LET’S TALK ABOUT…RECOVERY SET BACKS!!! When a loved one enters a residential treatment program , families let out a deep breath and embrace the possibility of “hope” for change.

What is the expected “change” that brings them this “hope”?

Family members have said:

“At last, (they) are going to stop using.”

“I will finally get my son back.”



Believing that life will normalize by completing a residential program, whether 28 days or 3 months, is false “hope”.  Actually, completing a program is just the foundation for the real work.

While in a residential program, a “safe” environment is provided that is not the same as everyday life. Residents don’t go to work, they don’t have to deal with family issues, they don’t create life outside of recovery—they are in an artificial bubble. They are being protected from reality.

The work of “recovery” begins once residential treatment is completed. “Recovery” is about “healing” all aspects of life.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) suggest that treatment programs provide tools to:

-Stop using

-Stay drug free

-Be productive in the family, at work, and in society


Traditional residential treatment focus on “stop using”.  NIH “Medical detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change-long term drug us.”

Woman crying at group therapy

Individualizing healing programs can be crucial. “Treatment should include both medical and mental health services…Follow-up care may include community-or family-base recovery support systems.”


New treatment programs include evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. “To be effective, treatment must address the individual’s drug use and any associated medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal problems.”


If healing from addiction could be accomplished by a 30 day treatment program, the rate of “relapse” would not be as high as 70% (NIDA: depending on type of addiction). An effective program will recognize that “relapse serves as a trigger for renewed intervention.”


Twelve Step programs are commonly recognized as a long term behavioral approach for addressing the evolution of recovery through personal experience, 1:1 support, and sheltered social activities. However, 12 steps programs do not replace professional therapies that address co-occurring mental issues, family dynamics, or life changes.


National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates 7.9 million adults in the US had co-occurring disorders. “People with mental health disorders are more likely to experience an alcohol or substance use disorder.”


Relapse is a knee jerk reaction to responding to a challenging life issue. Professional behavioral approaches provide new life tools to modify and increase life skills needed to handle stressful circumstances and environmental cues that trigger familiar addictive behaviors.


Examples of professional therapies include client centered approaches: cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management interventions/motivational incentives, community reinforcement approaches, family behavior therapies.


Depending on age, length and quantity of use, family support, and co-occurring disorder, the process of healing could be a year, or, ongoing throughout life. Healing from addiction is not only about discontinuing use; it is about changing thinking to live life to the fullest.


Family prepare: successfully completing a residential treatment program could be a red herring that creates a false “hope” reality.

Glad we talked about this. Of course, it is just my opinion.OPINION_____________________________________________________________________

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