Photo credit: Mrooczek262 from morguefile.com
I am sitting in a make-shift auditorium and am choking back tears. Although I have sat through similar ceremonies numerous times, they invariably move me this way. 8 men and 3 women sit proudly at the front of the room – two of them with their young children on their laps. 3 short weeks ago these 11 souls ran, walked or crawled into this inpatient treatment program – most of them dishevelled, beaten down and/or spiritually wounded. This morning they are graduating from what is commonly referred to as ‘Rehab’. It is a symbolic graduation of course, but the pride, renewed hope and healthy fear in each of their voices as they speak is palpable and incredibly moving as is their clear connection to one another. They are a victorious troop – forever connected by their mutual struggle.
There are many misconceptions about what ‘Rehab’ actually is. Many people think of it as a mysterious place where celebrities go when they hit ‘rock bottom’. The idea of ‘Rehab’ is more of an American term and here in Southern Ontario, similar treatment programs are referred to as Inpatient Addiction programs or Residential treatment programs. While the dramatic depictions of ‘Rehab’ in American television and movies involve a good deal of confrontation and ‘drama’ between counsellors and those in the facility, the clinical approach in the vast majority of inpatient programs in Southern Ontario more client-centred, respecting the importance of building a supportive relationship between addiction counsellors and the people they work with. Most programs are 21-days long and most of them are covered by OHIP. Although most programs support either long-term abstinence or moderate use goals, people attending inpatient programs are typically required to abstain while in the program as well as for at least a week prior to entering (so they are not going through intense withdrawal symptoms while in the program).
Most inpatient programs are designed in a way that requires the people in the program to be very busy for much of the day. Some of the day will usually be spent in ‘psycho-education’ groups, which focus on teaching about concepts relevant to overcoming addiction. There are often daily group therapy sessions, physical activity based sessions and art or music therapy sessions as well. People in the program will often have a counsellor assigned to them to help them to successfully navigate personal challenges they are encountering while in the program and to start to make plans for the important changes they will make in their lives after they leave the program.
Photo credit: mensatic from morguefile.com
Inpatient programs have been primarily designed to help provide a type of jump-start or model for the type of healthy lifestyle which is most likely to allow graduates to maintain their treatment goals. The days are very structured – people eat regular meals and develop regular sleep routines, they engage in regular physical activity, spend most of their time engaging in positive social interactions and try to develop practices which help them to manage their emotions in less destructive ways. These lifestyle-related habits have been well researched and the evidence shows they lead to positive treatment outcomes. This is why these strategies are the focus of most treatment programs, including outpatient follow-up therapy.
The biggest change I usually observed in people after they have completed a 21-day inpatient program was in their ability to have faith in people again – including themselves. While most people seemed to come in with their guard up and their head down, the vast majority of graduates left the program more open to others and with more faith in themselves. I have often said to both my colleagues and graduates of 21-day programs that if we were all required to complete a 21-day inpatient program every few years – addiction issues or not – we would all be more grounded people and our society would probably be a much happier and healthier place.
If you are interested in exploring options for addressing addictive behaviours, either in your own or a loved one’s life, please contact us today.