Rehabilitation is an important step in the addiction recovery journey for many people. With thousands of myths and representations in popular media, it can be hard to know what to expect or if it will work for you, especially in an Australian context.
Most programs in Australia offer residential rehabilitation as default, although alternative treatment and coaching options exist that don’t involve moving into a controlled clinic away from the rest of your life.
We’ve answered some of the most common questions about traditional residential rehabilitation, based on ACAU founder Conrad Tracey’s personal experiences with the programs. There are a number of people who have found success through these, but it’s also common for many to feel unsupported or unequipped on their return to ‘normal’ daily life.
What is traditional rehabilitation?
Typically, residential rehabilitation involves entering into a rehabilitation centre for a period of 1 to 6 months. This can vary depending on the type of work needed, as assessed on intake.
From here, you will commence living in the centre full-time, alongside others also working on their own substance or addiction issues.
Residents are required to submit to physical searches upon entry, and asked to hand over your personal belongings and luggage to be searched, and give your mobile phone and any devices or assets that would give you access to the outside world or help you acquire illicit substances or money.
As a resident, you are expected to take part in daily group therapy and participate in all scheduled activities under a ‘structured living’ system.
Structured living involves highly-established routines, with prescribed sleeping hours, and can include domestic responsibilities, cleaning and upkeep, and shopping and cooking for all your own meals while in the space. An important part of this is that you must maintain accountability over your whereabouts at all times.
Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are typically held outside of the centre with other members of the public – these involve a group therapy component, encouraging you to share your experiences with others in the group. As a resident, you will be accompanied at all times by a member of the rehabilitation centre support staff.
Structured community & other residents
When you enter the facility, you will usually be assigned a fellow resident to show you around and help you to get introduced to the others and settled in – this will also be a role you fulfil during your time there.
In Australian residential rehabilitation centres, you will typically live alongside 6 – 9 others, in the centre for reasons that may vary greatly to yours.
It’s important to consider there are circumstances where people are put into rehabilitation without their active consent, which can tarnish their outcomes and also affect their impact on fellow residents.
With court orders offering traditional rehabilitation programs as an alternative to jail, and people required by their families to enter the facility, they may be reluctant to actively participate – the best mindset to enter any rehabilitation course or coaching is a genuine desire to get better and regain control of their life.
Addiction doesn’t discriminate – you’ll meet a diverse range of people from different backgrounds, belief systems, ages, and other demographics. You must be ready to build and navigate these potentially complex relationships with your fellow residents, knowing everyone is on a different stage of their journey and has different goals and personalities.
Participating in group activities can be made more difficult by clashes in personality and aims, requiring you to shift focus from your personal recovery to balance the additional considerations and ensure you are able to get the most out of your time in conversations that may be heavily dominated by other members.
You can read more about our founder’s experience with traditional rehabilitation in our whitepaper.