What to Expect From an Alcohol Rehab Programme

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Patients can expect to undergo various phases of recovery during their alcohol residential treatment programmes. Individuals can find different addiction treatments available, and most of them adhere to a set of structured programmes.

Knowing what’s expected of you in the rehab helps reduce tension and uncertainty. Treatment centers often provide a welcoming atmosphere for healing and rehabilitation.

Here’s the process of rehab and what you can expect when enrolling in one.

Assessment and evaluation

The rehab will conduct an initial assessment of your health and decide which service is ideally suited to your patient profile during evaluation.

They'll inquire about your physical and psychological fitness, as well as your alcohol consumption habits.

The assessment phase will also include mental health conditions, financial status, insurance choices, and treatment options.

During one's assessment and evaluation, the following information can be collected and reviewed:

  • Personal information
  • Medical conditions and history
  • The severity of alcohol addiction such as frequency and duration
  • Blood and vital sign testing
  • Assessment of withdrawal and relapses
  • Treatment recommendations

After a successful assessment and evaluation, patients are admitted for alcohol abuse treatment.

Certain medical examinations, such as vital sign assessments and others, may be repeated at frequent intervals during treatment if deemed necessary.

Detoxification and withdrawal prevention

Alcohol compounds are eliminated from the body through detoxification. The duration of detox differs from one patient to another, but it usually lasts 3 to 10 days. It's vital to note that everyone's experience is unique.

Each person is handled differently and the care will be strictly dependent on your symptoms.

Here’s what you can expect from a detox treatment: 

  • Flushing out of toxins
  • Medication intake to reduce withdrawal symptoms
  • Stabilization
  • Therapy and care for onset withdrawal symptoms

Detox withdrawal symptoms peak 10 to 30 hours after one's last binge drinking.

Symptoms ease at 40 to 50 hours later. Medically-assisted alcohol withdrawal care in rehab centres prevents severe problems and alleviates any unpleasant side effects.                         

Therapy and treatment

There will be a variety of activities and programmes available for the patient to achieve sobriety. This includes counselling, mediation, yoga, wellness services, or individual and group sessions.

Therapy is often responsible for changing the psychological aspects of the addiction. It improves one's feelings that contribute to addictive behaviour.

Therapists have a variety of treatment programmes such as:

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy
  • Individual and group counselling
  • Family therapy
  • Nutrition and fitness planning
  • Yoga and meditation
  • 12-step meetings

Every patient has a unique range of factors to consider for the formulation of an efficient, individualized treatment plan.

Aftercare/Extended support

Aftercare programmes have various recovery curriculums that may include on-going individual counselling or group sessions with a therapist. 

The goal of the aftercare programme is to offer support and maintain treatment to achieve sobriety.

  • Individual and group therapy sessions
  • Medical and lifestyle check-up
  • 12-step meetings
  • Recreational therapy
  • Volunteering in a community

Enrolling in an alcohol rehab programme can be daunting. It's not a simple decision to make. If you're ready to enter therapy, these are a few things you can expect so you can commit to a sober and healthier lifestyle.

What Is a Typical Day in Alcohol Rehab Like?

A typical day in an inpatient or outpatient alcohol rehab facility is structured, with patients following a planned programme. Activities differ depending on the environment and facilities available.

To genuinely experience what alcohol rehab is like, an alcoholic must have decided and been prepared to seek help. 

An example of a normal day of care could look like this:

Morning activities

Rehab programmes start early in the morning. Patients are expected to be up in the morning for their nutritious meals. This will be preceded by morning exercises, such as yoga or meditation.

Morning rehab activities often start the day in a calm state of mind.

This is often followed by group therapies and meetings for the 12-step programme to combat addiction.

A sample schedule can be found below:

  • 7 AM             Wake up
  • 7:30 AM      Breakfast
  • 8:30 AM      Reflection-Meditation
  • 9 AM             Exercise
  • 10 AM          Group or family session
  • 11 AM          Cognitive-behavioural or a motivational skills session
  • 12 PM          Lunch

Afternoon activities

Afternoon activities comprise intense therapy sessions to explore negative habits that trigger alcoholism.

There are individual and group therapy sessions that deal with behavioural treatments to curb alcohol withdrawal or relapse.

Individual counselling sessions are often done through reflective relaxation time.

During the afternoons, specialized and alternative counselling courses, skills learning, and relapse prevention are often held for one’s recovery from alcohol.

  • 1 PM            Individual therapy session
  • 2 PM            Lifestyle and Motivational sessions
  • 3 PM            Relapse prevention and habit formation
  • 4 PM            Skills training
  • 5 PM            12-step meetings

Evening activities

Evening activities are more relaxed, but, there can be another group therapy session for people who want to talk about their day and evaluate their success.

What’s more, recreational and reflection time is encouraged in patients during patients where they can also mingle and talk with other alcoholics.

Meditative nights are also part of the programme for the patient to instil good sleep habits.

  • 6 PM            Dinner
  • 7 PM            Recreational time
  • 9 PM            Reflection
  • 10 PM         Lights out

Programmes are not the same every day

In an alcohol specialist rehab facility, each day may be different, because following the same routine can be hinder their recovery. Sometimes, patients are also expected to contact family and friends for a few days.

While there is a structured programme, treatment is customized to each individual's needs, gender, age, and health conditions. As a result, each patient's recovery schedule is different and tailored to their needs.

In addition, treatments are often proactive, so, they will vary week to month as the patient progresses through his or her recovery.

Customized programme for some patients

Commonly, people who have mild to moderate addiction may follow a structured guideline for them.

Meanwhile, patients who have severe alcohol addiction may have intensive treatment that’s quite different from everyone else’s.

Some factors that may influence the schedule of alcohol rehab are:

  • Age
  • Mental health conditions
  • The severity of the addiction
  • Pre-existing medical condition
  • Preference

Sometimes, an organized portion of a rehab schedule usually begins around 6 AM and ends around 9 PM.

Families may be invited to participate in counselling and community meetings, and structured visiting time can be scheduled in the evenings or on weekends.

After the day's group sessions and support group activities are over, there could be time for a movie or other forms of recreational activities before bed.

Each week may offer a different therapy schedule to patients. This is necessary for growth and good habit formation.

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Expect Therapy and Support Groups

Some of the most intensive parts of the alcohol rehab treatment are the therapy and support group sessions to help patients recover from their addiction.

Patients can expect therapy and group sessions during rehab to prevent relapse and withdrawal symptoms.

Individuals in rehab exchange life experiences and activities that have worked for them as a way of self-help to consolidate coping strategies for recovery.

During therapy, patients expect habit formation and empathy with each individual's condition.

The end goal of therapy and support groups is improved mental health condition, habit formation, and coping mechanisms.

Alcohol rehab therapy

Alcohol rehab therapy focuses on one’s recovery through behavioural, motivational, and contingency management means.

This is to boost relapse prevention, substitute negative behaviours with healthy choices, and improve mental health.

Various forms of therapies are used to tackle alcoholism. The following therapies can be seen as part of an alcohol rehab programme:

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)

This concerns a person's thought process and how their values influence their feelings and behaviours.

An alcoholic may convince themselves that they are a disappointment and that there is no hope for them to stop drinking.

Dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT)

This was created to treat patients with severe depressive and suicidal tendencies to curb mental health issues that are often connected with substance abuse.

The main goal of therapy is to assist patients in improving their lives by achieving a compromise between the need to escape traumatic events and the ability to embrace some of life's unexpected suffering.

Motivational therapy

The goal of motivational therapy is to improve a person's involvement in treatment activities while helping him or her set goals for the future. It assists patients in practicing good habit formation and consciously pursuing it.

Family therapy

The patient sits down with family members who share words of encouragement.

Family members also help shed light on the problems the patient is facing at home and how they can assist in aiding him or her upon completion of the programme.

Arts, recreational, and mindfulness therapy

Many alcohol rehab centres offer recreational and mindfulness therapies for patients to de-stress, tap their core values, and let go of negative feelings.

Support groups

Support groups come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They can be as small as a few individuals gathering at a recovery institution and community centre, or a bigger organization.

Support services are usually free to join and are available to anyone who wants to maintain sobriety. Individuals may undergo one of these self-help therapy groups alone or as part of a larger drug care facility.

Consultations are often held in several locations, at varying hours, often in a variety of formats.

Support services are made up of individuals who have dealt with alcoholism and depression before or friends and family who can provide encouragement and optimism for long-term healing.

12-step support groups

Most alcohol rehab centres follow the 12-step programme as part of their treatment for alcoholism. These are a series of tasks that patients perform to face their addiction and stay sober.

Group counselling and support

A therapist rounds up the patients in the facility to talk about addiction, habits that may help, and each other’s alcoholic struggles.

Each person gets a round of sharing and may receive feedback or help from any of the members.

Community volunteering

Volunteering for the community is one activity support groups often do. It helps the patient get productive, learn new skills, and meet new people.

Group therapy and support is an excellent treatment method for alcoholics to raise self-awareness, encourage healthy habits, promote self-esteem, and improve social connections by creating a supportive environment.

Education and Post-Treatment Preparation

Alcohol education and post-treatment preparation assist patients for long-term sobriety. After their rehab, they are advised to stay focused on their health thereafter.

Patients will learn to live a life after recovery and sustain their sobriety through post-treatment preparation. They find new ways to avoid addiction and can deal with social triggers as a result of this.

Alcohol education for patients

Inadequate education is the obvious hurdle to proper care for patients with alcohol abuse disorders.

Therefore, alcohol education for patients near post-treatment is necessary to educate recovering alcoholics on the effects of alcohol on the body.

It’s about its effects and how to curb drink cravings and triggers that will lead to relapse.

Here are common educational content rehab centres share:

  • Dangers of addiction
  • Living a healthy lifestyle
  • Manage alcohol drinking
  • Mental health coping mechanisms
  • Setting goals and aspirations

Cases of alcohol education vary widely depending on whether one is educating about alcohol, education regarding alcohol, or educating patients about alcohol.

Although drinking alcohol is generally not a healthy lifestyle choice for most, alcohol education aims primarily to inform patients about the dangers of alcohol addiction and the necessity of doing so.

Health education is primarily aimed at patients with chronic diseases or severe ailments and serves primarily to inform them of the harm they are doing to themselves.

Over the past few years, alcohol education has undergone a rapid expansion with a focus on both patients with chronic diseases and others who consume alcohol, whether in healthy or unhealthy forms.

It has become standard for hospitals and health care facilities to send health care personnel to speak to the patients about alcohol education.

Post-treatment planning

After finishing their alcohol treatment, patients undergo post-treatment planning as a means of transition to society and live a life free from alcohol.

Planning post-treatment is one of the most important things for recovering alcoholics.

It gives them a clear and practical purpose in life, and be involved with the community as a sober person.

Post-treatment planning is a good approach, not because it is necessarily a cure, but because it keeps them on the right track after treatment.

If patients don't start taking care of themselves after rehab, it is hard to imagine how they will take care of their health later. Unfortunately, many patients don't have a plan for what they will do with their lives after rehab.

Post-planning activities involve:

  • Counselling and education
  • Implement healthy habits
  • Practice coping skills
  • Learn relapse prevention
  • Manage triggers and stressors
  • Residing in sober living condition

We usually think about post-treatment planning as an intervention after detoxification.

The goals of post-treatment therapy are to reengage in healthy life activities, such as counselling, employment, developing a support system, and having good relationships, in terms of both emotional and physical health.

Many post-treatment patients continue in treatment regularly, sometimes attending sessions for a year or two.

These patients typically attend three or four post-treatment counselling sessions with a therapist, where they determine their goals.

These goals might be ways to improve their mental health and quality of life or changes to their life in general.

What happens at an alcohol rehab?

Alcohol rehab is the medical and therapeutic treatment recommended when a person struggles with alcoholism.

The rehab centre is the medical facility where this treatment takes place.

At rehab, an alcoholic would take a strategic routine of treatments. For every inpatient, health records and age factor heavily on their experience of what happens at alcohol rehab.

Generally, physical and mental exercises, group therapies, healthy nutrition, connecting with family and friends, and behavioural practices are the most common alcohol rehab treatments.


Alcoholism remains one of the most challenging addictions to overcome. Contact Abbeycare Scotland or Abbeycare Gloucester right now and we'll start on how we can assist the patient with an intervention that leads to long-term sobriety.


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About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Pete has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. To read more about Pete visit his LinkedIn profile.