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What is Life at Inpatient Rehab Like? [Inside Look]
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What is Life at Inpatient Rehab Like? [Inside Look]

Written by Seth Fletcher on April 26, 2024
Medical editor Dr. Chintan Shah
Last update: April 26, 2024

An inpatient rehab facility offers individualized, structured treatment to people living with addiction. Television depictions of inpatient rehab facilities can make them look intimidating. While spending time in such a place is not all roses, it can be an enlightening experience that transforms residents into an upgraded version of themselves. 

Entering an inpatient treatment program is one of the best decisions a person with addiction can make. The structured, comprehensive treatment offered allows residents to focus on their recovery without distraction. They learn about themselves, meet new people, and create memories that will serve them throughout life. But what is inpatient rehab like, and what do you do in rehab for drug or alcohol addiction? CCFA explains what inpatient rehab is like to help you understand the comprehensive support that can aid you or a loved one’s journey to recovery. 

Key Takeaways

  • Inpatient rehab is a type of addiction treatment for people with severe addiction who need a structured environment to recover.
  • Treatment in an inpatient facility is individualized and may include individual therapy, group therapy, and other interventions.
  • Residents of an inpatient facility will also receive round-the-clock monitoring, evidence-based therapy, and holistic treatment options.
  • Individuals who complete inpatient rehab will require aftercare treatment and supervision to maintain their sobriety.

What is Inpatient Rehab?

Inpatient rehab is a type of treatment for people struggling with addiction who need a structured and supervised environment to recover. It is also known as residential treatment and provides clients with round-the-care under the supervision of qualified professionals like doctors, counsellors, therapists, and mental health experts. 

Inpatient rehab is typically recommended for people with severe addiction or co-occurring mental health conditions. People who have tried less intensive treatment options without success may also opt for an inpatient program. 

The goal of inpatient treatment is to help people overcome their addiction and return to a healthy and productive life. Residents learn coping skills and develop healthy habits for lasting recovery. Family members and friends may also be part of an individual’s inpatient program. Together, they can identify and eliminate relationships that may impede their recovery. 

Residents will spend at least 30 days in an inpatient rehab facility, depending on their treatment programs and the specific nature of their cases. 

Inpatient Rehab Benefits

Inpatient rehab offers comprehensive care that allows residents to immerse themselves in their treatment. The benefits of rehab in an inpatient facility include: 

Structured Treatment Environment

Inpatient rehab offers a highly scheduled and organized treatment environment. Each day is structured around various therapies, activities, and group sessions. These routines provide a safe and predictable atmosphere, allowing residents to focus on healing and recovery. A structured treatment environment is especially helpful for people who have chaotic or unstable lives outside of treatment. 

Round-the-clock Professional Care

Inpatient treatment offers round-the-clock care from a team of professionals who can always provide support and assistance. It is beneficial for people dealing with withdrawal symptoms or co-occurring disorders. The support and supervision also help ensure that residents adhere to their treatment plan. 

Evidence-Based Treatment

Inpatient rehab facilities offer treatment strategies that have proven to be effective in helping people recover from addiction. Some types of rehab treatment strategies include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)
  • Motivational interviewing (MI)
  • 12-step facilitation 
  • Medication-assisted therapy
  • Contingency therapy

Holistic Treatment Options

Inpatient facilities offer holistic treatment options that take into account the whole person and not just their addiction. They may offer treatments like yoga, meditation, and art therapy in addition to traditional therapies like counselling and medication. Holistic treatment approaches help to improve physical and mental health and can be especially beneficial for people who have been struggling with addiction for a long time. 

Access to Mental Health Care

Inpatient rehab facilities offer access to mental health treatment, which can be crucial for people with co-occurring disorders. Onsite mental health treatment ensures that residents are receiving the most effective treatment for their needs without leaving the facility. 

Strong Peer Network 

People who attend an inpatient rehab facility have the opportunity to develop strong connections with others who are also in recovery. These relationships can provide support both during and after inpatient rehab. Additionally, the bonds formed during rehab can help prevent relapse and promote long-term recovery. A solid support network can make all the difference in an individual’s ability to maintain sobriety and make positive changes in their life. 

Things to Consider Before Applying for Inpatient Rehab

Treatments and Facilities Offered

Every addiction case is unique, and the treatment approach you get should be the one most fitting for your situation. Inpatient facilities provide treatment with the individual in mind, considering their specific needs and experiences while designing a treatment plan. You want to consider the type of therapies and facilities available and whether they’ll be fitting for you or a loved one. 

Staff Credentials 

You should also consider the credentials of the staff in an inpatient rehab facility before you apply. The staff should be licensed and trained to provide specific available treatments. They should also have experience working with people who have had similar issues to those considering inpatient rehab. The Canadian Addiction Counsellors Certification Federation (CACCF) certifies addiction counsellors in Canada. 

Location and Setting

The location and setting of an inpatient treatment facility are vital to healing and recovery. It should be safe and secure and should be in a setting that feels comfortable and conducive to healing. For some people, it may be important to be close to family or friends, while for others, it may be beneficial to be far away from triggers and temptation. Some people may recover better in rural settings, while others may prefer a more urban environment. 

Accreditation of Rehab

An inpatient rehab centre should have relevant accreditations showing that it has been vetted and meets regulatory standards. Agencies like Accreditation Canada and the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers ensure that rehab facilities offer the highest standard of care. 

Success Rate

You should consider a facility’s success rate before applying. While there’s no single definition for success, most facilities determine success by the number of people who complete the program and are able to stay sober after treatment. Knowing a facility’s success rate can help determine whether it’s the right fit for you or a loved one. 

Availability of Aftercare Services

Aftercare services are designed to help people transition into their daily lives after treatment. These services can include sober living facilities, ongoing therapy, and support groups. Having access to aftercare services can make it easier for people to maintain their sobriety and avoid relapse. 


Rehab can be expensive, and finding a facility within your budget is necessary. In addition to paying for treatment, you must consider other costs, such as travel and living expenses. Some facilities may offer financial assistance or payment plans to make the cost more manageable. 

Rehab Reviews

Looking up reviews of facilities you’re interested in will give you an idea of what to expect in addiction rehab. Online reviews can provide valuable insights into the experiences of other people who have been through the program. It’s essential to remember that not all reviews are objective, and some may be more positive or negative than others. With that in mind, reading reviews can provide a well-rounded perspective on an inpatient rehab centre. 

What Happens in Drug Rehab and What is Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Rehab Like?

When people consider going for drug or alcohol rehab, a common question they ask is, what happens in a drug rehab? Others who have undergone other types of rehab without much success may want to compare inpatient vs. outpatient treatments to get an idea of what to expect. What happens in inpatient rehab can vary, depending on the facility and the individual’s needs, but there are common elements. Residents follow a structured routine consisting of therapies and activities designed to help them get to the root of their addiction. 

Here’s an idea of what a typical day in residential treatment looks like:


A day in rehab usually starts early, before 7 am. Residents may start a typical day with meditation or prayer to relax before enjoying a nutritious breakfast. 

Breakfast is followed by individual or group therapy sessions that focus on addiction and recovery. Residents examine their life circumstances and the factors that may have contributed to their addiction. They also learn behavioural patterns that fuel their substance use and learn coping skills to manage triggers.

Individual therapy sessions focus on the needs of a single resident. The person meets with a therapist one-on-one to discuss their experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Individual therapy gives the resident a safe and confidential space to explore the underlying causes of their addiction.

Group therapy involves a therapist leading a group of residents in discussions and activities. It provides a sense of community and support and reduces feelings of isolation and loneliness. Group members get to share and learn from their experiences while holding each other accountable. 


Therapy sessions continue after a healthy lunch. Depending on the nature of their treatment, residents may be involved in treatment sessions such as:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a common form of addiction treatment that focuses on the connection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviours and how they can impact each other. The goal of CBT is to help residents identify and challenge negative thought patterns that may be contributing to their addiction. It also helps them to develop new, healthy ways of thinking and behaving. 

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behaviour therapy was developed specifically for people with borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, it has also been found to be effective in treating addiction. DBT combines CBT techniques with mindfulness and acceptance strategies. The goal of DBT is to help patients regulate their mood, tolerate distress, and improve their emotions. 

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Motivational interviewing helps residents find the motivation to make positive life changes. MI is a collaborative approach, and the therapist works with the individual to explore their motivations for change. The therapist uses open-ended questions and reflections to help residents clarify their values and goals. 

12-step Facilitation

12-step facilitation is based on the 12-step model of addiction recovery. It aims to help people understand and work through the 12 steps of recovery, with the ultimate goal of achieving abstinence from substance use. 12-step facilitation typically involves group therapy and is often done in conjunction with other forms of addiction treatment. 

Medication-assisted Therapy

Medication-assisted therapy involves using medication to help people manage their addiction. It is typically used to treat opioid use disorder and consists of the use of drugs like methadone or buprenorphine. These medications help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, making it easier for residents to stay in treatment and avoid relapse. Medication-assisted therapy is often combined with behavioural therapies like CBT or MI. 

Contingency Therapy

Contingency therapy uses positive reinforcement to encourage healthy behaviours. It is based on the idea that people are more likely to make positive changes when rewarded for their efforts. It can be used to encourage abstinence from substance use, and it can involve rewards like vouchers or points, which can be exchanged for items or privileges. 

Alternative forms of therapy, such as the following, may also be included in a treatment program:

  • Art therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Mindfulness and stress management

Residents may also get some free time in the afternoons to rest or engage in hobbies as they see fit. Some inpatient facilities may have amenities like a gym, sports centre, swimming pool, or spa to keep residents positively engaged. 


After a healthy dinner, residents may participate in support meetings or engage in light recreational activities, like exercising, playing cards, or seeing a movie. Some facilities may offer educational classes or workshops on dealing with addiction. There may also be 12-step programs onsite, while other facilities may take residents to community support meetings. Residents may also get some time to relax or unwind before bedtime.

Most facilities have a set curfew, typically between 9 pm and 10 pm. Residents are expected to stay in their rooms, refrain from disruptive behaviour, and maintain a calm environment. Rehab centres have rules to ensure that residents get enough sleep, which is an essential part of the healing and recovery process. 

Life After Inpatient Rehab

Substance abuse addiction recovery is a long journey, and it continues even after you leave an inpatient facility. Life after inpatient rehab is one of transition and adjustment. Your therapist will create an aftercare plan for your continued healing, and it’s vital to stick to it. 

Aftercare can include sober living homes, outpatient therapy, and 12-step programs. These programs aim to help residents make a smooth transition back into regular life without relapsing. It is also essential for departing residents to have a reliable support system to help them on the journey to lasting sobriety. 

The Canadian Centre for Addictions offers sophisticated inpatient addiction rehab in an environment that inspires lasting change. At our Port Hope and Cobourg treatment centres, we help people understand their addictions and the healthier coping strategies available to them by engaging them in individual and group counselling sessions with certified counsellors, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals.We also offer lifetime aftercare services to aid your long-term recovery plan for as long as is necessary. Call 1-855-499-9446 today to learn how we can help you or a loved one achieve lasting sobriety. 


What is the hardest part of rehab?

The hardest part of rehab can vary from person to person, but there are some common challenges that many people face. One of the toughest parts of rehab is the initial withdrawal phase. The process can be physically and emotionally challenging, often requiring much willpower and determination. Another hard part of rehab is facing the underlying issues that led to the addiction in the first place. This phase is also difficult but vital for lasting recovery.

Should you feel pain during rehab?

While it’s common to feel some physical and emotional pain during rehab, it should not be prolonged or severe. If you’re feeling significant pain during rehab, it’s essential to speak to a medical professional to ensure it’s not due to an underlying health condition. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage the pain. However, it’s not normal to experience extreme pain during rehab.

Is rehab always successful?

Rehab is a crucial part of addiction recovery, but it is not always successful. The success of rehab depends on multiple factors, including the individual’s willingness to commit to treatment, the severity of their addiction, the quality of care provided, and their ability to maintain sobriety after treatment. Regardless, individuals can always make progress and learn valuable lessons that will help them in the future.

Certified Addiction Counsellor

Seth brings many years of professional experience working the front lines of addiction in both the government and privatized sectors.

Dr. Chintan is a Board Certified Family Physician with an interest in holistic and preventative care as well as healthcare systems. Credentialed Physician with both American & Canadian Board of Family Medicine. Adjunct Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. Telemedicine clinician.

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