How to Support a Loved One in Rehab

Family at rehab

Going to rehab for addiction is no easy process. It can be an emotional roller coaster. While it is certainly something that can be very rewarding, it can also be something that can be highly challenging. For this reason, it is always beneficial to have a support system back home to help get through this time of intense change.

The more support a person gets while they are in treatment, the easier it will be to focus on what matters, getting and staying sober. If you have a loved one currently seeking addiction treatment or about to go to rehab, here are some things that can help make their stay a better experience.

Send letters and care packages

Sending mail may seem easy enough, but a simple letter can go a long way. Sure, you can still call, but there is something extra special about receiving a card in the mail. Notes of encouragement can help a person keep going when they have difficult days. There is nothing more exciting for a person going through rehab than getting a heartfelt care package from their loved ones. It is important to note that before you send anything in the mail, it would be good to check with the treatment center on their particular policies regarding incoming mail. Some items may be considered inappropriate or contraband for specific addiction centers, so always double-check before mailing something out.

Learn about addiction

One of the most helpful things that a family member can do for their loved one going through treatment is to learn more about addiction. Plenty of resources are available online and in the library. It would also be good to talk with the treatment center staff about any reading materials they would recommend. As with anything on the internet, it is essential to make sure that you get your information from a reliable and credible source. The only thing worse than not learning about addiction would be to get information that is unhelpful and untrue.

Family call

Give encouraging phone calls

Going through treatment is not an easy task, so the more encouragement a person can receive during this time, the better. An encouraging phone call can go a long way. If possible, try not to call your loved one while you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as this can hinder the treatment process and is very triggering. If certain things could be upsetting that you need to discuss with your loved one while they are in treatment, it would be a good idea to coordinate that phone call with the treatment center staff to ensure your loved one can have extra support during or after the phone call. Most treatment centers would be more than happy to accommodate you on this.

Coordinate with the care team

The most important thing you can do to help your loved one during their treatment is to work with their care team regarding their treatment process. There may be certain parts of your loved one’s stay that will be more challenging than others. There also may be times where family input is necessary to the treatment process. Either way, it is always a good idea to stay up-to-date on what is going on with your loved one so that you can know the best way to be supportive. It is important to note that this will only be possible if your loved one signs a release of information due to privacy laws.

Take care of things at home

The more you can take care of things back home for your loved one while they are in treatment, the better they will be able to focus on getting the help they need. Handling things back home may take a team of people to accomplish, and the coordination may be a hassle, but it will be well worth your efforts. Many times people going through a hard time in treatment will use whatever excuse they can find to get home early. It is important to remember that a person’s best chances for success will rely on completing their entire treatment program. The more excuses you can help eliminate, the better off you all will be.

Show compassion and empathy

While it is certainly understandable and practically expected that there will be things you are upset about with your loved one due to their addiction, it is vital to be as empathetic and as encouraging as possible. Showing empathy does not mean that you should excuse their destructive behavior; on the contrary, those are things that need to be dealt with and addressed before your loved one comes home. The thing is that there will be a time and a place for you to discuss those things with your loved one, and sometimes rushing into that process before the right time can be more of a hindrance than a help. If possible, try to be as understanding as possible while your loved one is working to make the changes that are needed for them to live a better life.

Establish healthy boundaries

You must establish healthy boundaries with your loved one during their treatment and when they get home. If possible, it is a good idea to lay down these expectations with your loved one before they get home. A good program will assist you and your loved one through this process. It isn't reasonable to expect that a person goes to treatment, then goes home, and everything is better. Much of the work needed to live a sober lifestyle will begin when your loved one returns home; the treatment process prepares them for this transition.

Address your relationship with drugs or alcohol

It would be wise for you to not use drugs or alcohol around your loved one when they return home from treatment, and that you not keep drugs in the house. If you have prescription medications that have a potential for abuse, it would be well worth your effort to purchase a safe and keep them locked up. If you feel that it is an unreasonable request to stay sober around your loved one, then it may be time that you look at your relationship with drugs or alcohol and, if needed, seek help as well.

Understand that there will be ups and downs

While in treatment, on some days your loved one will be doing great and feels on top of the world and other days where your loved one wants to give up and come home early. These are all normal feelings and are expected. When you prepare for the ups and downs of recovery, you can deal with them as they occur.

Prepare for their transition home

The transition home can be a complex process. Your loved one may feel overwhelmed, and you may feel that way, too. That is normal and okay. It is good to coordinate with the treatment center as much as possible and to have a plan before your loved one returns home. Most treatment programs will offer some follow-up programs after completing the program; make sure to look into this and know what is needed to ensure your loved one’s success.

Reviewed by Matt Hawk, BS, CADC-II, ICADC



After overcoming her own addiction in 2012 Julie went on to become certified as an addiction counselor in order to help others achieve a life of recovery. She worked in the addiction field for 8 years and now uses both her personal and professional experiences with addiction as an influence for her writing.