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I’m Going to Drug Rehab: What Should I Expect? Part II: Day One

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT
Meet The Team >

Part One of this blog covered something not too many teenagers realize before going into rehab: the biggest thing to expect is that you’re going to change the way you think. You’re going to change the way you think about rehab itself – you’ll end up calling it treatment – and you’re going to change the way you view yourself, your family, and the world. In an ideal scenario, all those changes will support your overall goal: getting sober and staying that way.

That’s the big picture. Now we’ll delve into some details. You should be able to find all this information on your treatment center’s website, but if you don’t want to navigate through menus and click around FAQ links, we’ll cover the basics of what to expect on day one. With some exceptions, this list is true for almost any residential treatment center you’ll find:

I. What to Bring. The specific items will vary place to place, but here’s an inside look at how to plan your packing. Note – we got this list from teens who’ve been to rehab. It’s not a real packing list, just things most teenagers say everyone should know, going in:

  1. No phones, tablets, laptops, video, or music players. This is sad, but true for almost every treatment center out there. Don’t worry: the internet and all your music will be there when you get home.
  2. Bring more socks and underwear than you think you need. It’s always best to feel fresh and clean, starting with the simplest things and working outward.
  3. No t-shirts with questionable words or pictures. Think of the most conservative person you know, and ask yourself if they’d approve.
  4. No club clothes. You’re in treatment, not dressing to impress or looking to hook up.
  5. For your downtime. A few centers only allow recovery-oriented reading material. If you’re allowed to bring books of your own choosing, bring more than you think you need.
  6. Journals/sketchbooks. Also for your downtime. Journaling and drawing are great ways to pass your time and allow your subconscious to process the work you’re doing.

II. The First Few Hours. On your first day of rehab, you’ll most likely have to jump through a lot of administrative hoops. That means:

  1. Tons of questions. Be prepared to answer a million questions. The intake staff will ask about your alcohol and/or drug use history, medical history, family history, treatment history, likes, dislikes, food allergies, exercise habits, and hobbies. Though you may feel defensive at first, it’s best to be completely honest about everything, especially drug history and medical subjects.
  2. Drug Tests. That’s why it’s important to be honest when the intake staff asks questions: they’re going to find out anyway.
  3. Body and Luggage Search. If you try to bring something to treatment that’s on the prohibited list, they’ll find it.

III. Settling In.  You’ll get to see first-hand where you’ll be spending the next few weeks of your life, and meet the people you’ll be spending it with. Expect orientation to cover:

  1. Sleeping and eating. You’ll see your room, meet your roommate (most residential centers sleep two to a room), and where you’ll eat your meals.
  2. Treatment and recreation. You’ll get to see individual therapy rooms, group therapy rooms, common spaces where you’ll spend your downtime, and any outdoor areas or gym-type facilities they have.
  3. The people. You’ll meet the treatment center staff, including residential supervisors, psychiatrists (if they’re there that day), therapists, and everyone else involved in your daily life or the day-to-day operation of the facility. You’ll also meet the other teens in treatment – which is probably one of the biggest things you’re thinking about: what will they be like? Answer: there’s no way to tell until you get there.

On your first day in treatment – your intake/orientation day – you probably won’t do too much therapy or what most people think of as treatment. The nerves, the endless questions about every aspect of your life, and the whole process of arriving and taking it all in will be tiring. At the end of it all, it’s a safe bet to say you’ll be preoccupied with two things: dinner and sleep. The good thing is, most treatment centers know and understand all this, and they’ll advise you to rest up, eat well, and get ready to hit the ground running in the morning.

Part Three of this article will cover what happens next: what a typical day in treatment is like, what individual therapy is like, what group therapy is like, and how to get the most out of your time in rehab.

Our Behavioral Health Content Team

We are an expert team of behavioral health professionals who are united in our commitment to adolescent recovery and well-being.

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