Finding Inpatient Alcohol Rehab

When you decide to enter inpatient alcohol rehab, your journey to a better life is just beginning. Entering an addiction treatment facility is often the first step in leaving problem drinking in your past and embracing a healthier, more satisfying future.

Inpatient Rehab for Alcoholism

Inpatient rehab group

Inpatient rehabilitation for alcoholism is a form of treatment that provides live-in, 24/7 care for those struggling with alcohol use disorders (AUD).

Inpatient alcohol rehab will often include medical detox, or withdrawal management. Alcohol has a withdrawal syndrome that has the potential to be very dangerous and for some alcoholics may be life-threatening.1 While some people may be tempted to stop drinking on their own, a cold-turkey alcohol detox can lead to serious medical complications. Medical oversight and close patient monitoring in an alcohol detox program keeps patients safe and comfortable during acute alcohol withdrawal.1

Detox is not treatment in and of itself but rather is the beginning of a larger course of treatment.1  Beyond detox, an alcoholic may need intensive support to sustain their recovery.2 Inpatient, or residential treatment offers as much, with live-in care and a structured daily schedule that revolves around individual and group therapy, alcohol abuse education, and skills training.

What to Expect in an Alcohol Addiction Treatment Center

Alcohol addiction treatment must be tailored to each person’s needs and triggers. It isn’t a case of “one size fits all,” according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.3 A good treatment team will assess each patient and create an individualized care plan that offers the best chances for successful recovery. They may continually reassess each patient’s progress and make adjustments to the treatment plan along the way.

Alcohol rehabilitation may include medication-assisted treatment (MAT) if appropriate for the patient. This involves the combination of  abstinence maintenance medication, such as disulfiram or acamprosate with behavioral therapy approaches.4

Regardless of the exact approach, the days in inpatient rehab will be very full and structured. This helps to counter the chaos of alcohol addiction and supports the development of new habits and a sense of stability. Developing routine and order in one’s days can help to prevent relapse back to problem drinking once treatment ends.5

Sample Schedule

A typical day of inpatient alcohol treatment may look like this:

  • 7:00 am: Wake up, take medications
  • 7:30 am: Breakfast
  • 8:00 am: Morning group: goal setting, reflections
  • 8:30 am: Yoga or other fitness group
  • 9:30 am: Morning group
  • 10:30 am: Alcohol education group
  • 11:15 am: Break
  • 11:30 am: Medications, get ready for lunch
  • 12:00 pm: Lunch
  • 12:45 pm: Afternoon group
  • 1:45 pm: Free time, phone calls
  • 3:00 pm: Art or music therapy group
  • 4:00 pm: Doctor visits or 1-on-1 with a counselor, free time
  • 5:00 pm: Dinner
  • 6:00 pm: Skills group for relapse prevention
  • 7:00 pm: Recreation time: TV, basketball, etc.
  • 8:00 pm: Evening reflection group or AA or NA meeting onsite
  • 9:00 pm: Free time (TV, games, etc.)
  • 10:00 pm: Journaling, quiet activities (reading, drawing)
  • 11:00 pm: Lights out

The schedule above is fairly typical of a rehab program, though of course different alcohol treatment programs will vary in their programming. Also, the personalized care plan for the patient may require deviations from the typical schedule.

The normal schedule in a residential rehab center may also be regularly adjusted to include supplemental activities such as a weekly family group, guest speakers, or spiritual study/worship services. Some programs arrange for off-site recreational activities like going to a local park or going bowling.

Therapies Used in Inpatient Alcohol Rehab

Specific inpatient interventions vary based on the treatment philosophy of the alcohol rehab program. Reputable, accredited programs will form their treatment on a foundation of evidence-based interventions (treatment methods that have been proven effective through scientifically conducted research).

Some of the most common types of therapy used in treatment for alcohol use disorders include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This treatment is designed to help people manage their thoughts and emotions, which can lead to changes in behavior. CBT is widely researched and is effective in treating substance use disorders as well as mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and phobias. In CBT, clients begin to build and develop the skills they need to manage thoughts and behaviors related to drinking. They also learn how to cope with stress and identify triggers that cause them to drink.6
  • Motivational interviewing. This technique seeks to enhance a person’s wish to change and encourage behaviors that could bring about this change. Motivational interviewing emphasizes avoiding power struggles. Instead of trying to convince the patient that he or she has a problem with substance use, the counselor uses questions and statements to help them see the discrepancy between their behaviors and their stated desire for change. While motivational interviewing is often used to get people to agree to enter treatment, it is also useful in keeping them engaged in treatment, especially when they feel discouraged and want to quit.7
  • Process group therapy. As part of small groups, individuals gather together with 1-2 trained therapists to share struggles and process their emotions. Group members are encouraged to share their perspectives and to both offer and receive support and feedback to/from other members. Within the context of the group, members also get chances to identify negative interpersonal patterns and practice healthier patterns.8

Alcohol rehabilitation also commonly includes:

  • Alcohol abuse education. Most alcohol rehab programs incorporate psychoeducational groups to educate participants about the effects of alcohol on the body or the impact of substance use on relationships. Most programs also have skills groups to help participants learn new ways to prevent relapse, manage stress, or communicate.9
  • 12-step facilitation and 12-step groups. Many alcohol rehab programs offer onsite AA and NA meetings based on a 12-step model. Linking people to these programs while in treatment (12-step facilitation) aims to familiarize them with the 12-step models, encourage ongoing participation, and sustain recovery after rehab. Such 12-step groups focus on helping the person accept that they have a problem with substances, that a higher power (as defined by the individual) can help them manage their behaviors, and that they need to surrender control of their disorder to their higher power. Spiritual support, fellowship, and giving back are also emphasized as key components on the road to sustained recovery.10
  • Family therapy. Frequently used as a treatment approach with alcohol use disorders, family therapy helps to bring positive changes to family dynamics to support not only the recovery of the alcoholic but the health of the entire family unit.11
  • Holistic treatments. These include approaches such as acupuncture, yoga, and meditation. While there has not been a great deal of peer-reviewed, evidence-based research to support holistic therapies, they do make some people feel better. Quite a few rehab programs incorporate one or more holistic treatments into a more conventional evidenced-based approach to alcohol rehab.12

What to Look for in an Alcohol Rehab Program

Therapy Session

  • Accreditation. You can search for facilities that are accredited by national organizations such as the Joint Commission or the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). Accredited treatment programs are held to a standard of care and must have numerous quality and safety protocols in place—all factors that can make for a safer and better rehab experience.
  • Treatment philosophy/approach. Not all programs are good for everyone. Some people are uncomfortable in groups and prefer a one-on-one approach with a counselor. Others may be highly uncomfortable with spirituality, a key element of the 12-step approach, and prefer programs that utilize secular groups. Also, not all programs will utilize medication-assisted treatment (MAT), so those interested in MAT will need to ask ahead of time if it is offered.
  • Customized treatment plans. Individualized care is designed to meet the needs of each participant and is adaptable when necessary. You can ask questions about whether a program incorporates customized treatment planning when talking to an intake counselor.
  • Whether they treat co-occurring disorders. Clients who struggle with co-occurring disorders, such as alcoholism and depression, need to be treated in a facility equipped to address both conditions. These issues should be treated simultaneously to give the person the best chance of a comprehensive recovery on all fronts.13 Ask questions about how specific disorders are treated. Some substance abuse treatment programs specialize in specific co-occurring orders, such as PTSD or anxiety.
  • Specialized programs. Some programs offer specialized treatment based on a person’s occupation and can help them with their unique struggles. Recovery First, for example, has a veterans and first responders program that offers an opportunity to get treatment with a group of people who understand your needs and stressors. Many of the staff members are veterans themselves, giving them empathy and insight into your recovery. Likewise, healthcare professionals struggling with alcohol use or other substance use can attend a specialized Recovery First program providing confidential treatment by staff members who understand their needs.
  • Ratings/reviews. Google, Yelp, Health Grades, and other websites offer reviews of treatment programs. This information can help you determine the best program for you.
  • Amenities/features/benefits. Alcohol treatment programs have a wide range of onsite amenities. Some offer very basic dorm-like accommodations with cafeteria-style meals. Others may offer private rooms, Wi-Fi, pools, meals prepared by 4-star chefs, yoga, and massage therapy. If there are certain things you feel you must have, such as vegan meals, you can locate programs that can accommodate these needs.
  • Aftercare planning. Ask if the program offers or provides help with arranging outpatient or other aftercare programs on site. It can be convenient and easy to transition if you can step right from inpatient rehab into their outpatient program.
  • Payment options and insurance. Once you’ve chosen a few potential programs, it’s important to nail down payment details. Check if the program accepts your health insurance plan and then confirm coverage with the facility, ensuring you are fully aware of the amount you will owe out of pocket. Your costs will often be significantly lower if you get help at an in-network treatment provider, but you can get help outside of your network if you are willing to pay more. You can check your insurance benefits quickly and easily using the benefits verification form below.

Treatment After Rehab

Studies have indicated that people who continue in aftercare programs have longer periods of sobriety and a better chance of long-term recovery.14 It is important to remember that a single stay in an inpatient program is only one step on your journey to recovery. While you’re still in rehab, your care team should be actively engaged in arranging for your follow-up treatment. Your treatment team will gather information about your needs and help you determine the best course of aftercare.

It is not uncommon to step down from an inpatient program to one that’s less intensive but provides support as you transition back to your normal life. Outpatient treatment can range from a partial hospitalization program (PHP), which often meets 5 days a week for 4-6 hours per day, to intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) that take place 2-3 hours at a time, 2-3 days per week. Some people transition from inpatient to PHP to IOP.

Other types of ongoing aftercare include weekly individual or group therapy and self-help groups like AA.

Inpatient Alcohol Programs at Recovery First

The inpatient program at Recovery First can offer you a safe, quality alcohol rehab to help you begin your recovery from alcoholism. The program’s evidence-based treatment is provided by caring and skilled staff members who will guide you through your treatment experience.

Recovery First treats co-occurring disorders and offers medical detox, specialized treatment, and more and is fully accredited. There are 2 levels of programming: intensive and residential. Intensive treatment provides 24/7 oversight during your early days of rehab and recovery. The residential program offers continued care in a supportive and sober living environment where therapy and groups are the main focus. These residential programs give you a strong foundation for your continued recovery by setting you up with a healthy routine, teaching you new coping skills, and helping you develop a plan for your time after rehab.

Recovery First also offers a 90-day brand promise. If you complete 90 consecutive days of treatment at any American Addiction Centers (AAC)facility and have a relapse, you can return to an AAC program for 30 days of treatment, free of charge. Call us at 954-526-5776 to explore what inpatient alcohol rehab can do for you or your loved one.


  1. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4131. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 2006.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Effective Treatment.
  3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2014). Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Medication for the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder: A Brief Guide. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4907. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2015.
  5. Mercer, D., PhD & Woody, E., MD. (1999). Individual Drug Counseling.
  6. Carroll, K. M., & Kiluk, B. D. (2017). Cognitive behavioral interventions for alcohol and drug use disorders: Through the stage model and back againPsychology of Addictive Behaviors: Journal of the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors31(8), 847–861.
  7. University of South Florida. (2019). Maternal opioid recovery efforts and opioid dependent newborns initiatives tool box: Motivational Interviewing.
  8. Colorado State University. (n.d.). About Process Groups.
  9. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2005. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 41.) 2 Types of Groups Commonly Used in Substance Abuse Treatment.
  10. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). 12-step facilitation therapy. (Alcohol, stimulants, opiates).
  11. Ahluwalia, H., Anand, T., & Suman, L. N. (2018). Marital and family therapyIndian Journal of Psychiatry60(Suppl 4), S501–S505.
  12. University of Wisconsin School of Medicine. Substance use disorder treatment: Complementary approaches clinical tool.
  13. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Substance Use Disorder Treatment for People With Co-Occurring Disorders. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 42. SAMHSA Publication No. PEP20-02-01-004. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2020.
  14. McKay J. R. (2009). Continuing care research: what we have learned and where we are goingJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment36(2), 131–145. 

About The Contributor

Ryan Kelley, NREMT
Ryan Kelley, NREMT

Medical Editor, American Addiction Centers

Ryan Kelley is a nationally registered Emergency Medical Technician and the former managing editor of the Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS). During his time at JEMS, Ryan developed Mobile Integrated Healthcare in Action, a series... Read More

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