What is the Daily Schedule of a Person Undergoing a Rehab?

Last Updated: July 2, 2021

Rehab centers provide a full day’s schedule for patients in recovery. In the morning are calming activities and groups sessions; in the afternoons are various therapy exercises or healthful activities; in the evenings are shorter recovery sessions. Rehab centers have many rules and are run on a strict schedule.

Mornings In Drug Rehab

A morning in rehab will typically include an early start and some calming activity, such as yoga or meditation to help clear the mind and prepare the patient for the day’s activities.

Afternoons In Rehabilitation Centers

Intensive Therapy

After lunch, rehab patients attend different types of intensive therapy sessions. Afternoon therapy can involve individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, or other specialized sessions.

Individual therapy typically includes some form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. People who have addictions have developed unhealthy ways of responding to things like stress and sadness, and even excitement. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a treatment method often used in rehab centers that analyzes an individual’s response to certain situations and teaches them to respond in new, healthier ways.

Group therapy

Group therapy provides a way for patients to connect with others by sharing personal stories, whether triumphs or failures and encouraging one another throughout different stages of the recovery process. Telling one’s own story is an important part of the recovery process; it promotes honest and suppresses denial. Listening to stories is beneficial for other members of the group because even those who don’t think they have a problem start to see similarities between themselves and the people who admit to having an addiction.

Family therapy

Family therapy is a way for a recovering addict to start to repair relationships with his or her loved ones. A recovering addict may have lost things like trust and respect from his or her family members. Those things are not going to be immediately restored after 30 days of sobriety. While this concept may be difficult for people in rehab to grasp, they have to remember: chances are they’ve tricked their family into thinking they were at that point before, only to disappoint them again. These sessions also help teach family members to be supportive coaches for when their loved one leaves the rehab center. Sessions teach family members the difference between loving and enabling so that they are as well-equipped as can be when the time comes that their recovering addict returns home, or goes out on his or her own.

Specialized sessions

Specialized sessions in rehab can focus on behavioral techniques such as anger management, stress management, or grief management. Despite the largely present sense of community in most rehab facilities, each patient is assigned his or her own specialized treatment plan. Not all addicts start using for the same reasons, just like not all addicts use the same drugs.

Free Time For Rehab Patients

Other forms of therapy in rehab can include:

  • Art therapy
  • Music or dance therapy
  • Exercise programs
  • Equine therapy
  • Biofeedback and neurofeedback therapies

Recreational activities that may be available in treatment centers include:

  • Soccer
  • Volleyball
  • Basketball
  • Pool
  • Ping-pong
  • Swimming

Some also enjoy using their free time to read, write, or spend time in prayer.

Evenings In Rehab Facilities

After dinner, shorter sessions, such as 12-step programs, are typically available for patients to attend; participation is highly recommended. Sometimes, free time may be available in the evening hours instead of the afternoon.

Rules In Drug Rehab

The rules for rehab may seem pointless, or even cruel, at first. Rest assured, they are not pointless; they are not meant to torture, nor are they meant to make a person feel like a prisoner. Each of these rules, if followed correctly, can have extremely positive effects on a person in his or her early stages of sobriety.
What Rules are There in Rehab


This first one should be pretty obvious – abstinence above all.


Not all facilities ban these technologies completely; however, access will most likely be restricted if they are allowed in the facility at all.

This is the one people typically find most torturous. It is not the facility’s goal to estrange one from family or friends. Rehab centers restrict cell phone usage to stop those in recovery from making any contact with people who have served as alcohol or drug connections in the past. Another reason this rule exists is to protect people’s privacy—simply sharing a photo of anyone in the facility over private or social media channels, even if it’s not done maliciously, can be extremely damaging to a person’s reputation and can cause problems for that individual when he or she leaves the facility.


The purpose of this is to reduce exposure to triggers. It’s near impossible to find a crime show that doesn’t involve drugs just like it’s impossible to find a movie about college-aged kids that doesn’t show drinking. Think about the favorite country song: does it contain the words “whiskey” or “beer” anywhere in its lyrics? The media is an avid promoter of the party life. There aren’t many mainstream movies out there that show a 21-year-old’s third DUI in a year, or a mother’s children being taken from her, or a 15-year-old’s death by overdose. Most of what we see on TV and hear on the radio just shows us the high, not the aftermath. In rehab access to media is restricted because patients need to learn that:

1) life does not revolve around alcohol and drugs,

2) the media does not properly depict the effects that alcohol and drugs have on a person’s life.


Romantic relationships are forbidden in rehab because if a person is recently sober, he or she is not necessarily the most stable at the moment. Adding a romantic relationship into that mix would be a disaster waiting to happen. Now, of course, one of the goals of rehab is to network and build relationships with people who can support and have similar goals. However, romantic relationships can be a distraction. If a person becomes consumed by thoughts of a person or thoughts of spending time with that person, he or she may develop a co-dependency issue—and unhealthy forms of dependency are what recovering addicts need to avoid most. Instead, patients need to be focused on themselves and their recovery.


Even if the patient doesn’t want to be there, he or she must at least be willing to show up to designated activities. After attending so many meetings, the brain will eventually start to see the logic in what counselors are saying. Even if they don’t participate at first, people in rehab need to attend all therapy sessions because repetition is key in the early stages of recovery: “Bring the body and the mind will follow.”


Unless escorted by a supervisor (to a structured or facility-sponsored activity), rehab patients are typically not permitted to leave the community. This isn’t because they want to punish the patients, or because they want to treat the patients like prisoners. This exists because it helps the facility to accomplish all of the goals set by the rules outlined above. Recovering addicts are not permitted to leave rehab facilities because they need a 100% temptation-free, trigger-free, clean environment in which they can learn new ways to cope with their addiction. Learning the right habits and leading a healthy lifestyle within the facility for an uninterrupted, extended period will help them to continue to do the same once they leave the facility.

What Happens in Rehab?

Rehab typically begins with detoxification, when all of the toxins or addictive substances in the body are processed or removed by the body. Then treatment begins, including assessment, therapy, life skills development, and relapse prevention.

What Happens in Rehab


Detox can last anywhere from several days to several months. Most severe withdrawal symptoms reduce in intensity within about two weeks; however, the length of time it takes someone to detox will always depend on the person’s age, overall physical health, use habits, and how long he or she has been using.


Assessment—A person entering rehab will undergo an assessment of his or her physical and mental state; this will determine the extent to which he or she is physically dependent on the drug, and what, if any, psychological issues are present in addition to the substance abuse problem. While the main goal of a rehab facility is to help someone overcome a drug or alcohol addiction, the more knowledge counselors can obtain about how someone’s brain worked before drugs got a hold of it, the better.

Therapy—After a person has gotten through the worst stages of detox, he or she enters into treatment. Addiction treatment involves therapy in the forms of individual and group counseling, lectures, discussions, and other structured forms of instruction such as 12-step programs.

Life skills development—In therapy, patients learn the skills and techniques they can implement in their own lifestyles to maintain sobriety. Because many adults (about 90 percent) who are addicted to drugs or alcohol started to use before turning 18, many rehab patients aren’t re-learning something they once knew because many of them never actually learned how to be sober adults.

This is not the case for everyone who receives treatment in rehab facilities—it’s just important to keep in mind when trying to figure out why rehab facilities have so many rules and such a strict schedule. Life skills development in rehab involves goal-setting, relationship building and repair, and education regarding proper nutrition and physical fitness. Some facilities take a holistic approach to treatment and incorporate things like meditation, yoga, or acupuncture into their programs.

Relapse prevention

Relapse prevention is a vital part of any treatment program. In rehab, therapy sessions guide patients through situations, both real and hypothetical, by practicing learned cognitive behaviors that will help them to fight off cravings or overcome emotional difficulties.

Page Sources

  1. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment for Persons With Co-Occurring Disorders. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2005. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 42.) 6 Traditional Settings and Models. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64182/.
  2. Schmitz T. G., Goldbeck L. The effect of inpatient rehabilitation programmes on quality of life in patients with cystic fibrosis: a multi-center study. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes. 2006;4:8. doi:10.1186/1477-7525-4-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1373610/.

Published on: November 2nd, 2016

Updated on: July 2nd, 2021