What Does Rehab Mean?


Everyone knows what “rehab” means—or at least they think they do. The fact is that there is no standardized definition of rehab, giving treatment facilities a lot of leeway to refer to themselves with the term.

Not all rehabs are created equal, but most facilities at least make an effort to adhere to the principles of effective addiction treatment that are laid out by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. With that in mind, every unique person looking for a rehab facility to help them get sober may find that different models and programs better meet their addiction recovery needs.

Here, we’re going to explore various programs, different treatment strategies, and the best practices for a rehab that have proven to be effective in providing patients access to lifelong recovery.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, explore the treatment options at Outpatient Services. Call us at (844) 665-6834 for more information about how we can put you on the road to recovery.

Is Rehab a Place, a Process, or Both?

Rehab, specifically drug rehab, describes the process of recovery from one of a group of disorders characterized as substance abuse disorders. This includes dependence or addiction to legal (but controlled) substances like alcohol, prescription drugs, and illicit drugs. Rehab is also loosely used to describe the facility at which this recovery process takes place (i.e. “going to rehab”).

Although all rehabs share the same ultimate goal of helping their patients recover from addiction, there is a lot of variation in the methods they use to make this happen. Here are the different types of rehab facilities and programs that are made widely available to addicts looking to get sober.

Long-term Residential Facilities

A long-term residential treatment facility is one that cares for patients around-the-clock for six months to a year; perhaps longer, depending on the patient’s needs. Many of these facilities use a model called a Therapeutic Community (TC), a treatment process that, according to NIDA, “acknowledges the chronic, relapsing nature of substance use disorders.” By giving addicts in recovery a place to live and socialize with others in the same boat, TCs are widely considered an excellent option to receive long-term treatment.

Unfortunately, these kinds of rehab communities exist on an idealized plane. It’s very rare for anyone to be able to take six months off of work or school to focus on recovery, let alone a year. This is why other options like short-term residential centers and outpatient facilities exist.

Inpatient Residential Facilities

Most of the time, when you hear that someone is “going to rehab,” this usually refers to short-term residential treatment. Short-term residential treatment centers focus on intensive treatment in a shorter, more realistic amount of time for busy Americans suffering from addiction. Although most short-term residential treatment plans span an average of 30 days, patients usually have the freedom to adjust the length of their stay as needed for their individual recoveries. Also, these facilities generally oversee medical detox followed by a continuum of services aimed at helping addicts recover for the long-term.

In 2001, a study was carried out attempting to measure the efficacy of short-term residential treatment programs in comparison to long-term residential programs. The results showed better results in more extended stays, with the caveat that these addicts generally didn’t receive positive results from outpatient treatment and usually had co-occurring disorders (i.e., two addictions at the same time or an addiction coinciding with a mental illness).

Detox Facilities

These rehab facilities only treat patients during medical detox, managing the process as the end goal of recovery. This method of single-step rehab is severely flawed because, as NIDA has stated, detox should only be treated as the first step in the process of addiction treatment. If it’s not, then addicts trying to get sober are much more likely to relapse when they don’t receive the necessary continuum of post-detox care. All in all, stand-alone detox centers are only truly useful in addiction recovery when used in conjunction with other programs and services for a more rounded treatment plan.

Therapy and Counseling

Many addicts choose, either after detox or after some level of inpatient or outpatient treatment, to continue to receive counseling or therapeutic services after, which can still be considered a type of rehab. Because of the wide variation of these programs, there’s no way to judge them on any merits. If an addict responds well to one-on-one psychiatric treatment or family therapy, they will likely succeed, but if an addict isn’t invested, there is little support for them outside of group meetings or therapy sessions.

Outpatient Treatment Programs

Outpatient treatment programs involve some level of on-site treatment with the aspect of residency. That is, patients, come to the facility for detox and other services, but don’t stay there 24 hours a day. First, there is a lot of variability in programs that refer to themselves as outpatient rehabs. If the services offered are insufficient, a facility’s results are likely to be inadequate. However, if an outpatient center provides comprehensive treatment— or better yet, is used as part of a continuum of care after inpatient treatment is complete— it can be a great, more affordable solution for patients committed to their own recovery.

Rehab in Correctional Facilities

Rehab programs have been made so widely available that some even exist in the most unexpected places— like prisons. Today, most correctional facilities have addiction recovery programs set in place for drug users who are serving sentences. Generally speaking, incarcerated drug addicts can undergo rehab in the form of 12-step programs, full addiction treatment schedules, or other any other options available in the facility.

A common misconception about rehab programs in prison is that they are less effective. In fact, many skeptics have challenged what is referred to as “involuntary rehab,” claiming that addicts who are forced get sober likely won’t if it’s not their choice to do so. One study published in a journal of psychiatry, however, compared the results of voluntary and involuntary addiction treatment and found that both were equally effective. Even if this were not the case, involuntary rehab in a correctional facility is far less common than most people think. Most of the time, inmates actually do comply with the ruling by the state to receive addiction treatment during their sentences.

Rehab in Hospitals

Rehab, what does it mean?People who are hospitalized for suicidal behavior, overdose or other risk behavior aren’t always considered as people “in rehab,” but many hospitals have dedicated facilities committed to addiction treatment. This is looked at as a good option for addicts that have already received services for their addiction in a hospital setting and want to continue with a consistent degree of care.

Rehab in Correctional Facilities

When drug offenders are incarcerated, they are generally put through some type of rehab programs, ranging from as simple as 12-step programs to full addiction treatment schedules, depending on the facility in question. Many skeptics have challenged what is referred to as “involuntary rehab,” claiming that addicts who don’t buy in won’t recover as effectively.

One study published in a journal of psychiatry, however, compared the results of voluntary and involuntary treatment and found that this inequality did not exist. When inmates are compelled by the state to receive addiction treatment, they generally showed compliance and had comparable rates of recovery to voluntary programs where addicts were free to drop out of treatment.

Get Sober with Help from the Outpatient Services of The Treatment Center

As you can see, the term “rehab” encompasses a wide variety of treatment programs today. Different facilities provide different results for different addicts, so feel free to explore your options. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, explore the treatment options at Outpatient Services. Call us at (844) 665-6834 for more information about how we can put you on the road to recovery.