment?

These are common and important questions to ask! For this very reason, we are here to help you find answers to these, and other frequently asked queries. Keep reading to learn more about what to expect when your friend or family member goes to rehab.

And, it’s important to note that you and your loved one are not alone! At Futures Recovery Healthcare we understand the complexity of addiction and how it impacts families. To help those with SUD and AUD, we base our recovery program on the principle of “meeting people where they are,” by offering multiple pathways for recovery.  

The Friends and Family Guide to What to Expect When a Loved One Goes to Rehab

Obviously, if you have never experienced for yourself or known someone who has gone to rehab, you aren’t sure what to expect. Knowing this, we have gathered some of the most common questions asked by friends and families who have had a loved one go to rehab. 

While there are different types of addiction rehab—inpatient and outpatient, for example—we will be focussing on inpatient or “residential” treatment in addressing the following seven questions. 

1. What happens during the first few days and weeks of rehab?

In a long-term addiction rehabilitation care center, most programs include a detoxification component. During detox, medically trained and certified health professionals manage and monitor withdrawal. Since this process can be dangerous—often having the potential for serious and even fatal health risks—medication may be administered by a physician during this phase. 

Detox can last varying lengths of time depending on the type of substance a person is withdrawing from and the severity of symptoms, side effects, and the overall health condition of the patient. 

2. What happens after detox?

While inpatient treatment centers vary in the services they offer and the way their programs are structured, typically, the phase following detox is the development of an individualized treatment plan. This ensures that each person has the physical, emotional, and mental support necessary to optimize recovery. 

An individual who is in rehab for drug addiction has different needs than a person with alcohol use disorder. Additionally, everyone has different body chemistries and medical needs. 

Substance abuse rehabilitation often includes different and comprehensive types of therapies and treatment approaches, which include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Contingency management
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Family therapy
  • Talk therapy
  • Medication
  • Support groups
  • Holistic healing

3. Can I visit or talk with my loved one?

This is a question that has multiple answers and elements to consider. While the short answer is yes—you can visit and speak with your loved one during recovery—important points to think about include:

  • Different rehabs have varying structures when it comes to communication and visits. For example, cell phones may be monitored by a treatment center team member, enabling rehab residents to only use them at certain times of the day. Similarly, visits with family members may be confined to family therapy sessions and family-visit days. 
  • Depending on the individual, it’s important to consider his/her family dynamics. If a loved one in recovery feels supported by family members, this is a wonderful opportunity to use visits and communication as a way to continue encouraging the recovery journey. If, however, family systems are contentious, chaotic, and negative in any way, communication may have the opposite effect. 

A rehabilitation center counselor typically serves as an optimal guide to instructing friends and family members as to the best approach in communicating with a loved one. Counselors and therapists are unbiased and have years of experience in helping families with all manner of dynamics and challenges. 

4. How long will my loved one be in rehab?

It depends. Most long-term residential treatment plans provide different models, with the most common being between 6 and 12 months. 

It’s important to remember that the aim of substance abuse treatment is to not only help people with addiction stop compulsive use of drugs and/or alcohol but to also find stability, support, and actionable steps to help maintain long-term sobriety. Some patients require (and even request) longer treatment stays to help ensure they have the tools and resources needed to achieve and continue healthy sobriety. 

5. What can I do to support my loved one while in rehab?

Thankfully, there are many things you can do to provide support and encouragement to your loved one while they are in treatment (and after) which include:

  • Seeking help for yourself. There are many support groups, therapists, and other avenues specifically catered to helping family and friends with a loved one with SUD. As you well know, when a loved one has a drug or alcohol addiction, it affects everyone around them. Getting help for yourself can help you not only heal wounds that may have been inflicted by your loved one but also help you better understand the disease of addiction. 
  • Keeping yourself and your life first. Many friends and family of a loved one with SUD put their lives and activities on hold to be of love and service. Sometimes they easily (even unknowingly slip into enabling behavior). It’s not uncommon to end up making the person in need of help the focus of your own life, putting yourself and your needs on the back burner. 

6. Should I do anything to prepare for when my family member gets out of rehab?

While it’s not your responsibility to do anything to prepare your family member’s living space, there are things you can do to help—if you so choose. For example, if you happen to know that there is still alcohol, drugs, or paraphernalia on-premise, you (or another trusted friend or family member) can remove any harmful material. 

In some cases, your loved one may not have a living space to return to or may feel apprehensive about going back to the same environment. In this scenario, it may be wise to consider recovery housing (also referred to as a halfway house or sober living). This type of transitional residence provides support to people just getting out of treatment.

A supervisor or manager oversees the home, making sure that house members are accountable for their sobriety. There are often stringent rules, comprehensive supports (such as in-house 12-Step meetings), and tasks required. This structure is intended to help ease individuals out of rehab back into daily living—reinforcing the skills and strategies of rehab, and preparing them to live independently. 

7. What happens once my loved one completes inpatient addiction treatment?

After completing a treatment program is an overwhelming, vulnerable time for many newly sober alcoholics and addicts. It can be the same for you as a family or friend. You may wonder whether they will stay sober, or if you have done enough to help. It’s important to remember that your loved one is responsible for his/her disease—not you. 

But, you can help your loved one after completing rehab by:

  • Remembering you are not responsible for their addiction.
  • Establishing boundaries as to what you will and will not do to help your loved one.
  • Offering to be of love and support in specific ways that work within your boundaries “(I will not help you reignite your disease by driving you to a bar, but I will help you prevent relapse by taking you to a recovery meeting”).
  • Continuing to work on your program (if you decide to attend Al-Anon or another support group).
  • Avoiding pressuring your loved one to do certain things you think they should do or need.

I Think My Loved One Needs to Go to Rehab, What Should I Do?

If you suspect that your loved one has a SUD, you are not alone. At Futures, we routinely help family and friends of loved ones explore multiple pathways of addiction treatment. This includes inpatient detoxification and residential treatment, and outpatient services by qualified, experienced professionals in substance abuse and mental health disordersIf you have been searching for a solution for your loved one, contact us confidentially online or by phone at 866-804-2098. And, remember, many people suffering from addiction go on to live fulfilling, joyful lives.


Our team is here to guide you through your path to recovery.

call now CALL NOW
(866) 351-7588
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