The Difference Between Treatment and Rehab

Rehab is not Treatment

Drug Rehab and Alcohol Rehab is not the same as Drug Treatment and Alcohol Treatment.

The difference between Treatment and Rehab

Early in my career, I met a substance abuse counselor that told me how they would help people in his rehab center. He said that the staff would wear robes and hoods and show up in the middle of a therapy group, and startle the clients. I was very curious. I asked him “what therapeutic benefit are they going for?” He answered “I don’t know, it was something that we thought would help addiction,” and, he added, “it was cool.” This is not unusual in the world of “rehabs.” “Rehabs” were places created by addicts and alcoholics, to help other addicts and alcoholics, using whatever methods seemed likely to help them stop drinking and using drugs. This same philosophy is practiced today in the majority of “rehab centers.”
Treatment involves the use of proven methods of therapy. A drug and alcohol and addiction treatment center is actually a drug and alcohol recovery Clinic. It’s not a free for all. The methods used have to have been validated to work. The concept of “I thought it could help” is not acceptable in a real treatment center. The treatment practitioner is bound to do what has been proven to work. Has to be guided by their education. Have to be limited by their professional training. They can’t go by what he or she “thinks” would work.
The problem is that in the field of drug treatment and alcohol treatment, the terms have blurred. Many “rehab” centers refer to themselves as “drug and alcohol abuse centers,” and “drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers.” Or, any other term that will help them get licensed as providers of treatment. Once they are licensed, they can bill insurance companies for providing treatment. But, they continue to operate as a “rehab,” e.g., using any method and intervention that they think would work, or are “cool.”
So, how do you know the difference? Here’s how:
Ask them what their philosophy is:

  • Are they 12 Step based?
  • 12 Step Alternative?

Ask them to elaborate on it.

  • Do they believe in the disease model of alcoholism and addiction?
  • What is their therapy orientation?
  • Behavioral?
  • Cognitive Behavioral?
  • Narrative?
  • Do they practice Medication Assisted Treatment?
  • What specific medicines for alcohol addiction, what specific medicines for drug addiction?
  • For what disorders?
  • Ask them to describe their program and ask WHY they do what they do? What is the objective?

If you get answers like “Eclectic,” “Recovery,” “Drug and alcohol addiction help,” “Addiction rehabilitation,” “Drug and alcohol help,” “Spiritual,” or “Mindfulness” based, you are dealing with a “rehab.” These terms don’t mean anything.
A true Addiction Treatment Center and a true Alcohol Treatment Center will answer your questions clearly. They will give you specific answers using specific terms. They will name therapies and interventions using their scientific and medical terms. They will be able to help you recognize that they have a system of therapies designed with clear objectives. They will make it easy for you to see how everything works together. How everything they do contributes to the desired outcome. If they can’t explain what they do, and the reasons that they do it, and how those reasons have been proven to work, they are not a real treatment center. They are a “rehab,” and “rehabs” have been proven to fail. Now you know the difference between “Rehab” and “Treatment.”

A true Addiction Treatment Center and a true Alcohol Treatment Center will answer your questions clearly.