I’m Going to Rehab: What Should I Expect? Part I: Changing the Way You Think

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Countless questions spin around in your mind before you go to rehab. You’re curious about details about where you’ll sleep, whether the food will be good or bad, and what the other teenagers are going to be like.

They’re all related to the big one: what should I expect?

That really is the million-dollar question.

At first glance, it seems like it should be an easy one to answer. And superficially, it is. But before we dive into the easy part, where we offer basic ideas about what to expect from rehab in general – and answer the basics about food and sleeping and things like that – we need to get on the same page about what level of treatment you’re going to receive. You may be entering an Intensive Outpatient Program, a Partial Hospitalization Program, or a Residential Program. No matter which one you enter, though, there’s one thing you should be ready for: the therapists and other teenagers probably won’t use the term drug rehab when you’re there. In fact, the term drug rehab is so last century almost no mental health professional working in addiction and recovery use it anymore at all.

So, thing one: get used to the idea that what you’re going to do is receive treatment for a substance use disorder. That’s different than just going to rehab.

Besides, if you’re in your mid-teens, you’ve probably heard other teenagers say things like:

“I went to rehab and it sucked.”

“I did rehab and it didn’t work.”

“I tried rehab but it wasn’t for me.”

You don’t want that to be your takeaway – nothing against the kids who say those things, but seriously: you’re going to put a lot of time and effort into getting clean and sober, and it would suck if you came out thinking the whole experience sucked. A way to prevent that is to understand you’re not just going to rehab. You’re going to receive treatment that helps you change your relationship to whatever substance you’ve been using – because the way you’ve been using it has disrupted your life to the point where you need to make some serious changes. You’re going to learn how to live your life with a whole new set of skills and habits.

So, thing two: change the way you think about your upcoming experience. Instead of looking at it as something onerous and painful, like “Uggh, I’m going to rehab,” look at it as something positive, like “I’m going to learn an entirely new way of living my life.”

It’s an important distinction, because a lot of what happens in rehab – or treatment, sorry – revolves around changing the way you think. You change the way you think about drugs and alcohol, you change the way you think about your relationships with family and peers, and you change the way you think about yourself.

In Part Two of this article, we’ll discuss what you should expect on day one – what to bring, what a typical intake process is like, who you’ll meet, and whether you’ll be allowed to use your phone (probably not). Those things are easy to answer. What we really want you to understand before you go to treatment, though, is something more fundamental: you should expect lots of things to change, but the biggest change will be in the way you think.

Read Part II – The First Day

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