Friends and family can usually visit a person in rehab, although many facilities have a “blackout period” during the detox process or early in rehab, during which they don’t allow visitors or only allow them under particular circumstances. This typically won’t be longer than 10 days, usually less, at which point visitation is often permitted.
Why Is There Sometimes a Blackout Period in Rehab?
From an outside perspective, the visitation blackout period many rehab facilities have can seem understandably odd. These programs are meant to help people recover from addiction, so why is a person in recovery sometimes prevented from seeing visitors for a time?
Generally, a blackout period exists to allow a person to focus completely on overcoming withdrawal and getting the addiction help they need without distractions about friends, family, or other outside matters. Essentially, the idea is that a person needs time for themself.
A blackout period can also help prevent other people from, intentionally or not, causing someone to quit the recovery process when they may be in their most vulnerable state.
A blackout period isn’t a punishment or any kind of penance for some perceived wrong. While a person may not be allowed visitors, they receive the full support of facility staff and everything (within reason) is done to make them comfortable and maximize their chances of a successful recovery. In fact, the goal of any blackout period at a reputable facility is to do just that: heighten a person’s chances of overcoming their problems with drug abuse.
Levels of Care & Visitors at Rehab
The amount of visitation and outside interactions a person in recovery is encouraged to engage in usually varies by the type of care they are currently receiving.
- Detox care: Because detox is usually brief and the person isn’t feeling well, many facilities have a blackout period at this time. Others may limit visitation, judging the circumstances on a case-by-case basis.
- Inpatient residential care: At this stage, visitation is much more common, although generally kept relatively brief, as the recovery process can still require significant focus and is often an “inward-facing” process.
- Outpatient care: With outpatient care, an individual can leave a facility to visit others and can generally live their life as they normally would when not at the facility for treatment.
Notably, a person receiving treatment shouldn’t be required to see certain visitors. Some people receiving addiction treatment may have individuals in their lives they don’t want to see or even shouldn’t see because they may not be ready to talk with that person or that person may even encourage destructive behaviors. This can include family members in some cases.
It is okay not to receive visitors of any kind if you worry it may negatively impact your treatment.
Rehab Visitation Rules
At Boca Recovery Center, we encourage opportunities for family members to participate in their loved one’s treatment and care. Immediately upon the client’s admission to our facility, family contact is facilitated between the clinician and family members identified by the client. When possible, family members remain involved in the treatment process by way of phone calls and regular updates and also family sessions that are facilitated over the phone.
Generally, at the detox level of care, the client’s stay is brief (5 to 7 days, typically). Because of the nature of this level of care (medical detoxification), the client is usually not feeling at their best and any deeper clinical work is not going to start until the client transitions to the residential level of care.
Because detox can be uncomfortable and the stay at this level is brief, family members generally do not visit during that time. However, visitation can still be discussed and permitted on a case-by-case basis.
Once the client has safely detoxed and transitioned to the residential level of care, if and when a family member is able to be physically present, we set up a time for the loved one to come to the facility and participate in a session with the client’s caseload therapist. Usually, the visit will also permit some time for the client to spend time visiting with their family member after the session has been completed.
The amount of time a family spends in the facility visiting with their loved one is generally kept relatively brief because the focus of this level of treatment (residential) is more about the client working on themselves and addressing issues that oftentimes involve setting healthy boundaries and prioritizing self-care.
At Boca Recovery Center, we pride ourselves on being able to individualize client care and needs, so we are always willing and able to explore different ways in which we can further enhance the client’s recovery experience, where medically sound. We also use the term family broadly, and encourage visitation from those in a person’s life with whom they have healthy, supportive relationships.
Family Involvement in the Treatment Process
When possible, treatment experts generally recommend some level of involvement from family in the addiction treatment process. Family involvement is often associated with better outcomes for the person in recovery, especially when family members are willing to follow expert advice and attend family counseling sessions.
A significant part of addiction recovery is the building of a support network that can help a person resist drug abuse in the future. For many people, family can represent one of the best sources of this support, as a person’s family is often full of people who love them, wish to help them, and whom they are in regular contact with.
Benefits of Family Involvement
Having one’s family actively involved in helping them resist drug abuse can provide a person with a reliable, stable group of people to talk with about their issues and seek help from if they feel drawn to abuse drugs. While there are limits to the help any one family member can provide, and while it is possible for some family members to actually be a toxic force in a person’s life, having a person’s family generally support their attempts to live a healthier life and assist in their recovery can still be immensely helpful.
The Role of the Family in Alcohol Use Disorder Recovery for Adults. (May 2021). Alcohol Research.
Family-Focused Practices in Addictions: A Scoping Review Protocol. (January 2018). BMJ Open.
Inclusion of Family Therapy in Rehabilitation Program of Substance Abuse and Its Efficacious Implementation. (August 2019). The Family Journal.
Rehab Rounds: Involving Families in Rehabilitation Through Behavioral Family Management. (May 2003). Psychiatric Services.