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Inpatient Alcohol Treatment: What to Expect

Alcohol addiction is a serious problem in the United States and around the world. Unfortunately, educational outreach about addiction treatment programs is sorely lacking. That lack of information makes many potential patients reluctant to seek out the help they need. For example, few people outside of the treatment industry understand how inpatient alcohol treatment works. If you’re wondering what to expect if you opt for inpatient alcohol treatment, this overview will give you greater insight.

Structure is Everything in Inpatient Alcohol Treatment

Inpatient alcohol treatment programs are designed with structure in mind. Many patients enter these programs with highly disorganized lives. This lack of structure can make it difficult for them to control their addiction. For those who complete outpatient programs, the results are often less than optimal when patients return to that same unstructured lifestyle. The average inpatient program emphasizes structure through the entire treatment process, helping to build a stable foundation and good habits that the patient can take with him when he returns to his normal life.

There’s another reason for that structure, of course. The same disorganization that contributes to addiction in the outside world would inhibit patient recovery in any inpatient setting. To avoid that, these programs organize virtually every aspect of the patient’s day to eliminate as much uncertainty and anxiety as possible. Within that structured environment, however, activities can vary depending upon the nature of the treatment program. Some things are consistent in most inpatient alcohol treatment programs, however, and it’s important to understand what they are and why they matter.

Morning Routines

Even the most mundane daily events have a structure to them within these environments. Each day begins with an early breakfast – something that can come as a shock to addicts who may be accustomed to sleeping in. Meals are typically prepared with healthy dietary choices in mind, since the development of new and more beneficial habits is a central feature for these types of programs. Patients are encouraged to take advantage of these new ideas and incorporate them into their lives.

Breakfast is just the start of the day, of course. Some facilities offer exercise opportunities to start the day, or relaxation programs such as yoga and meditation. Afterwards, there are often group meetings for counseling. These meetings are conducted by staff – often a therapist, and are designed to get everyone involved in the process as early as possible each day. With alcohol addiction, there is an emphasis on the standard 12-step program. Focus is typically placed on ensuring that patients are motivated to examine their lives and relationships so that they can better understand their addiction.

Afternoon Routines

A similar process is repeated after the morning meetings are completed.  Lunch is served, and healthy options are a priority there as well. That is typically followed by afternoon therapies that can take on a variety of different forms. In many facilities, these therapeutic sessions are tailored to fit individual needs, since no two patients are exactly alike. Patients generally participate in a variety of therapy options each day.

Group therapy can occur here as well. That offers additional opportunities for socialization and provides a forum for patients to support one another in their recovery. It also gives them a safe environment in which to share their addiction stories without fear of being judged by others in the group. Over time, these sessions can help patients to form closer bonds of commonality, and even develop the trust necessary to promote deeper sharing.

Family therapy can be another vital element of any successful program. No matter how hard a patient works to recover from addiction, an unstable family environment or lack of support can sabotage those efforts when the program is complete. In many cases, family members are locked in their own cycle of dependency and enablement, and can suffer just as much as their addicted loved ones. Family therapy provides an opportunity for the patient’s loved ones to address their issues as well, offering the entire family unit a chance to heal and grow for the better.

Individualized therapies are critical, and often focus on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. CBT has a strong record of success in helping patients with addiction concerns, because it helps them to focus on addressing the specific triggers that cause them to drink. Over time, the emphasis on developing better responses to those triggers can help patients to learn to resist the temptation to relapse. Instead, they learn to associate those triggers with healthier responses that don’t involve the use or abuse of alcohol.

There are other individualized sessions, of course, and many of them address specific concerns that a given patient might need to resolve to enhance recovery efforts. Some patients need grief counseling to deal with unresolved issues from the past. Others have anger issues, and may need help learning to manage those emotions. Still others need to learn new coping skills to handle the stress and anxiety that leads them to seek solace in a bottle of alcohol. Throughout all these therapy sessions, patients are urged to develop new life management skills to replace their reliance on alcohol.

Break Time

As intense as rehab can be, these programs also recognize that some structured recreational time is necessary to avoid overload. There is usually time scheduled around mid-day to allow patients to engage in personal recreation or group activities. Many facilities have ping pong tables, foosball tables, board games, or basketball and volleyball courts to provide that diversion. Patients may also be allowed to use that free time to simply read or reflect on their day.

Supper offers more of the same from a meal standpoint, with more healthy foods offered to all patients. Afterwards, the schedule is typically light. Most facilities offer some sort of group session for patients. There is almost always a 12-step meeting at night, to enable patients to end their day on the same type of reflective, positive note with which it began. Afterward, patients are usually advised to retire for the evening. Those who are accustomed to staying up late will have to get used to an earlier bedtime – though most will be glad to do so just to be adequately rested for the next day.

As you can see, the typical inpatient alcohol treatment is designed to develop structured habits for patients, while giving them the tools they’ll need to effectively manage their recovery when they return to their homes. There is no magic bullet to cure alcohol addiction, but these programs have proven to be an outstanding way to help patients who sincerely want to make positive life changes for themselves and their families.

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