In my opinion, having worked at a drug and alcohol rehab for several years now, I think there are 3 key things that treatment centers can help addicts and alcoholics with the most. These things are:
1) Maintaining short term abstinence – This is the whole point of treatment for the most part, and is really the key selling point of an inpatient rehab stay. You are in a controlled environment and there is almost zero chance of a relapse while you are there. But this same strength is also a warning sign for people who do not have experience with addiction or recovery: simple abstinence does not necessarily lead to long term sobriety. It is easy to believe that it will when you first walk of rehab and feel like superman again, but of course this is not the case. It takes work beyond mere abstinence in order to enjoy the long term benefits of recovery.
But even with this cautionary note in place, rehab does in fact do a pretty good job of offering a safe and secure environment to get dried out. Expect at least this much, and demand safety from any rehab you might attend.
2) Setting them up for aftercare – I went to 3 rehabs in my life, and 2 out of the three did an excellent job of sending me to the best possible aftercare solution. I think the first one was a mismatch because I had no intention whatsoever of staying clean and sober after I left, so I may have not even paid any attention to what they were telling me. But the other two rehabs both urged me to go to long term rehab, and I took them up on it the third time around, and have been clean and sober ever since.
Really, this is the essence of short term rehab: get dried out, get your bearings again, learn a bit about support systems for when you leave, and hopefully get pointed in the right direction in terms of aftercare. If you need counseling or therapy, most rehabs get you paired up with a counselor after you leave. If you need to live in rehab, most will get you placed in a long term facility. If you are in short term rehab and you don’t feel like they are planning well for your exit, start asking questions and demand to get a plan in place. Aftercare is critical, and most rehabs do get it right.
3) Pushing them towards holistic growth – many long term treatment centers do this, and even some of the short term programs will have a lecture or two about the push for holistic health. The problem is that most people who are in treatment do not see the importance of these ideas, even when they are directly presented with them.
There is a tendency in early recovery to focus on the short term: you need to learn how to make it through each day without taking a drink or a drug. This is the immediate problem and so the focus is on that in most short and even long term programs.
But the fact is that at some point, within the first few years of recovery, NOT using drugs and alcohol DOES become automatic, and then the real problem is one of complacency. At that point, an holistic growth model makes the most sense. So if treatment centers can plant this seed of growth, then it can have a huge positive impact down the road. Long term rehabs should focus on holistic growth almost exclusively once basic abstinence and sobriety becomes automatic. If staying sober does not become automatic then back up and rethink your strategy for early recovery from addiction.