What Does a Typical Day in Drug or Alcohol Rehab Look Like?

Rehab Program

According to the latest Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) survey, approximately 23.5 million Americans have an addiction to illicit drugs or alcohol. Dallas Drug Treatment Centers, a directory of North Texas rehabs, is currently anticipating a rise in admissions thanks in part to the global pandemic’s overall negative effect on people’s mental health.

Substance use disorders (SUDs) are so commonplace that chances are you already know a few people who have one. If you or someone you know is about to seek treatment for an SUD, you might be wondering what a typical day in a rehab center is like.

The answer is a disappointing “it depends”. 

Thanks to a better understanding of substance use disorders, drug rehab centers today offer far more individualized treatments than they did just a generation ago. It’s not uncommon for two patients with otherwise similar cases in the same rehab center to have different sets of therapeutic approaches applied to their condition.

That said, most substance abuse treatment programs follow the same general framework. In most cases, the types of therapies and medical intervention applied to patients in different centers will be very similar in their approaches, if not their specifics.

As the word “program” might suggest, most rehab programs are tightly structured. This helps reduce the anxiety and stress that many individuals might have and allows them to better focus on their recovery.

Here’s what most recovering individuals in a drug or alcohol rehab center might expect in a typical day:

Early morning

Days at most rehab centers begin early, and sleeping in is usually not allowed unless there is a specific reason for it. As many people with substance use disorders or alcohol withdrawal also suffer from malnutrition, a healthy breakfast is usually available. Any necessary medication is also given at this time. Some programs with a religious or spiritual aspect to them may include prayers, yoga, and meditation, though these practices are certainly not limited to faith-based rehabs.


Group therapy guided by a qualified counselor often follows. In some programs, both residents and outpatients may participate. Classes related to recovery might also be part of the schedule. This usually continues until lunchtime.


Residents may be given medication to take with their lunch, which, like breakfast, is meant to be healthy and aid in recovery. Some free time might be allowed before therapy sessions resume.


Afternoons are typically the busiest time at rehab centers for patients and therapists alike. At this time, residents will continue with individual or group therapy sessions. The types of therapy or activities might change depending on the program and the patient’s needs.

Some activities that could be expected include:

Specialized therapy

People who have substance use disorders are more likely than the general population to have some kind of co-occurring mental health condition. Because these often caused drug-seeking behavior in the first place, programs will often address these issues through specialized therapy sessions that allow individuals to cope without having to turn to drugs or alcohol.

If the patient has physical health problems, therapies intended to address them are also most often done in the afternoon or late morning.

Individual counseling or therapy

Counseling and therapy are technically different (with therapy generally being more intensive and long-term). In any case, residents will usually have their individual counseling or therapy sessions in the afternoon. This is not necessarily a daily activity. However, it will be done periodically to better gauge an individual’s growth and recovery.

Family therapy

In some programs, family members actively participate in the recovery process by being part of therapy sessions. For the most part, these are held in the afternoon, as this tends to be more convenient for more people.

Family therapy is often considered critical for recovery because many substance use disorders and other mental illnesses have their roots in unresolved family issues. By positively addressing these problems, a better groundwork for long-term recovery could be laid.

Vocational education

Chronic substance misuse is often tied to economic factors, such as the lack of job opportunities, among others. Programs targeted at helping people from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds may include classes that teach skills that may improve future employment prospects.

Alternative therapy

While insufficient on their own, some therapies have been shown to help long-term substance use recovery when combined with mainstream treatments. While they could be done any time it’s convenient, chances are these activities will be scheduled in the afternoon.

Some of these include: 

  • Mindfulness
    • Yoga
    • Dance therapy
    • Outdoor therapy 
    • Exercise
    • Animal or pet therapy


Evenings are usually reserved for medication, supper, and downtime. However, some programs may have their group therapy sessions in the evenings for one reason or another. Individuals in outpatient programs may go home before then if there isn’t any pressing need to stay at the rehab center. Residents, on the other hand, will often have a strict “lights out” rule a few of hours after supper to ensure that they get enough sleep.


It’s hard to generalize what rehab’s like because it can be a highly individualized process. On the other hand, there are only so many hours in a day and rehab administrators have to try their best to make sure that all treatments, classes, and therapy sessions have to happen at a time that makes sense.

As a result, even though rehab centers in Dallas may apply different approaches and philosophies, days at various rehab centers can be surprisingly similar.