Preparing for Rehab: What to Expect

It’s important your teen knows what to expect when they enter rehab — the better prepared they are, the more likely they are to succeed. If your rehab facility didn’t explain the day-to-day activities of rehab, our recovery counselors can explain more. Call us today.

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7 min read

Research Different Teen Drug Rehab Options

The goal of drug rehab is for the experience to be positive and deliver long-term success. Not all treatment centers are created equally, so it’s important to find the right teen drug rehab for your child.

A 2012 study found that 23.1 million people aged 12 and older needed some form of treatment, but less than 11% of these patients received it a specialty facility. These centers understand your teen’s unique struggles, and offer programs tailored to specific issues.

When meeting with a potential clinic, gather information such as:

  • Which staff members will work with your teen
  • What amenities will be available
  • How often family or friends can visit
  • If there will be academic support during rehab
  • What a typical day in rehab will be like
  • What items are and are not allowed onsite
  • What medications will be administered (if any)
  • The success rate of past patients
doctor talking to teen drug rehab patient

Invite your teen to tour drug rehab facilities with you, and take time to meet the staff at each location. Once you have all the answers you need, you can move forward with the rehab program that you and your teen feel is best.

Inform the People Who Matter

The next step in preparing for rehab is letting important people know about it. This doesn’t mean broadcasting it to the world — it should be a mostly private matter for your family. You only need to inform the people who matter most.

Loved Ones

You may prefer to first tell close family members and your teen’s best friends. During rehab, your teen may be able to keep in touch with certain people. It’s often these loved ones who will become a crucial network for both you and your child during this tough time. Any support from friends and family can help keep your child’s spirits up as they progress through treatment.


You’ll need to discuss the matter with your teen’s school. Chances are that your child will need to miss out on several weeks (or possibly months) of classes. Depending upon the clinic you choose, academic support may be available to help your teen stay on track during treatment. In some cases, your child may even be able to attend rehab after school.

What to Bring to Rehab

packing your belongings for rehabYour teen may be guided to inpatient or outpatient rehab. Inpatient drug rehab for teens requires they’ll leave home for an extended period of time. Allowed items vary based on facility, but most rules are across-the-board. When it’s time to pack for rehab, help your teen assemble their belongings and avoid packing any prohibited items. If your teen runs out of something such as shampoo during treatment, they will have a chance to get more.

Recommended Essentials

Permitted and recommended personal items vary slightly based on your teens needs and preferences, on the rules of the facility that you choose and on whether your teen is doing inpatient or outpatient treatment. For example, outpatient patients do not need any of the following personal hygiene items such as shampoo, since they go home in the evenings. However, they must still abide by any existing clothing regulations.

Here’s what to bring to inpatient rehab:

  • A week’s worth of clothing
  • Coat or jacket
  • Socks and undergarments
  • Pajamas
  • Comfortable, weather-appropriate shoes
  • Slippers
  • Modest swimwear
  • Flip flops for the shower
  • Necessary jewelry such as diabetic bracelet
  • Grooming supplies (e.g. hairbrush, comb)
  • An electric razor, if desired
  • Current prescription medications
  • Long-distance calling cards
  • An alarm clock
  • Blank journal and pen
  • Reading materials
  • List of essential contacts
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Shampoo
  • Body soap
  • Non-aerosol hairspray
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Sunscreen
  • Makeup
  • Deodorant
  • Alcohol-free mouthwash

Permitted Clothing

All clothing worn at rehab should be modest and unrevealing. Avoid clothing that has graphic or substance-related imagery or words, such as tee shirts that bear alcohol logos or offensive sayings. Some rehab centers do not allow tank tops. Shorts may need to be a certain length. Just ask your chosen facility about their rules as your teen is packing.

Permitted Toiletries and Beauty Products

Since some everyday toiletries contain alcohol, rehab centers are very careful about which items patients may bring. Since nail polish and nail polish remover can be huffed for a high, they are not allowed. Aerosols (such as some hair sprays) are prohibited in rehab. However, you may bring non-aerosol or pump hair sprays.

What Not to Bring to Rehab

While your teen should have everything they need to be comfortable, they should pack as lightly as they can. Also, there are some things that they should not bring under any circumstances.

Banned Items

Contraband varies depending on the clinic — some centers are more restrictive than others. Make sure your teen has everything they need, but nothing that will distract them or anyone around them.

Prohibited items may include:

  • Alcohol or drugs
  • Cell phones
  • Electronic equipment
  • Revealing clothing
  • Clothing with inappropriate images or wording
  • Excessive makeup or jewelry
  • Weapons
  • Sharp objects, including tweezers and razors
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Pornography
  • Outside food or drink
  • Pillows or blankets from home
let your family know

FAQs on Preparing for Drug Rehab

  • What happens in rehab?
    It is natural to wonder — and even worry — about what your teen will experience in rehab. Rest assured that a quality treatment center will guide your child towards recovery in a safe environment. Exact schedules vary from center to center, but you can expect that your child will participate in daily therapy sessions, receive consistent medical checkups, perform academic work if necessary, eat regular meals and snacks, get adequate exercise through activities like sports or yoga and enjoy supervised free time alongside peers who are also recovering in the facility.
  • What is the process for entering rehab?
    The first step is to talk to drug rehab counselors about your child’s situation, who can help you determine the best course of action. We at are genuinely invested in seeing your teen get better, and can help you as you take this first step. Just give us a call for a free, confidential discussion about your family’s situation. We can help you get the ball rolling as you consider your next steps.
sad teen addict sitting by a window
  • How long do I need to commit to a rehab program?
    The duration of rehab varies from teen to teen. In making this decision, treatment professionals will consider factors such as the severity of your teen’s addiction, the type of substance they use and their level of desire for recovery. Treatment programs usually last from 30–90 days, though some patients require longer.
  • Will rehab cure my addiction?
    Recovery from drug or alcohol abuse in teens is a lifelong journey and post-treatment recovery statistics are encouraging. Keep in mind that drug rehab is not a one-way street — your teen must invest effort into the process. With the right treatment team and genuine determination on your teen’s part — whether that blossoms before or after admission — your child can overcome their addiction for good.
  • Will I be allowed to stay in touch with friends and family in rehab?
    Many rehab centers allow phone calls and letters home, though rules vary based on facility. Be sure to ask this question as you consider facilities.
  • Is there someone I can talk to about what to expect in rehab?
    Rehab centers are usually glad to chat with you on the phone about their facility’s daily activities.
  • Can I tour the facility before committing to a program?
    Many facilities allow you to tour them before you send your child there. If you are interested in a particular facility, find out from them how you can schedule a visit.

Does Your Teen Need Drug Rehab?

helping your loved one prepare

If your teenager has been suffering from addiction, rehab may be the only option. Get in touch with a team of treatment professionals (such as ours at for guidance as you seek the next step in your journey towards wellness for your child.

As a parent, prepare for the long haul. Whatever it takes, stay involved and don’t give up on your child. Treatment can change your teen’s life, but only if you have the patience to hang in there with them as long as it takes. Though treatment may sound tough, just envision the new life awaiting your family on the other side of rehab.

Whether your teen is struggling with drugs or alcohol, has a co-occurring disorder or has relapsed after previous treatment, we are here to help guide you. No matter where you are on the journey to your teen’s recovery, we can help you find and take the next step. Our compassionate rehab advisors can meet you where you are, and offer sound advice rooted in years of experience with teen addiction treatment. Our help is always free and private. Take the first step towards freedom for your child — call us today.


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