Residential Drug Treatment – What happens in drug and alcohol rehab?

What happens in residential drug and alcohol rehab?

Counselling and intensive support from a qualified team of professionals is an extremely important part of the rehabilitation process, from the minute you step through the door. They may have a particular ethos or be able to offer different options for treatment, but a period of stabilisation will be essential.

Drug and Alcohol treatment counsellor


Detoxification from drugs or alcohol is usually the first step, with a focus on healing the body after long-term drug or alcohol use.

Individuals go through a process of stabilisation and detoxification, to help the body rid itself of the unwanted substance, and are then supported through the subsequent withdrawal symptoms.

People who go through detox will then move on to a longer-term programme to continue their recovery.


The 12-step programme is frequently offered and has introduced lifelong support to many people. It originates from the 1930s, where the first Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step fellowship was founded by ‘Bill W’ and ‘Dr Bob’ and encouraged participants to turn to a ‘power greater than ourselves’ (often, but not necessarily, interpreted as God) for support. Since then, the programme has been adapted to address substance misuse and other addictions.

As the name suggests, the approach uses 12 ‘steps’ to aid recovery. These include admitting that you have a problem, looking at mistakes you have made in the past and making amends for them, as well as learning to live by a new code of behaviour and supporting others with similar problems.

Individuals in 12-step programmes attend meetings where they are able to identify and work through their addiction problems, supported by other people who are experiencing the same issues in a safe, non-judgmental environment.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a psychotherapy treatment that uses a practical, goal-setting approach to overcoming addiction.

A counsellor will work with an individual to look at the reasons behind their actions and behaviours, and at the relationships between the way a person thinks and their problems with addiction.

The therapy is aimed at changing the patterns that cause individuals to act the way they do, so that they can respond to challenges in a more effective, healthier way.

Tony Adams footballer - taking about drug and alcohol treatment
Tony Adams, former Arsenal and England footballer


‘I had my moment of clarity, my surrender moment at 29 years of age. I started to cry. “I don’t want to drink. I’m still getting drunk. All this behaviour I’m doing, I don’t want to do.” My life was a complete and utter mess. But as soon as I surrendered, as soon as I gave in, it was a release. Somewhere inside of me I had a moment of clarity, something shifted within me that let a shaft of light in and the therapy got me well.

If one programme doesn’t work for you, try everything. And as professionals, put everything in front of people and they might pick up one of the tools.’



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