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How Do I Prepare for Rehab?: What to Expect at Treatment

A stay at an addiction treatment center may seem overwhelming and intimidating at first. Luckily, there are certain things you can do to prepare for your visit, which can help eliminate some of the associated fear and stress.

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Understanding your own needs as well as the treatment process is important in preparing for rehab. Making arrangements with your work, learning the impact of addiction and treatment on your family, and figuring out what you can bring to the facility are all good preparation techniques.

Understanding What to Expect at Rehab

We’ve broken down what you can expect at rehab:

How Treatment Centers Work

A rehab facility can feel intimidating if you have never been to one before, but know that everyone there has your best interest as their focus. 

Rehab’s number one goal is to inform a client on how to live their regular life outside of treatment without having to rely on drugs or alcohol. This entails learning more about yourself, your addiction, and your own mental well-being. 

Understanding Your Own Needs

Addiction itself is a chronic brain disease that has the potential for either recurrence or recovery, but it is also a personal struggle for everyone. Just like each person is unique, their addiction is also unique. Having a firm grasp on your own needs and being honest with yourself can help understand your own addiction and personal recovery journey.

The Admission Process

To be successfully admitted into a rehab facility, you’ll need to get payment information in order and set your start date. If you are using insurance coverage, ensure that the treatment center accepts your provider before signing up. 

Then, choose whether long-term or short-term care is most beneficial to your sobriety. This is determined by a person’s substance abuse history, mental health, and the severity of the addiction. Physical health will also be a consideration.


Some inpatient treatment centers offer single rooms to patients, and others require patients to have a roommate. Learn what to expect beforehand, so you aren’t surprised if you are sharing your sleeping quarters. 

Medical Detox

Depending on the severity of your addiction, a medically supervised detox might happen right away during treatment. Abruptly ending the use of drugs or alcohol can lead to several health concerns, including these:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Mood swings

More severe drug or alcohol withdrawal can also lead to seizures, cardiac arrhythmia, and hyperthermia, which is why having medical professionals nearby is so important. You should never attempt to suddenly stop using drugs on your own at home. Consult a medical professional regarding how to proceed.

Group Therapy & Other Activities

A big emphasis of any treatment program is working with others and getting support from patients in similar situations. Group therapy is a necessary component to sobriety because it allows patients to listen to others while also sharing their stories, all of which can be beneficial in recovery. 

This support system is also apparent during group activities typically conducted at rehab, including daily check-ins, various therapeutic undertakings, and social activities.

Ongoing Counseling & Aftercare

Creating a network of others in recovery along with counselors can set the foundation for future sober living. Continuing outpatient care, attending 12-step support group meetings, and finding new sober activities to replace previous bad habits all contribute to ongoing success with sobriety.

Preparing Family, Work & Financials Before Going to Rehab

Life does not just stop when a person goes into a treatment facility. You must take care of any family, work, and financial responsibilities before going to rehab. 


Familial obligations must be fulfilled before leaving for treatment. If you are a parent, ensuring that your child or children are cared for and have a place to stay is imperative. Trusted close relatives or friends can be solutions. 

Childcare assistant groups and temporary living arrangements can also be utilized if family is not available. Some treatment facilities even allow the parent to keep watching their kids while in rehab.

Other family members should also know what is going on before leaving for rehab. Family can help form the emotional support that is necessary for combating addiction and staying sober.


If you are employed, it may initially feel embarrassing to let your work supervisor know about your situation, but this is often necessary. You don’t have to get into specifics, but let your employer know you are taking a medical leave of absence. 

If you are unsure what to say, talk to an employment attorney or HR specialist beforehand to learn the best practice. Legal protections are in place to allow job protection while someone gets addiction treatment. Check your eligibility under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). 

In addition, the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits an employer from firing an employee for going to rehab. You can, however, be terminated if your employer discovers you are using substances on the job.


Living expenses, bills, and other financial obligations must still be met when going to rehab. Ensuring that all finances are in order helps alleviate some of the distress associated with recovery. 

Set up automatic payments and other arrangements to financial institutions before checking into a facility and beginning treatment. This also helps with naturally assimilating back into normal life after being released from treatment. 

What to Bring to Rehab

There are certain things that most treatment centers allow clients to bring while other items are prohibited. Though specifics will vary from facility to facility, someone entering a rehabilitation program can typically bring the following:

  • Clothes for the duration of the stay
  • Sleeping attire
  • If applicable, non-revealing swimsuits
  • Comfortable shoes for various activities
  • Everyday toiletries, such as soaps and shampoos
  • Reading materials

Certain electronic devices can also be brought to some rehabs, such as a personal radio or music player. Prescription medications are also allowed, but these are checked with a staff member upon entering the facility. Some medications that help with addiction might also be prescribed when in the rehab’s care. 

Items not typically allowed in rehab include the following:

  • Tobacco products
  • Drugs or alcohol
  • Food or drinks
  • Weapons
  • Smartphones or recording devices
  • Clothes with profanity
  • Revealing clothes

A person from the admissions office at each specific facility can clarify what exactly is allowed at that particular treatment center.

Updated June 8, 2023
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  4. A Clean and Sober Place to Live: Philosophy, Structure, and Purported Therapeutic Factors in Sober Living Houses. (October 2008). Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.
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  6. The Impact of Substance Use Disorders on Families and Children: From Theory to Practice. (July 2017). Social Work in Public Health.
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  8. The Relationship Between Financial Worries and Psychological Distress Among U.S. Adults. (February 2022). Journal of Family and Economic Issues.
  9. Family and Medical Leave Act Advisor. U.S. Department of Labor.
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