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Alcohol Rehab: What to Expect From Treatment

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Alcohol-related problems are among the greatest public health challenges in the United States. Whether it’s drinking too often, too fast, or too much, many people struggle with alcohol use at some point in their life.1

If you have recognized your alcohol use has become a problem, you may start to think about alcohol rehab, what to expect at a rehab center, and how treatment could benefit your life.

Why Choose Alcohol Rehab

More than 14 million American adults qualify for a clinical diagnosis of alcohol use disorder (AUD), meaning their drinking causes significant distress or harm. AUD is a medical condition with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. You may drink compulsively, struggle to control your use, and experience physical withdrawal symptoms when you are not drinking.1,2

Short-Term Benefits

Some short-term benefits of attending rehab include:

  • An opportunity to start addressing your alcohol use and regain control of your life
  • A safe environment to heal and unlearn the destructive habits related to alcohol use
  • Obtain immediate sobriety by going through detox
  • Feeling empowered from choosing to act and seek help
  • Professional medical support to help support you through the detox process
  • Professional counseling to help you address the root cause of your alcohol misuse and develop new coping strategies to replace it
  • Opportunities to share and connect with others with similar struggles
  • A daily routine and structure that can help with focusing on treatment goals

Long-Term Benefits

Some long-term benefits of attending alcohol rehab include:

  • Achieving and maintaining sobriety in the long-term
  • Receiving ongoing support through aftercare programs to reduce the risk of relapse and sustain recovery
  • Cultivating a sense of community by developing genuine relationships with people who understand your struggle
  • Being held accountable for your choices
  • Improving your physical health and reducing the impact of alcohol-related health impacts
  • Improving your quality of life, including your mental health

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Levels of Care at Alcohol Rehab

Different levels of care are available in alcohol rehab. Higher levels of care are appropriate for people with severe alcohol use disorder and withdrawal side effects, while lower levels of care may be effective for people with mild or moderate AUD.

Alcohol Detox

Alcohol detox is often the first level of care a person receives when entering rehab. The goal of detox is to medically supervise and support people through the withdrawal period. Your medical team will help make you as comfortable as possible during detox and may provide you with medications to reduce or alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

Once you have withdrawn completely from alcohol, the next step is to engage in alcohol treatment program modalities.3

Inpatient Alcohol Rehab

Inpatient alcohol rehab programs are residential centers where the individual resides for a designated period. The minimum is often 28 days, but some rehab programs last 90 days, six months, or a full calendar year.

Inpatient treatment provides people with an opportunity to focus exclusively on their recovery without the influences of the outside world. This option is generally best for people with severe alcohol use disorder, limited family support, or unsupportive living situations.3,4

Inpatient rehab includes treatment such as:4

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family counseling
  • Peer support
  • Medication-assisted treatment

Partial Hospitalization (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient (IOP)

Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) and intensive outpatient treatment (IOPs) are potential alternatives to inpatient alcohol rehab, as well as next steps after inpatient rehab.

Partial Hospitalization Programs

Partial hospitalization programs provide a high level of care and structured treatment environment while still allowing the patient to reside at home. Patients can receive medical monitoring, medications, and behavioral treatments during the day but go home at night rather than staying overnight in the treatment facility.5

While there is no universal definition of a PHP, partial hospitalization programs typically offer the same treatment modalities as inpatient rehabs with the addition of case management services.

PHPs typically provide around 20 hours of care each week for 1-2 weeks. PHPs are a great step down from detox programs and a precursor to intensive outpatient treatment.5

Intensive Outpatient Programs

Intensive outpatient programs are a good option for people who do not require medically supported detox or 24-hour supervision, as well as those who have already graduated from inpatient programs.6

Intensive outpatient programs require a minimum of 9 hours of care each week at the start of the program and may reduce treatment hours as a person progresses. This allows people to remain in their homes and stay active in their personal and professional lives outside of treatment. Because services are taking place on an outpatient level, the duration of treatment may be longer than inpatient rehab programs.6

Outpatient Alcohol Rehab

Outpatient treatment for alcohol use disorder takes place at an outpatient facility while the patient continues to reside at home. Participants receive similar treatment options as inpatient facilities and attend at regular intervals (e.g., daily, biweekly, or weekly depending on the intensity of care).

Treatment usually lasts from a couple of months to a year or longer. Outpatient alcohol rehab is best for people who have less severe AUD, a stable living environment, personal support outside of rehab, and reliable transportation to and from treatment.3,4

What to Expect When Going to Alcohol Rehab

People are often unsure what to expect when going to alcohol rehab. While each treatment center is unique in its own way, the processes you’ll go through are often similar.


The first phase of entering rehab is the intake process. You receive a biopsychosocial assessment that addresses the biological, psychological, and social factors related to your alcohol addiction. You may be given a clinical diagnosis at this point. You and your treatment team discuss available treatment options.


Each treatment center may have its own treatment milestones, and these can also be unique to your recovery.

Some treatment milestones that might be celebrated at your treatment center are:

  • Detox completion
  • 30, 60, 90 days sobriety, etc.
  • Many people will celebrate a sober birthday, the exact day they achieved sobriety and make it an annual celebration

What to Happens at an Alcohol Rehab

What happens at an alcohol rehab can vary greatly depending on the type of rehab center you attend. The different types of alcohol rehabs include the following.

Conventional Facilities

Traditionally, rehab centers offer individual and group counseling, family therapy, and medical support. These facilities offer communal living and meals.

Luxury Rehab

Luxury rehab centers are private treatment centers that are more expensive than public, subsidized, and private conventional facilities. Luxury rehabs provide additional amenities typically intended to increase participants’ comfort, such as private rooms, gourmet meals, exclusive locations, and services such as massage therapy and personal training.

Luxury rehab is also more likely to offer experimental or emerging treatments that are not yet well-researched or covered by insurance.

Holistic Rehab

Holistic rehab centers treat the entire person: mind, body, and spirit. They may or may not offer the evidence-based therapies that are a staple in conventional facilities.

Holistic rehabs may provide alternative, experimental, or supplemental therapies like meditation, yoga, and acupuncture.

Demographic-Specific Rehab

Some rehab centers are designed to meet the specific needs of an identified demographic, such as:

  • Men or women—Some rehab centers are single-gender programs focused on treating the specific needs of men and women, based on the risks identifies in current research.
  • LGBTQ+ individuals—While most rehab centers accept patients without asking about sexual orientation or gender identity, a growing number of rehab centers recognize the need for targeted treatment based on a culturally competent understanding on the needs of LGBTQ+ individuals.
  • Business executives—Executive rehabs may accommodate work needs through accommodations like computer and phone access. More importantly, these rehabs help business executives address work-related stressors.
  • People of faith—Faith-based rehab centers use a specific belief system as a tool to nurture participants’ recovery.
  • Perinatal—Some rehabs offer prenatal services, including during withdrawal, as well as parenting and other support services during pregnancy. These rehabs often also provide childcare services for young children.

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Who Benefits from Alcohol Rehab Treatment

Most people with alcohol use disorder can benefit from addiction treatment. Research indicates that around one-third of people who receive treatment remain alcohol-free a year later. Many others report substantially reducing their drinking and having fewer alcohol-related problems.1

If you or someone you love are thinking about alcohol rehab call 800-948-8417 Question iconCalls are forwarded to these paid advertisers to speak with an addiction treatment specialist.


  1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2021). Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.
  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) Treatment. MedlinePlus.
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Treatment Options.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 17). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction DrugFacts.
  5. Blevins, C., Abrantes, A., Kurth, M., Gordon, A., & Stein, M. (March 2019). Alcohol treatment outcomes following a partial hospital program. Journal of Substance Use, 22(6), 643-647.
  6. McCarty, D., Braude, L., Lyman, D., Doughtery, R., Daniels, A., Ghose, S., & Delphin-Rittmon, M. (2015, June 01). Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient Programs: Assessing the Evidence. Psychiatry Services, 65(6), 718-726.
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