Updated on January 25, 2024
7 min read

Experts Share What to Expect During Rehab⁠

Drug use, especially addiction, impacts people’s lives in many different ways. When someone decides to seek treatment for their drug addiction, they may choose to go to a rehabilitation center.

Rehab allows individuals to overcome their addiction. Professionals will help you develop the necessary tools and skills to maintain sobriety.

In this article, we talked to professionals from rehab centers to learn what to expect in rehab. Our team asked questions about the different types of rehab and what happens when you’re in the program.

Meet the Experts

For this article, we sought the expertise and advice of the following professionals:

Dr. Nancy Irwin

Dr. Nancy Irwin is a licensed clinical psychologist based in Los Angeles, California. She is currently on staff at Seasons Malibu, a luxury rehab clinic.

Dr. Lea McMahon LPC, EdD

Dr. Lea McMahon LPC, EdD is the Chief Clinical Officer at Symetria Recovery. She has over 20 years of clinical experience and is a Licensed Professional Counselor in two states.

Kim Vytell

Kim Vytell, LCADC, LSW, is the Director of Clinical Development at Avenues Recovery. She earned her BS and MS in social work from Rutgers University and is also an EMDR-trained therapist.

Inpatient Treatment Programs

Inpatient treatment programs are intensive treatments for drug addiction. You’ll receive 24/7 services for your addiction since you’ll live at a facility for your treatment.

Here’s what Dr. Nancy Irwin says about inpatient treatment programs:

Addiction Group: What is the primary focus of inpatient rehab programs?

Dr. Nancy Irwin: (The primary focus is) detoxification, psychoeducation on addictions, trauma resolution, and an individualized treatment plan. Sometimes, this includes couples or family sessions.

45 days is the average (for an inpatient rehab stay). Some stay just 30, others require 90. 

Addiction Group: What types of addictions are best suited for inpatient treatment?

Dr. Nancy Irwin: Substance addictions (alcohol, pot, cocaine, meth, opioids, etc), as well as process addictions (sex, gambling, porn). 

Addiction Group: How are people assessed to determine if inpatient treatment is necessary?

Dr. Nancy Irwin: If one’s life is out of control, and 12-step programs have not been sufficient, then inpatient treatment may be the best course of action for deep, individualized work.

It is an immediate reset for the body and mind in a safe, secure setting where a client can learn from not only professional clinicians but also peers.

Addiction Group: How do inpatient programs address co-occurring mental health issues?

Dr. Nancy Irwin: Each client is assessed by a psychiatrist, addictions physician, nurse, and licensed psychologist. Sometimes, a psych evaluation and/or psychometric tests are required.


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Outpatient Treatment Programs

Outpatient treatment programs allow you to maintain a normal lifestyle while receiving addiction treatment. We sought the expertise of Dr. Lea McMahon to learn more about outpatient treatment programs: 

Addiction Group: What is the primary approach in outpatient rehab programs?

Dr. Lea McMahon: The primary focus of outpatient rehab programs revolves around breaking negative cycles by diagnosing underlying issues and guiding individuals toward recovery. It aims to help individuals understand triggers, develop coping strategies, and acquire essential life skills to manage addiction within their everyday lives.

Addiction Group: For whom are outpatient programs most suitable, and what types of addictions can they effectively treat?

Dr. Lea McMahon: Outpatient treatment is effective for those with moderate addictions and a stable, supportive home environment. It successfully addresses alcohol, drug addiction, and mental health conditions like anxiety, trauma, or depression, which can be seen as triggers.

Addiction Group: Are there any specific therapies or modalities commonly used in outpatient programs?

Dr. Lea McMahon: Participants in outpatient programs attend scheduled counseling, therapy sessions, and support group meetings, maintaining their daily routines while requiring a moderate level of commitment.

Therapies commonly used include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for trigger identification and negative thought patterns, individual therapy exploring underlying issues, and Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) offering real-world support and group therapy.

Addiction Group: How do outpatient programs accommodate individuals with work or family obligations?

Dr. Lea McMahon: Outpatient programs offer evening, weekend, and virtual sessions. Success in outpatient treatment relies on a stable home environment, supportive friends, and the individual’s commitment to recovery.

One challenge faced in outpatient care is increased exposure to triggers and environments fostering substance abuse, making it challenging for some individuals to resist temptation compared to the controlled environment of inpatient care.

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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-assisted treatment utilizes medications in combination with therapy to treat substance use disorders. According to Kim Vytell, here’s what you can expect in MATs:

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-assisted treatment utilizes medications in combination with therapy to treat substance use disorders.

According to Kim Vytell, here’s what you can expect in MATs:

Addiction Group: How Does MAT Work?

Kim Vytell: MAT stands for Medication-Assisted Treatment and describes the use of medications such as Methadone, Suboxone, Buprenorphine, Naltrexone, and others in the treatment of SUD (substance use disorder). These medications work chemically to ease the severity of withdrawal symptoms and reduce substance cravings in clients recovering from SUD. 

Addiction Group: Which types of addictions can be treated with MAT?

Kim Vytell: All types of substance addictions, as well as alcohol addiction, can be treated with MAT. (Any substance addiction that will cause withdrawal symptoms and cravings upon cessation of use can be eased with MAT.)

Addiction Group: Can you describe the medications used in MAT and their role in the recovery process?

Kim Vytell: Both methadone and buprenorphine work by preventing withdrawal symptoms and reducing cravings, while naltrexone works by blocking the effects of opioids in the body. Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, and it reduces withdrawal and cravings without producing a “high” feeling. This makes it very unlikely to be abused.

Addiction Group: What should individuals expect in terms of monitoring and follow-up while on MAT?

Kim Vytell: Different medications require different levels of oversight. Regardless of the drug prescribed, all patients receiving MAT in an outpatient setting will receive an appropriate level of oversight to ensure the medication regimen is working for them and they are not abusing their meds.

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Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)

A partial hospitalization program (PHP) is a structured mental health program for individuals with substance use disorders. PHPs are more intensive and provide a higher level of structure than standard outpatient programs.

Kim Vytell elaborated more on this type of treatment:

Addiction Group: What is the main purpose and structure of PHPs? 

Kim Vytell: PHPs serve as a step-down level of care after residential treatment, designed to ease clients into a more independent yet structured schedule as they gain basic life skills and coping techniques. While in PHP, clients often live in a nearby sober living home while coming into their treatment center for therapy sessions several hours per day.

Addiction Group: Who are the ideal candidates for PHPs, and what addictions can they address effectively?

Kim Vytell: PHPs can treat any kind of substance or process addiction. It’s intended for clients who have completed detoxification and residential treatment and are now ready for a slightly lower level of oversight and programming.  Here, they can begin to develop independence and healthy coping skills.

Addiction Group: Can you describe the level of intensity and daily commitment required in PHPs?

Kim Vytell: PHPs are very similar to residential treatment in terms of hours of programming, with the main difference being that clients do not sleep in the actual treatment center. PHPs, therefore, require a high level of commitment to be effective.

Addiction Group: How do PHPs facilitate the transition from inpatient to outpatient care?

Kim Vytell: Each client’s direct care team works to make the transition as smooth as possible and ensure that they are set up with the support necessary to maintain their sobriety in this lower level of care. This includes transferring all medical and clinical documentation and full collaboration among key team members.


When it comes to addiction, seeking treatment is a crucial step toward rebuilding your life. Inpatient treatment programs, outpatient treatment programs, MAT, and PHP are some of the common types of rehabilitation programs available.

Learning what to expect in these rehabilitation programs can help facilitate a holistic journey to recovery.

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Updated on January 25, 2024

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