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Can I Get Visitors While in Rehab?



The question of visitors during rehab is a sticky one and something that needs to be handled delicately at all times. More than one alcoholic has declined residential treatment out of fear that he or she wouldn’t be able to see loved ones for months at a time. Therapists and clinic operators understand this. They do their best to make accommodations when feasible.

Before we get into the specifics regarding visitors and rehab, you need to understand that every clinic operates differently. There are many different lines of thinking when it comes to whether or not visitors should be allowed, what types of visitors should be allowed, and when visits should take place.

Our job, as an independent referral service, is to make sure we are able to tell you the basic visitation policies of all the clinics we work with. We do our best in this regard. Nevertheless, be aware that visitation policies may change from time to time.

Why Patients Want Visitors

It is completely understandable that patients entering an alcohol or drug rehab programme would want to see visitors from time to time. Family members and close friends provide some much-needed comfort and encouragement in the darkest days of rehab. We would be concerned if an addict did not want visitors.

Yet what most addicts don’t realise is that addictive behaviour changes the entire family dynamic. What the addict might see as a healthy family relationship could be, in fact, a very unhealthy one. Therapists and clinical staff must balance the health of the family unit against the desires of the addict in recovery.

Dangers of Allowing Visitors

As helpful as visits from friends and loved ones can be, they can be equally dangerous. Let’s discuss the idea of enabling as just one example. Enabling is best described as attitudes or actions among friends and loved ones that encourage the addict to continue his/her destructive behaviour.

One of the ways enabling manifests itself is through family members or friends making excuses for the addict. They may say things like, “He can’t help himself, he had a rough childhood.” These types of excuses only serve to reinforce the addict’s belief that he/she cannot survive without alcohol or drugs.

If family members express such enabling thoughts during visits, they could very easily undo all the work that has been done during a week’s worth of therapy sessions. It’s amazing how much damage can be done by a remark that seems so innocent.

Another danger of rehab visits comes by way of family members not getting along. For example, if a wife is extremely angry with her husband for his drunkenness (which is completely understandable), demonstrating that anger during a visit could throw the addict into a tailspin that sends him right back to drinking.

Guidelines for Visitors

As you can see, allowing visitors has both benefits and dangers. When a residential programme does allow visitors, there are typically some guidelines that go along with it. Some examples of those guidelines are as follows:

  • Approval – In almost every case, visitors must be approved by the therapist handling the individual addict’s case. The therapist is the one most qualified to know whether visits will be beneficial or damaging. Without the therapist’s approval, visits probably will not be allowed.

  • Scheduling – An important part of residential alcohol recovery is setting and maintaining a concrete schedule. The highly structured environment is necessary to teach recovering alcoholics a measure of self-control. For that reason, clinics allowing visits usually limit them to certain days of the week and certain times during those days.

  • Time Limits – Along with scheduling comes time limits. Visitors will be given a certain amount of time to which they will be expected to adhere. Once that time is up, the visit must end without delay. Exceeding time limits is a good way to get your friends and family members banned from future visits.

  • Environment – When visitors are allowed, it’s normally within a controlled environment. In other words, recovering addicts and their families will need to stay inside a certain area so they can be monitored by therapists and clinical staff. They also might be confined in terms of the types of activities they enjoy. Again, this is all to make sure visitors do not undo any progress that has already been made.

Family Counselling

There’s something else to consider in addition to whether or not visits are allowed: the concept of family counselling. The best residential treatment programmes recognise that addiction affects the entire family rather than just the individual. To that end, such programmes also include at least a limited amount of family counselling.

Here’s how it might work:

  • the family might undergo separate counselling during the first few weeks of recovery

  • the family is eventually invited to join the addict for a few weeks of joint counselling

  • family members are encouraged to seek aftercare while the addict continues his/her therapy

  • families may participate in aftercare together once the recovering addict returns home.

The guidelines for family counselling are as different as the clinics offering residential programmes. That’s something we inquire about when we investigate treatment options in the UK. We believe family treatment to be a very important component to successful recovery.

Getting Help

We cannot stress enough the need for you to get help with your alcohol or drug problem, regardless of whether or not you’ll be able to receive visitors during your stay at a residential treatment facility. After all, you might lose your family entirely if you fail to seek treatment. Would it be better to be apart for 10 to 12 weeks or to be separated forever?

Another thing to think about is the fact that your doctor or therapist may determine the best thing for you would be to seek help on the other side of the country. Sometimes being completely cut off from friends and family is necessary in order to truly address addiction problems.

If all of this seems overwhelming to you, we want you to know we are here to help you. We already know and understand the various treatment options available; we are prepared to walk you through those options as soon as you contact us. Above all else, our number one goal is to make sure you get the help you need as quickly as possible.

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