Rehab vs Detox: What’s the Difference? What Do I Need

Administrator / Chief Clinical Officer
Certified cognitive-behavioral therapist, expert addiction and chemical dependency counselor, certified for more than twenty years of experience in adolescent, adult and family psychotherapy.
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Detox and rehab are two terms that are often used interchangeably but each has a distinct role and methods in the substance abuse recovery process. Detox refers to the medically supervised process of detoxification—cleansing the body. Rehab refers to the counseling program typically offered in residential inpatient programs or outpatient programs.

Understanding the differences can help you make more informed decisions. In this article, I shed more light on each of these.

What is Detox?

Detox or detoxification is the process of cleansing the body of toxic drugs or alcohol. It is usually the first step in the recovery process. Detox prepares your body and mind for rehab treatment by going through the withdrawal process in a supervised manner. Most detox programs last 3 to 10 days. Do not do “cold turkey” detox or detox without medical supervision. Both are dangerous.

The goal of detox is to manage the more acute medical and psychological aspects of your withdrawal process. Your symptoms may range from mild to severe depending on which drugs you have been using and for how long. Your individual health factors are also an important element. 

Detox may be conducted in a variety of settings including:

  • Hospitals
  • Medical clinics
  • Specialized detox centers
  • Residential treatment centers
  • Home
  • The Community

What Does a Detox Center Do?

There is a range of types of detox, each providing service in different ways, including:

Medical detox:

Where the severity of your substance abuse or your health requires it, detox in a hospital or medical clinic is recommended. You will be attended by doctors and nurses. Drug treatment counselors may provide support for you as well. Specific medications may be prescribed to assist you during withdrawal. You will be closely supervised and cared for throughout the process.

Inpatient Detox:

Most residential treatment centers have an in-house detox facility with medical and therapy staff available 24/7 providing a closer level of monitoring and support. Medications are also prescribed as needed. This is most appropriate for those with more severe forms of addiction and with more challenging withdrawal processes. As well, it is most suitable for those with co-occurring mental health disorders or lacking a stable home environment.

Outpatient Detox:

If you don’t have access to other forms of detox and your medical situation permits it, you may detox at home or in an outpatient detox facility. You will be periodically monitored by medical professionals and detox therapists where available, either in-person or virtually. This can be more challenging psychologically to not have the level of support from other forms of detox. Do not use at-home detox kits as they have not been FDA approved and can be dangerous

Social Detox:

This option may be suitable for those with milder addictions, who do not have co-occurring mental health issues, and who do not wish to have medical detox. It provides a supportive community of others going through withdrawal, often supported by counselors or therapists and with alternative therapies. 

Detox focuses on the following aspects of your recovery process:

  • Cleansing of substances and related toxins from your system
  • Making the withdrawal process as comfortable as possible
  • Manage your withdrawal symptoms
  • Lessen your cravings
  • Helping you lower and manage your stress
  • Reinforce your immune system
  • Provide consistent healthy nutrition
  • Regain control of your behavior
  • Provide the foundation for your sobriety

What Is Rehab?

What Is Rehab?

Rehabilitation treatment centers (rehab) may have detox facilities in-house but all have a team of therapists and counselors offering a variety of recovery programs. Their focus is on helping you recover your mental health and developing tools for your long-term sobriety. The typical program is from 30-90 days or longer if necessary. There are a variety of types of centers including:

  • Inpatient Residential: Typically for a 30-90 day stay where you live in the treatment center with our recovering addicts. It provides intensive care without distraction from the outside world. It provides living quarters, nutritious meals, medication management, therapy, exercise and recreational programs.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program: For those who are ready for a step-down from inpatient care, but not a full outpatient program, this program provides a structured treatment approach with individual and group therapy sessions for several hours a day. Patients still have the flexibility to live at home and accommodate their work and school schedules.. 
  • Outpatient Program: This option may be suitable If your addiction is milder, you have a stable and supportive home environment, or are transitioning from an inpatient center. The program includes individual therapy, group support programs, and education.
  • Dual Diagnosis Management: This program is for those with both addictions and mental health issues. It recognizes the interrelation between them and includes the benefits of inpatient residential with intensive therapy focused on mental health disorders. 

What Does a Rehab Center Do?

Rehab centers typically create individualized treatment plans for each patient, depending on your specific needs. The range of services may include:

  • Individual therapy to discuss your addiction and underlying mental health issues. There are a number of commonly used therapy approaches, including:
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Focuses on negative thought patterns and how to reframe them more positively as well as setting realistic goals
    • Dialectical Behavior Therapy: Focuses on acceptance of your current situation using mindfulness meditation among other techniques, as well as helping you to change your life, including your unhelpful behaviors
    • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Focuses on accepting life experiences as they come, without trying to evaluate or change them. It also uses mindfulness meditation. This can help free you from constant negative thinking, handle stress, release emotions and improve your relationships with others
  • Group therapy: Working with others going through recovery can provide strength and support as you see you’re not alone and can learn and share with others
  • Mindfulness Meditation: Helps you slow down racing thoughts, release negativity, focus on the present without judgment and achieve greater calm.
  • 12-step programs: This is a peer-based mutual help program. It focuses on how to overcome addiction, avoid triggers and live a healthy productive life.
  • Exposure Therapy: When you are ready and prepared, this involves going out in the community, with a supportive counselor, to be exposed to situations that have triggered you in the past or may cause fear. By dealing with these triggers you can assess your progress and readiness to continue recovery or move full-time to the community.

Rehab vs Detox: A Back-to-Back Comparison

Focuses on physical aspects of detox and medical safetyFocuses on therapy and recovery of mental, emotional, psychological aspects
Removes toxic substancesEducates and supports your cognitive and emotional skills
Cleanses your pastNourishes your future
Supported by clinical and medical staffSupported by therapy and counseling staff
No family visits permittedFamily visits permitted
Eases withdrawal painExplores your pain to help you work through it

Which Is The Best Choice for You? Rehab or Detox?

The answer is likely both. Detox is the critical first step to clean the toxins in your body and prepare for rehab. Detox alone rarely has lasting benefits. Then rehab follows with its focus on your overall mental and emotional well-being. If you have mental health issues then dual diagnosis centers will be the most helpful.

Help Is Available

At The Encino Recovery and Detox Center, we don’t just treat addiction; we nurture the spirit, heal the mind, and empower individuals to reclaim their lives. If you or a loved one is on the precipice, seeking a way out of the darkness of substance abuse, remember that help is just a call away. Your journey to wellness, purpose, and a brighter tomorrow begins with that first step.

Administrator / Chief Clinical Officer
Certified cognitive-behavioral therapist, expert addiction and chemical dependency counselor, certified for more than twenty years of experience in adolescent, adult and family psychotherapy.
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