How to Prepare for Going to Rehab

Preparing for treatment at a rehab facility can be a delicate process. Knowing what to expect and what to bring can ease to the transition.

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Getting to the point where you are now ready to go to rehab may have been a journey for you. You might have already found the right rehab center, made arrangements for admission, and are now ready to sit down and prepare for what is next. You’ll want to minimize any distractions or stresses that you might have while in rehab, so planning is crucial. It is normal to feel stressed and worried about going to rehab and leaving your home, friends, family, and work or school while you are away. However, moving forward with rehab is the next step in your journey to sobriety, and planning will allow you to return to a positive mindset and focus on your long-term goal of staying sober.

What to Expect in Rehab

Many may find themselves uncertain of what rehab will entail. Others may be scared or uncomfortable about seeking help from a professional addiction treatment program. It’s important to know what one can expect when participating in a rehab program. A good starting point would be to reach out to your doctor in order to determine your medical needs. Understanding what sort of program is best for you can help you prepare properly for rehab.

Another way to calm your nerves in anticipation of rehab is to obtain a schedule before hand. Many rehab programs will provide you with a schedule of group therapies and daily events, like holistic therapies and meals. This can help you anticipate your average day, what you will need, and when you will be able to relax or interact with loved ones. You may also benefit from discussing the rehab enrollment process with a prospective rehab facility. Understanding the admissions process and what documentation you will need to provide can make the process run smoothly.

Rehab Admissions and Intake

Many rehabs will have an admissions process. Generally, an admissions process at a rehab center will involve verifying an insurance and payment information and determining a patient’s needs. Once you’ve contacted and committed to attending treatment, you’ll likely be asked to provide payment information. This may involve private insurance, public insurance, or establishing private payment plans. Once payment has been taken care of, you’ll likely undergo an evaluation to determine your medical needs. These assessments are fairly universal at evidence-based treatment programs. They may ask you about what substances you are struggling with, if you are on any medications, if you have a history of mental health disorders, and more. It’s best to gather any relevant medical information ahead of undergoing a medical assessment to speed the process.

Medical Detox

Those who attend rehabs but are not yet medically stable may benefit from attending a detoxification program. Medical detox programs are designed to help an individual reach stability as their body removes the misused substances.2 During detox one may experience uncomfortable and potentially life-threatening physical withdrawal symptoms. As a result, many may find medical detox with 24/7 nursing support a safe option.2 These programs may also be able to prescribe medications to help mitigate withdrawal symptoms.2 If you’re going to receive medical detox, it’s important to prepare relevant medical information for your doctors beforehand.

Therapy and Counseling

Therapy and counseling may form the backbone of your substance use disorder treatment. The two main types of therapy are individual and group.3 During both individual and group therapy one should be prepared to speak honestly about their experiences with substance misuse. In order to foster individual recovery, one may also end up receiving a specialize therapy, possibly including:3

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
  • Contingency Management Interventions.
  • Community Reinforcement.
  • Motivation Enhancement therapy.
  • 12-Step and similar secular therapies.
  • Family behavioral therapy.
  • Behavioral Couples therapy.
  • Veterans or first-responder’s therapy.
  • Behavioral therapy for adolescents and teens.

Recovery and Aftercare

Once one has completed a rehab program, they’ll likely aim to move on to an aftercare program. Aftercare is a series of groups and structured activities designed to help one maintain their recovery. This may involve going to a 12-Steps group or a secular equivalent, or by having regular meetings with members of your support network. Many rehab facilities will put patients in contact with other alumni who have completed treatment and are maintaining sobriety.

Work & Family Obligations

One of the more challenging areas to deal with when you are going to rehab is work and family. Many people who decide to get addiction treatment are concerned about how their employer will respond and often worry about getting fired while they are in rehab. However, it is important to note that most employers just want you to be the best employee and person that you can be, and if going to rehab to get help for an addiction enables you to achieve your best self, many employers will be supportive. In addition, many jobs have legal protection through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which prevents employers from firing you when you are out of work for a valid medical condition, including substance use disorders. Furthermore, it is not necessary to advise your manager as to why you need to use the FMLA, as only your human resources department needs to be made aware of why you’re applying for leave under the FMLA. Under the Act, you can take up to 26 weeks of leave in a 12-month period, provided that a doctor certifies that you need to be out of work. Your employer also has to continue your healthcare coverage during this time.1 You can speak to your employer’s human resources department to ask what documentation and steps you need to take to ensure that your job is secure while you are in treatment.

If you are a caregiver to children, elderly family members, or pets, now is the time to make the necessary arrangements for their care while you are away. Whether you choose to ask friends or family to help care for them, or hire someone, it is important that you ensure their continued care before you enter treatment.

Financial & Legal Obligations

Consider that you may have bills that will come due while you are in rehab and make sure that your financial obligations are met while you are in treatment. You can sign up for automated payments on your rent or mortgage, utilities, car payments, loans, tax payments, auto insurance, life insurance, and any other payments that you manually submit every month. If there are bills that need to be paid that you cannot set up automatically, try to find someone you trust to take care of those for you.

If you have legal obligations, such as child support or alimony, work with an attorney to make sure that these payments are made while you are in rehab. Likewise, if you have any pending court appearances, let the court know you will not be available to appear in court and ask to have any pending court dates rescheduled. If you have received a jury duty summons, be sure to contact the court to let them know you will likely not be able to report for jury duty. If you are on probation or parole, make sure your parole or probation officer is aware of where you are going and give an estimate of how long you will be gone. You don’t want to run into trouble with the legal system for failure to meet your obligations while you are in treatment.

Pre-Rehab Packing List

Bring only what you truly need for your stay in rehab. Leave your jewelry, expensive clothing, designer purses, large sums of cash, and high-end electronics at home. For one thing, it is not uncommon for things to be lost or stolen in rehab, and you may not be automatically entitled to reimbursement for these items from the rehab facility. Further, many facilities will confiscate expensive items and put them in a safe until you are discharged. In addition, you do not need distractions while you are in rehab; an abundance of personal items can distract you from focusing on your treatment, which is the primary goal of rehab.

You will also need to check with the rehab program to see which items are allowed. Many items, such as belts, shoelaces, or clothing with drawstrings are not allowed in a facility due to the risk of potential self-harm. Even if you are not experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-injury, if you are in a program with another person who is potentially suicidal, that person could use your items to hurt themselves, so these items are usually forbidden. Sharp items, such as pocketknives, are rarely allowed. Furthermore, some hygiene products are also not allowed, such as products with high alcohol content, due to the potential of people using these hygiene products to get intoxicated. Each program has different rules about what items are allowed. Check ahead of time to make sure you are not bringing anything that might be contraband.

Keep a Journal or Write Letters During Rehab

Another piece of advice for preparing for rehab is to plan to write letters to people, which helps you process your feelings and helps to keep you occupied with a constructive activity while in rehab. Letters to friends and family can also help you communicate to them what you are learning about yourself in rehab and what your goals are for a sober life after rehab. In addition, you can keep a journal where you can list your goals for rehab and what you want to do after you’ve finished treatment. Some good ideas to write in your journal might be:

• One year after leaving rehab, I can see myself…
• The one trigger for drinking that I need to learn to cope with is…
• The thing I will miss the most when I quit using…
• One thing that I believe I need to learn in rehab…

Finding Rehab Near Me

Your decision to enter rehab is a brave one and it is the first step on your recovery journey. With some planning, you can make the necessary arrangements to ensure that your family, financial obligations, and legal situations are taken care of before you go to rehab. It’s also important to have any relevant insurance information prepared beforehand. If you’re ready to go to treatment or still have questions, feel free to call the confidential helpline we offer at American Addiction Centers (AAC). We can be reached at or you can feel free to text us.