A Snapshot of Rehab

You have probably heard the term “rehab,” but may not be sure of what exactly it is comprised of. There are many different combinations that work together to make up various rehabilitation experiences for mental health and substance use disorders. No one treatment is right for every person – it takes an individualized approach to determine what is best in each case.

“The popular concept of alcohol treatment is often limited to knowledge of 28-day inpatient rehab or 12-Step programs,” says Dr. George Koob, who is director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). “In fact there are diverse treatment options of which people may be less aware, and many of which can be undertaken with minimal disruption to home and work life.”

Types of therapy include:

  • Behavioral treatments
  • Use of medications
  • Support groups

These elements may be used at different times and to varying degrees depending on the needs of each person.


Behavioral treatments work toward changing addictive behavior through counseling led by health professionals. There are many therapy approaches, as outlined by the NIAAA, including:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment (CBT): This form of therapy is focused on identifying the feelings and beliefs that lead to the addictive behavior and managing stress that can lead to relapse. The goal is to change the thought processes and to develop the skills necessary to cope with everyday situations that might be triggers.
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy: This is a short-term process that works on motivation to change the addictive behavior, “identifying the pros and cons of seeking treatment, forming a plan for making changes in one’s drinking, building confidence and developing the skills needed to stick to the plan.”
  • Marital and Family Counseling: This therapy includes spouses and/or family members to work on repairing and improving relationships.
  • Brief Interventions: This approach involves short, one-on-one or small-group counseling sessions where patterns and potential risks are examined. The therapist and the individual set goals and come up with ideas for helping to make a change.

One or several of these therapies may be helpful to you during and after addiction treatment.


According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Medications for mental and substance use disorders provide significant relief for many people and help manage symptoms to the point where people can use other strategies to pursue recovery.” There are many different types of medication for mental health problems, including anti-depressants, medication for attention issues, anti-anxiety medications, mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medications.

There are some medications approved in the United States to help people stop substance use disorders and prevent relapse. These medications can help reestablish normal brain function and prevent relapse and diminish cravings, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). For opioid addiction treatment, drugs used are methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone. For alcohol dependence, naltrexone, acamprosate or disulfiram can be incorporated into the treatment plan.

Support Groups

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-Step programs provide peer support for people going through the rehabilitation process. These types of support group meetings are often integrated into the overall rehab process, as well as during aftercare.

Inpatient Clinics vs. Outpatient Treatment

Another choice to be made is whether the treatment will be conducted on an inpatient or outpatient basis. If it is inpatient, the person stays at a facility for the duration of treatment. This is usually more intense and also more costly. Outpatient treatment is conducted while the person continues to live at home. Either way, evaluating the person’s insurance coverage is an important step. If necessary, ask the facility if it offers a sliding scale for payments based on income.

Continuing Treatment Options

Addictions are chronic conditions that require continued management even after rehab is successfully completed. In fact, relapse is often part of the addiction recovery process and for this reason, continued follow-up with a treatment provider is often critical to success. The NIAAA likens it to other diseases: “Just as some people with diabetes or asthma may have flare-ups of their disease, a relapse to drinking can be seen as a temporary set-back to full recovery and not a complete failure.”

Behavioral therapies can help people develop skills to avoid and overcome triggers, such as stress, that might lead to relapse. The NIAAA suggests checking in with treatment professionals after rehab. Most people benefit from regular checkups with a treatment provider.

Find the Right Treatment

According to NIDA, “Medication and behavioral therapy, especially when combined, are important elements of an overall therapeutic process that often begins with detoxification, followed by treatment and relapse prevention.”

Unfortunately, while effective treatments exist, many people who need rehab do not receive help. Data from reports that in 2014, 15.7 million adults had a major depressive episode in the past 12 months. Of those, about one-third of adults (33.2 percent) did not seek professional help during that time. The 2014 NSDUH data also show that 21.2 million Americans ages 12 and older needed treatment for an illegal drug or alcohol use problem in 2014. However, only about 2.5 million people received the specialized treatment they needed.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, you can call our toll-free helpline to talk with our admissions coordinators about the resources that may be right for you. They are available to take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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