Going into rehab can be a frightening process. Patients and their loved ones often wonder about contact while they’re in treatment. The truth is that different treatment programs have different rules about contact with people outside the program. But there is usually at least a little contact while in a program.
If you’re considering rehab for yourself or a loved one, here’s what you need to know about talking to someone in rehab, and the rehab journey in general.
The Rehab Journey
Rehab is a long and often complex process. Patients and their loved ones should both know what to expect and understand the process if you want to give rehab the best chance to be successful.
Detox is the first and usually hardest part of rehab. Depending on the severity and length of your addiction, detoxing can take as little as a few days, or as long as a couple of weeks.
Rehab facilities offer medical support during detox, but many facilities limit outside contact during detox both because it can be stressful for the patient, and because the patient is more likely to act out or be harmful to their loved ones during detox.
Lastly, restricting contact during detox is a good way to help patients readjust and focus on themselves to begin the healing process, and also gives loved ones a break and a chance to reflect on potentially harmful behaviors or the state of their relationship with the person in rehab.
The First Few Days After Detox
After detox, patients may feel immediately better and more prepared for the world, but they can often also feel overwhelmed by normal functioning without the crutch of their addiction.
Many drug addiction treatment centers will continue to restrict contact for the first few days after detoxing to help reduce stress and make sure everyone is ready to continue before contact resumes.
This is a chance to get used to the routines in the treatment center, learn more about addiction treatment goals, and recover from the physical and mental stress of detoxing.
Reintroducing outside contact too early may introduce additional stresses that make addiction recovery harder. Additionally, trying to contact people outside of the treatment center too soon may be stressful for everyone involved, making it harder for loved ones to offer the kind of support patients need during the process.
The Rest Of Your Stay (30, 60, or 90+ Days)
Depending on your treatment center’s program, contact with people outside the program is usually more common during the rest of your stay. You may have options to earn phone and device privileges, or those things may be automatically returned to you as soon as you reach a certain point in your treatment plan.
Free time or planned phone time is usually the best time to talk with people outside the treatment center, and you may be asked to reduce contact or even restricted from contact with loved ones if it interferes with your treatment plan or if you’re skipping scheduled activities in favor of contacting loved ones.
Long-term treatment plans almost always include planned visits and contact with loved ones, but it can seem like a long time before those things are allowed. Trust the process, and that you’ll be able to see your loved ones soon.
What Smart Devices are Allowed in Rehab?
Most treatment centers have some restrictions on what kinds of devices you can bring with you to rehab. Smart devices in particular can be seen as overly distracting and may be banned entirely.
The exact details of what devices are allowed or not allowed vary from program to program and it’s a good idea to ask about the restrictions when you enroll.
Can I Talk to Someone While They’re in Rehab?
There are a lot of ways you can still talk to someone in rehab, even when contact is more restricted. Sometimes the person you’re talking to might not get that communication right away, like with writing letters, but this can still be a good way to feel connected and heard in your relationship with the person in treatment.
It’s important to follow the rules about contact while your loved one is in rehab. Not doing so can add a lot of extra stress, for both of you, and may make treatment less successful.
Here are some of the ways you can contact a loved one in rehab.
Family Therapy Sessions
Most treatment centers incorporate family sessions into the treatment plan. Family sessions help keep everyone in the loop about treatment, goals, and how each person can help with recovery.
A lot of topics need to be addressed in successful family sessions, including an overview of substance abuse and dependence, including prevalence, symptoms, causes, and basic concepts according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Designated Phone Times
Because treatment centers often don’t allow free access to cell phones and other communication tools, they often have designated phone times for patients in certain parts of recovery. These are times when family members can call in, or when the patient is allowed to call out to others.
Often the people who can call or be called are pre-approved, but there aren’t typically many limits on who is or isn’t on that list.
Letters are a fantastic way to ‘stay in touch’ during rehab. They’re particularly useful when you aren’t actually in contact through other means. Letters help you process emotions and can be delivered later or used as a reference to help you explain what you’re going through.
Even if you never deliver some of the letters to your loved one, they’re still a healthy and effective means of keeping relationships alive, processing what’s happening, and tracking changes in your emotions and reactions over time.
Other Means Of Communication
Some treatment centers may have other options for communication. For instance, you might be allowed to video call or chat online with people at certain times or as part of your treatment.
Sometimes your treatment program may include one on one sessions with people in your inner circle to help smooth the transition out of rehab and back into your normal life. Depending on your needs, and the program, these sessions may be rare or just a regular part of your treatment.
Respecting Boundaries During Rehab
It’s important to remember that the boundaries put in place during treatment are there for a reason. For instance, some treatment centers may not allow visitors to talk about the substance use disorder with the patient during parts of their treatment because the patient isn’t ready for those discussions. Other topics may also be off-limits, and the patient themselves might have some boundaries for visitors.
Respecting those boundaries is critical for treatment and is also one of the best ways you can show that you are a safe and supportive person during treatment. Crossing boundaries may mean that you aren’t welcomed back for family sessions and other parts of recovery and can impact your loved one’s treatment program.
Pros & Cons of Keeping in Touch With Loved Ones While in Rehab
Here’s a quick list of some of the pros and cons of staying in touch with loved ones during rehab.
- Can help maintain relationships
- Makes it easier to feel close to the person in rehab
- Offers additional support to the patient
- Gives a sense of still being involved in life outside the treatment center
- Can make transitioning back to normal life a little easier
- Gives people a chance to work out conflicts while the patient is fully supported and safe.
- May be stressful for everyone involved.
- It can be important to have a chance to emotionally reset and take a break from an individual with a substance use disorder.
- Communicating with someone in recovery can be difficult and they may not always be in complete control of their words or actions.
- Negative behavior (from anyone) during treatment may turn into a treatment setback or make recovery take longer
- People with substance use disorders often need extra time to process and understand the harm they may have caused others.
- Contact without listening to boundaries can reinforce unhealthy communication norms and other problematic behavior once the patient is out of rehab.
It can feel frightening to be without contact when your loved one is in rehab. But, according to licensed counselor Steven Gifford, there can be a lot of benefits to taking a step back and getting a chance to recognize “negative behavior patterns” during rehab.
How to Help Someone While They’re in Rehab
Here are some tips for helping someone through rehab. Remember, everyone’s journey is different.
- Be there and be supportive. Going through rehab can be hard, and just knowing that someone is out there rooting for you can help.
- Follow the rules. Treatment may not always make a lot of sense from the outside, but it’s important to follow the rules and trust that they are there for a reason.
- Don’t be upset if it takes a long time for the person in rehab to contact you. Limiting contact is hard, but it’s also one of the best ways to make sure unhealthy relationships and negative behaviors are a thing of the past.
- Learn and listen to your loved one’s trouble signs. Almost everyone has a few behaviors that can indicate when they’re having a hard time. Learning those trouble signs can help you be a better support during and after rehab.
- Don’t push. Going to rehab is hard enough. Trying to push someone to do more or recover faster than they are able can actually slow things down and make it harder for them to do what you’re asking.
Most importantly, remember that the person you love is in there and that they deserve the same compassion and support you would give anyone else having a hard time.