Long-term Rehab for Addiction

Addiction is rooted in the urge to “fix” mental and emotional states quickly.  In contrast,  an important factor in any process of recovery is the extended time needed for maintaining wholehearted commitment to the purpose. For a variety of reasons, addiction treatment programmes do not always sufficiently take this into account. 

Assessment of recovery capital

Intensive, short treatment episodes of a few weeks are the norm for those seeking an abstinence-based recovery. This may often work for people with significant personal and social resources, now referred to as “recovery capital”; especially if an comprehensive aftercare programme is set in place before discharge. For those with significant deficits in recovery capital, such as co-existing mental health disorders, significant physical ailments, and/or unstable social circumstances, a long-term rehab programme may be called for.  The need for such an extended episode to strengthen the foundations on which to sustain recovery may only come to light once the initial treatment intervention has begun. In this regard treatment necessarily involves a process of continuous reassessment. 

The benefits of a managed environment

“Long-term” rehab may mean anything from three months to a year. This does not necessarily have to include a stay in a residential facility.  However residential rehabs offer the benefit of a 24-hour, 365-day programme in a structured, managed environment, which can provide the degree of safety, containment and resources for an holistic approach that non-residential options may find difficult.

Practicing recovery behaviours with support

In this supportive context, people can continue to improve their understanding of their personal vulnerability to addiction. Time can be spent identifying underlying issues that may be having a previously unrecognised influence in any resistance to change. With the distractions of daily life in the home environment temporarily removed, a person has the opportunity to recognise and address the patterns of behaviour, thinking, emotional states and attitudes that put them at risk of relapse. They can maintain focus on integrating the necessary changes in their approach to life simply through practice; consistently replacing unhealthy habits with healthy ones. By participating in the recovery community and culture of the long-term rehab they also gain the invaluable experience of drawing on a positive social network, one of the major factors known to help sustain and enhance recovery over time.

Recognising and mitigating the risks

While acknowledging the potential benefits of long-term rehab for some people, it is important to take account of potential downsides. There is a chance that some people will become overly insulated from the challenges of normal life. Despite its best intentions, the long-term rehab can inadvertently collude with a person’s tendency to avoid taking responsibility for self- direction and care. To reduce this risk the rehab will need to provide avenues through which to experience and process a range of real-life experiences. The opportunity to involve and engage families consistently over an extended period can prove critical to outcome.

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