Alcohol Rehab: Settings, Types, and What to Expect

Alcohol addiction is a chronic condition characterized by uncontrollable drinking, despite the negative consequences a person may experience due to alcohol use. It is also a progressive condition, which means it tends to worsen over time if it’s left untreated. Fortunately, an alcohol rehab program can help you improve your motivation to get sober, quit drinking, and build healthy coping skills and relapse prevention strategies. There are many types of alcohol rehabs, including inpatient and outpatient as well as holistic, luxury, executive, and faith-based.

In this article:

Signs You May Benefit from Alcohol Rehab

Before enrolling in a program, you may be wondering if you really need an alcohol rehab program. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) outlines the criteria for alcohol use disorder, the clinical term for alcohol addiction. If you exhibit at least two of the following symptoms, you may benefit from an alcohol rehab program:1

  • Spending a significant amount of time obtaining alcohol, drinking alcohol, and recovering from hangovers
  • Experiencing strong cravings to drink alcohol
  • Drinking larger amounts of alcohol or for a longer period than intended
  • Wanting to cut down or control drinking but unable to do so
  • Finding it difficult to fulfill responsibilities at home, school, or work due to drinking
  • Continuing to drink despite experiencing relationship problems due to use
  • Giving up important activities or hobbies due to drinking
  • Using alcohol in dangerous situations, such as while driving
  • Continuing to drink despite psychological or medical issues caused or worsened by use
  • Needing more alcohol to feel drunk (tolerance)
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you suddenly reduce or stop drinking (dependence)

Only a medical or mental health professional can formally diagnose an alcohol addiction, but the above symptoms can give you an idea as to whether you should seek help or not. If you are concerned about your drinking, contact a treatment provider to receive an alcohol misuse assessment. They can then use the assessment to make treatment recommendations.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

If you abruptly stop drinking, you may experience a myriad of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which tend to be unpleasant and sometimes even dangerous—especially in the case of a severe addiction. You may notice some of these withdrawal symptoms:1

  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Rapid pulse
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Seizures can be a life-threatening complication of alcohol withdrawal. Fortunately, fewer than 10% of people experience withdrawal seizures or withdrawal delirium, characterized by hallucinations, agitations, and confusion.1 However, drinking heavily over a long period of time increases the risk of experiencing severe alcohol withdrawal. Medical detox services can help keep you safe during alcohol withdrawal. You can all our helpline at 800-743-5860 (Info iconWho Answers?) to find a professional detox program.

Alcohol Rehab Settings

Alcohol rehab occurs in two main settings: inpatient and outpatient. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and ultimately, the right treatment setting for you depends on many factors, such as your treatment needs and preferences, financial situation, insurance coverage, and more.

When you seek an alcohol use assessment from your treatment provider, they will use the following guidelines for determining your level of care, as well as how long you should attend treatment:2

  • Alcohol withdrawal risk
  • Duration and intensity of alcohol misuse
  • Presence of co-occurring medical conditions
  • Presence of co-occurring mental health or behavioral conditions
  • Motivation to quit drinking
  • Risk of relapse or continued alcohol use
  • Support system and recovery environment

Inpatient Alcohol Rehab

Inpatient alcohol rehab, which is the more intensive treatment setting, involves living at the treatment facility for the duration of your treatment program, which could last anywhere from one to three months—sometimes longer.

An inpatient program is highly-structured and regimented, with the treatment team creating a daily schedule for you to follow, which may include:

  • Meals with the other patients
  • Individual therapy sessions
  • Group counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Peer support meetings
  • Recreational time
  • Holistic therapies and interventions, such as art therapy, meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and equine therapy
  • Daily medication
  • Personal time and hygiene before lights out

Many patients benefit from the structure of an inpatient alcohol rehab, as well as being separated from their everyday drinking environment. At an inpatient program, they can avoid stressors and relapse triggers in early recovery to help them focus solely on obtaining sobriety.

Outpatient Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Outpatient alcohol rehab is more flexible than inpatient care, allowing you to continue working, attending school, or fulfilling responsibilities at home while you attend alcohol addiction treatment. Typically, you attend therapy, counseling, and medical appointments during the day and return home during non-treatment hours, which tend to be in the evening.

Outpatient alcohol rehab varies in intensiveness and structure. There are three levels of outpatient, including:

  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs): The most intensive option, a PHP involves meeting for several hours per day, for between five and seven days per week.
  • Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs): A step down from a PHP, an IOP includes a few hours of treatment per day, for between three and five days per week.
  • Standard outpatient care: The least intensive and most flexible option, standard outpatient alcohol treatment involves a few hours of care per week, split up between one or two days.

Types of Alcohol Rehab Programs

If you’ve decided to opt for an inpatient alcohol rehab program, you may want to consider the various types of programs available. These vary in treatment philosophy and approach, though all of them use evidence-based therapies and therapeutic interventions. They may just offer different additional amenities, features, and supportive treatments.


Holistic treatment takes a whole-person approach to alcohol addiction treatment, aiming to heal a person’s mind, body, and spirit. Holistic alcohol rehab combines conventional therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with complementary and alternative approaches, such as:

  • Creative arts therapy
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Equine therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Reiki
  • Massage therapy
  • Biofeedback
  • Tai chi
  • Nutritional therapy


Luxury alcohol rehabs offer a more resort-like feel to addiction treatment. These programs often tout a beautiful and serene environment by the beach or in the mountains. They offer upscale features, such as:

  • Private rooms
  • Gourmet meals
  • Olympic-sized swimming pools
  • Spa treatment
  • Massage therapy
  • Horseback riding

These programs, which are often marketed toward celebrities, tend to be more exclusive and offer more privacy.


Executive alcohol rehab often combines the upscale features of a luxury program with the amenities needed to continue working during rehab. These amenities may include high-speed internet, as well as private work spaces and private phone lines.

Faith-Based or Christian Rehab

Faith-based alcohol rehab programs integrate spiritual teachings into the recovery process. During your treatment stay, you may attend spiritual groups as well as groups that study scripture.

How Much Does Alcohol Rehab Cost?

The cost of alcohol rehab varies considerably, depending on various factors, such as:

  • Treatment setting: Inpatient tends to cost more than outpatient since you pay for room and board.
  • Duration of stay: Longer alcohol rehab stays are associated with higher costs.
  • Type of program: Programs that offer upscale features and amenities, such as pools, spa treatment, massage therapy, and gourmet meals, are more expensive than standard alcohol rehabs.
  • Insurance coverage: Most insurance plans provide at least partial coverage for alcohol rehab, if not full coverage. Finding an alcohol addiction treatment program that accepts your insurance can drop the price considerably.
  • Publicly-funded options: Some alcohol rehabs offer low-cost or free rehab to those who can’t reasonably afford to pay for treatment. These programs typically receive state and federal funding in order to offer affordable care.
  • Financing options: If you don’t have insurance, many alcohol rehabs offer payment options like sliding scale fees and monthly payment plans to alleviate the financial burden of treatment.

As such, the cost of alcohol rehab can range from $0 (due to free rehab options or insurance coverage) to tens of thousands of dollars for inpatient alcohol treatment programs.

How Long is Alcohol Rehab?

Some alcohol rehab programs may last 30 days while others may last up to 90 days. If you and your treatment team decide it’s necessary, you could end up staying longer than three months. It all depends on your specific needs and situation.

If you plan to transition into step-down care at a partial hospitalization program or intensive outpatient program, then 30 days in inpatient alcohol rehab may be long enough to jumpstart your sobriety. Conversely, if you need more time away from home to focus on the early stages of recovery, you may opt for a 90-day program, with aftercare including Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, individual therapy sessions, group counseling, or a combination of relapse prevention services.

What to Expect at Alcohol Rehab

Making the decision to enter alcohol addiction treatment take courage. Once you commit to treatment, you may be wondering what to expect when you enter the program. We are here to demystify the process.

Intake and Assessment

When you arrive at the inpatient rehab facility, you will first have your items searched for forbidden things, such as drugs, alcohol, or weapons. They will then get you checked in and walk you through the program rules, including visitor policy, lights out, and more.

After you are checked in, a treatment professional will conduct a biopsychosocial assessment, which evaluates the various biological, psychological, and social factors that influence your drinking and addiction. They may evaluate the following:

  • Your alcohol use
  • The duration and severity of alcohol misuse
  • Your withdrawal risk
  • Family history of substance use
  • Presence of co-occurring mental health disorders (dual diagnosis)
  • Family history of mental health conditions
  • Presence of comorbid medical conditions
  • Environmental factors affecting recovery (occupation, housing, support system, etc.)

Treatment Planning

Once the provider conducts the assessment, they will use this information to guide your treatment planning. This is because your treatment plan is individualized to meet you needs and take your goals into consideration.

Your treatment plan is not static—the treatment team will evaluate its effectiveness throughout your rehab stay and adjust it accordingly.

Medical Detox

During the evaluation, your treatment team may determine that you could benefit from medical detox before beginning therapy and counseling. Medical detox involves 24/7 medical care, oversight, and supervision to keep you safe during the alcohol withdrawal process. This is because alcohol withdrawal can be potentially fatal due to the risk of seizures. Medical detox can help prevent and address any medical emergencies that may arise.

Treatment and Alcohol Addiction Medications

Once you complete medical detox, it’s time to begin the heart of your alcohol addiction treatment plan. Everyone’s treatment plan is tailored to address their unique situation; however, your plan may include a variety of therapies, such as:3

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Examines the connection between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to help you avoid drinking and cope with negative emotions
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): Teaches many useful skills, such as mindfulness, distress tolerance, and interpersonal skills
  • Contingency management: Incentivizes patients with tangible rewards like vouchers or money for positive behaviors, such as abstinence
  • Motivational interviewing: Improves patient motivation to stop drinking and create positive change
  • Group counseling: Covers a variety of topics, from CBT groups to interpersonal process groups, offering patients an opportunity to learn sober social skills, practice relapse prevention skills they’ve learned, learn from each other, and challenge each other’s assumptions</li.
  • Family therapy: Improves family communication, family functioning, boundary setting, and conflict resolution

You may also be prescribed an alcohol addiction treatment medication, which can help curb cravings or reduce relapse. The three medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include:4

  • Naltrexone: An opioid receptor antagonist, naltrexone binds to opioid receptors in the brain involved in the pleasurable and rewarding effects of alcohol as well as cravings. It can help prevent relapse in those who are in recovery, and it’s available as both a daily pill or extended-release injection.
  • Acamprosate: This medication acts on glutamate and GABA neurotransmitter systems to reduce symptoms of post-acute withdrawal, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness.
  • Disulfiram: This medication, when combined with alcohol, causes unpleasant effects, such as heart palpitations, nausea, and flushing, which can deter someone from drinking.

Aftercare and Relapse Prevention

Once you near the end of your alcohol rehab program, you and your treatment team will collaborate on creating an aftercare plan. Aftercare offers you an opportunity to continue receiving support well after you’ve finished rehab. This ongoing support is an important component of relapse prevention.

Aftercare options may include:

  • AA meetings
  • SMART Recovery meetings
  • Individual therapy
  • Group counseling
  • Sober living homes
  • Step-down care at a PHP or IOP

What to Look for in a Quality Alcohol Rehab

With so many alcohol rehab options available, it can be difficult to narrow down your choices. However, there are some qualities you should look for in a program, such as:

  • Accreditation: Make sure the program is accredited by nationally recognized organization, such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), and the Council on Accreditation (COA).
  • Credentialed staff members: Make sure the staff members have appropriate credentials for an alcohol addiction treatment program, such as PsyD., LCSW, MFT, MD, RN, and CAS (certified addiction specialists).
  • Low patient-to-staff ratio: In order to ensure that you get the individualized treatment you need, you’ll want to find a program that has a low patient-to-staff ratio.
  • Individualized treatment planning: Before choosing an alcohol rehab, make sure to ask if they offer individualized treatment planning to make sure your unique needs will be addressed.
  • Evidence-based treatment modalities: Ask the facility if they use evidence-based treatment interventions and which ones they utilize (e.g. CBT, DBT, and more)
  • Linkage to ongoing care: A quality alcohol rehab will emphasize how important aftercare is and connect you to appropriate follow-up treatment options.
  • Culturally competent staff: Treatment is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and as such, treatment should be specialized and individualized, acknowledging the various systemic factors that influence alcohol misuse, such as racism, homophobia, transphobia, displacement, poverty, and more. Staff members should be culturally competent, meaning they understand the different needs of people with different cultural backgrounds and those in various marginalized communities.

If you are ready to start your treatment journey, give us a call at 800-743-5860 (Info iconWho Answers?) . One of our compassionate treatment support specialists is available 24/7 to help you find an alcohol rehab.


1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).
2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Treatment Settings.
3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction DrugFacts.
4. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2008). Helping Patients Who Drink Too Much: A Clinician’s Guide.

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