What is Rehab? - Rehab Guide

What is Rehab?

What is Rehab?


Rehab is a widespread name used to describe the process of treatment and recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Although it can describe different treatment programs, rehab usually refers to an inpatient stay at a clinic dedicated to detox and therapy for substance addictions. 

There are lots of ideas floating around about what rehab is like. These range from luxurious spa-like facilities where you can dry out to hospitals where you cannot leave until you are discharged. Neither reflects the reality of rehab in the UK or abroad. Rehab centres in the UK are similar to residential homes, with therapy and medical treatments on hand and the reassurance of a completely drug and alcohol-free space to recover. 

What is a Rehab Centre?

There is quite a lot of variety in accommodation, facilities and approaches. However, most rehab centres are small-scale residences in towns or rural locations where you can stay in a safe drug and alcohol-free space and take time to detox and plan how to overcome your addiction. Think of it as a drug and alcohol-free bed and breakfast with medical supervision and the treatment you need available in the building.

How Long is a Stay in Rehab?

The policy for how long to stay in rehab should be ‘as long as you need’. However, this doesn’t reflect the reality of the situation many people find themselves in. Time and financial commitments are not infinite, so some can only commit to detox as an inpatient. A basic drug or alcohol detox takes around two weeks, and this is usually the shortest amount of time you can stay in residential rehab. 

Based on our collective firsthand experience as former rehab staff, we recommend 28 days if you can manage this. The odds of long-term recovery are much higher if you commit to a month in rehab. This is because the detox period doesn’t allow you to fully understand your reasons for substance abuse. 

Are All Rehabs the Same?

Addictions vary, as do the approaches to treating them. What works for one person may not suit the next, and the rehab you choose must fit with the residents’ beliefs, goals, and lifestyle. 


Most people will stay between two weeks and a few months in rehab, so the living situation is important. The particulars of residential accommodation vary enormously, which is great news if you are looking for a specific type of place to stay. Below are some of the most common arrangements for rehab.

private rehab hospital

Private Hospital

Private medical hospitals are becoming less common for various reasons, such as the rise in public care and the modernisation of buildings. This has left many former hospitals empty, and these are often taken over and renovated as private rehabilitation hospitals. 

Private rehab hospitals are where the NHS will send any rehab patients they cannot treat in the community.

There are only a few rehabs like these in the UK, and they tend to be on the higher price spectrum. Their medical facilities and capabilities are wider than most residential rehabs, and they can accept patients with co-existing medical issues that some smaller rehabs cannot.

Residential Rehab Centre

As the title suggests, you stay in the accommodation of this rehab for your recovery period. Some residential centres have separate units for detox where the medical supervision is higher, and peace and rest are priorities. 

What sets this kind of rehab apart is that you find accommodation, treatment rooms, exercise and therapy facilities and often secluded gardens within one building or complex. This offers privacy, safety and a chance to recover in a completely abstinent space. If you want to stay in the rehab, you can. 

In this type of rehab, you also feel a sense of community and working as a team with other residents. You will typically have meals with other group members, exercise and activities, and practice sober socialising. 

rehab centre accomodation

Rehab Centre with Accommodation

This type of rehab has a main centre with treatment rooms and likely additional outside facilities such as holistic treatments arranged locally. The accommodation will be separate from the treatment area rather than integrated, which is the standard in private hospitals and residential rehabs. 

This approach has advantages and disadvantages. The idea is to create a close-to-home feel in the accommodation, which can be comforting and familiar. Most rehabs like this are in former suburban or country homes and offer a quiet, sheltered place to rest and recover. 

The only downside is that you will have to go to your treatment, although some therapy may be given in the residence. The level of care is higher, but medical supervision is not always at the same standard in this type of rehab for certain addictions to detox. This means that people with severe withdrawal symptoms may be unable to stay in this kind of centre.


Approaches to rehab can vary enormously, and although most high-quality rehab centres will have certain treatments such as medical detox, CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) and a holistic recovery program, there are some specialist treatments you may want. 

Below are some examples of specialised treatments in rehabs: 

  • Nutritional detox – many people who misuse substances have serious nutritional deficiencies. These can cause serious side effects such as insomnia, paranoia, and hallucinations. Nutritional infusions and programs are available in many rehabs.
  • Physical therapy – addiction can seriously damage your body and health, a program to restore and build up your body can boost your mental and physical health.
  • Self-care training – taking care of yourself easily falls through the cracks, and rehab is a great place to start again. Many rehabs offer a program where the counsellors show you to better take care of your health and lifestyle.
  • Hypnotherapy – a far cry from the image of hypnosis, it is, in fact, a common part of cognitive behaviour therapy. With an emphasis on changing established negative thinking patterns, it can be very effective for those with a largely habitual addiction.

The treatment you want and need can make the difference between long-term recovery, relapse, and continued addiction. If you are unsure about what treatment you need or have a specific therapy in mind, an expert can guide you through your options and potential rehab locations. 


Although every rehab will have some fairly standard features, such as psychological therapy, medical detox and nutritional support, approaches to recovery do vary. It is important that whatever rehab you choose is the right fit for you as a person. For example, if you are a decided atheist, a religious-based program probably won’t be right. 

Rehab Guide can help you choose a rehab best suited to your wants and needs physically, mentally, and spiritually. Below are some of the main types of approaches to recovery.


Based on group therapy at its heart, the 12-step program is designed to last, which is why rehabs so often use it, even if they adopt other approaches too. The AA and many other ongoing support groups use this program to offer a way out of addiction one day at a time. 

There are many advantages to taking your recovery a little bit at a time, and the stages are well structured to follow the typical experiences of those quitting an addiction. This recovery style might not suit people struggling with specific issues or feel uncomfortable with some spiritual ideas in the 12 steps. 

SMART Recovery Rehab

Based on the ideas behind CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy), SMART focuses on self-empowerment rather than putting faith in a higher power. It is scientific and works with an evidence-based model. SMART is also more flexible than other belief-specific recovery programs as it leans on individual psychology and bespoke treatment. 

Christian Rehab Symbolism

Christian Rehab

Christian and other religious rehabs are perfect for those who want a centre where their beliefs and community can support them. 

There are many degrees of religion-based rehabs, and many have specific benefits and approaches. For example, religious rehabs often offer single-gender rehab centres, which can be more comfortable for people of certain denominations. Many Christian rehabs follow the 12-step program, which benefits those with strong religious convictions. 

Personalised Rehab

There are many other things to consider about your beliefs and ideas when choosing rehab. How you feel about sharing personal space with others, what holistic therapies will best fit your lifestyle and which style of psychological therapies will work best for you are just a few important considerations. If you are unsure and have specific concerns about personal beliefs and rehab, our team can help you work through any concerns.

How do I Choose a Rehab?

Care in rehab is standardised in most countries, and in the UK, the Care Quality Commission regulates and regularly inspects rehab centres. This ensures that you will receive a high standard of treatment and care during your stay. 

You can check any rehab centre inspection reports we recommend on the CQC website. This will provide details of the ranking and professionalism of any rehabilitation centre inspected.

Inpatient Rehab

If you wonder what is better for your recovery, inpatient or outpatient rehab, the answer is certainly inpatient rehab. Staying in a rehab centre gives you access to the best treatment, reduces relapse risk, and provides full-time medical and personal care. Remember to consider the value of your health and safety in the early weeks of detox and recovery.

During your stay, the rehab you choose will serve as your home, medical facility, therapy, and lifestyle counselling. It must suit and support you as an individual in every way possible. 

Location is something many people focus on when it comes to rehab. This can take the form of wanting somewhere close to home so friends and family can offer support alongside familiar surroundings and short travel time. If these are important factors in your recovery, you can source rehab centres near where you live. 

Equally, rehab is an escape, especially if your surroundings and lifestyle contribute to your addiction. Finding a rehab in another area or even abroad holds some appeal for privacy and distancing yourself from peer and community pressure. An inpatient rehab provides this escapism while keeping you safe and comfortable during your stay.

Outpatient Rehab

The consensus is that inpatient treatment is the safest, easiest and most effective when dealing with addiction and recovery. A safe haven where all your medical and psychological needs are met to allow you to focus on making meaningful changes. 

The realities are sometimes more complex, though. Some people cannot leave home for months on end and spend time only on their health and well-being. Whether you cannot stay in residential rehab due to childcare or work commitments, or financial restraints, rehabilitation needs to be an option for you too. 

This is where outpatient rehab comes into play. The NHS options are limited, and modest local support exists but is only available in a few locations. Support groups try to fill this gap as best they can but cannot provide medical and free professional-level counselling.

Home Detox

Private home detox is a growing service available to many struggling with cravings and withdrawal. A medical assessment by a specialist doctor will be followed by a prescription for a suitable medication for the individual based on their medical and detox history. 

Online counselling, group therapies, and complementary treatments are available to give a more comprehensive rehab-like service. However, some may depend on your proximity to the home detox clinic.

When choosing outpatient rehab, there are several options to consider. You may need to decide which clinic or doctor to use. 

Some doctors specialise in specific addictions and may be limited in what medications they can provide. For example, if you have detoxed medically previously, you might prefer a similar medication, such as Librium, Valium or benzodiazepines, if these were ineffective. 

What is a Typical Rehab Treatment Program?

Detox Stage

Your body needs to be clear of all addictive substances before your recovery can begin. This can be the stage that seems toughest, and many people struggle with the idea that the first step is the hardest.

If you hope to convince a loved one to go into rehab, talking about detox and what it means can overcome some objections. Many people with an addiction have tried stopping before and given up due to withdrawal symptoms and cravings. 

Facing detoxification might seem overwhelming and frightening to these people. It is important during an intervention to mention that rehab has the facilities to offer a medical detox. 

A doctor and rehab staff will manage your symptoms with prescription medication. Reducing and, in some cases eliminating the more dangerous and uncomfortable symptoms of detox.  

Steps of Detox

  • Assessment with detox doctor
  • Medical detox prescription 
  • Diet and rest plan
  • Holistic treatment to manage physical symptoms
  • Counselling and group therapy for psychological symptoms

Detox as a whole process takes between a week and two weeks. This doesn’t mean you will experience symptoms for this long. The medical treatment available in rehab can speed up and lessen the impact of withdrawal and cravings.

Group therapy in Rehab

Therapy Stage

Overcoming the detox stage is a serious challenge and is at the front of most people’s minds when they go into rehab. This makes sense; it is the most physically demanding and toughest to manage medically. 

However, studies show that the therapy stage provides the best chance of long-term recovery. Rehab therapy helps in the following ways:

  • CBT psychological therapy to understand the reasons for your addiction better and identify mental health conditions that may be leading to your misuse of substances. 
  • Behaviour therapy and counselling to find new, better ways to deal with problems and behaviours contributing to your addiction.
  • Role-playing helps improve self-destructive patterns and practice new, better coping methods.
  • Holistic treatment to improve your lifestyle, including nutrition, physical fitness and mental well-being.

Skipping the rehab therapy stage can seem tempting if your financial or personal commitments make it difficult to stay longer than medically necessary in rehab. The mantra ‘do it right or do it twice’ certainly applies to rehabilitation and recovery. Given that detox is the most expensive part of rehab and takes several weeks, it is a better time and money investment to spend a month or more the first time than to return. 

Aftercare Stage

Much more than an afterthought, aftercare is the rest of your life after rehab. It may not be at the forefront of your mind when considering the huge step of detox, but it is important to choose a rehab that will take care of your long-term. 

While there are advantages to the idea of taking recovery one day at a time, this doesn’t mean ignoring the challenges ahead when you leave residential rehab. 

Aftercare can take many forms; it is as individual as most rehab treatment programs are. 


Continuing therapy is important, especially for those with dual mental health and addiction problems. As new challenges present themselves after rehab, you must find ways to cope and adapt your new addiction-free lifestyle to problems. A therapist is there as a guide and sympathetic ear when you need them the most. 

Group Therapy

A cornerstone of rehabilitation, group therapy is as tried and tested as aftercare comes. All around the world, groups such as the AA & NA (alcoholics and narcotics anonymous) are bringing people with addiction problems together for mutual support. This is your village and support network, and several options will be nearby and online.

Sober Housing

There can be a big culture shock when you leave rehab; going from a place where drugs and alcohol are not tolerated in any form to the world you came from can be jarring. Sober housing is halfway between rehab and outpatient care. You will be living away from your previous home before rehab. 

It could be a big relief if your previous home or people in it contributed to your addiction and any mental health problems. 

What Rehab Is

Rehab, as a word, refers to the action of restoring someone to health or normal life after damage from illness or addiction. This should be at the heart of any rehab centre, repairing and restoring people suffering from addiction to their best and happiest selves.




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