Inpatient Rehab Checklist

You’ve made the important decision to enter inpatient rehab and understandably have questions and concerns. Addiction has been a long road full of angst, bouts of depression, health problems and a host of personal problems, but it’s familiar. For first-time clients, rehab represents uncharted territory, so it’s natural to feel some trepidation, not to mention all of the everyday matters you must attend to if you are employed and/or a parent. You’ve already toured the facility and talked to others who have been in rehab, but you still have questions. Below are practical tips including steps to take ahead of time (e.g. employment, childcare and financial issues) and what to bring to rehab.

Arranging Work Leave

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 76% of people with substance use issues have jobs. Stigma and fear of losing employment are two reasons why many people who need addiction treatment don’t seek help. Most people can’t pick up and leave their jobs for 30- to 90-day stays at inpatient facilities without making plans well in advance. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protect addicted individuals from discrimination and enable them to obtain treatment while legally safeguarding their employment.1 Once you enter a rehabilitation program, you’re protected by the ADA and cannot be fired for reasons related to addiction or being in rehab, even if it causes you to miss work. While many people contemplating entering rehab have a fear of being fired, you can file a discrimination lawsuit against your employer if you are fired unfairly. Furthermore, employers are required to maintain confidentiality regarding their employees’ medical issues and if this is violated, you can file a case against them. Under the FMLA, qualified employees can take 12 weeks of medical leave per year for issues including addiction disorders. Unfortunately, this leave is generally unpaid unless the employer chooses to provide paid leave.1 Before you talk to your employer, become familiar with your rights and your company’s policy on drugs and alcohol, as well as insurance and medical leave policies. It’s also a wise idea to speak to your insurance company and a medical professional to get more information about your medical and disability rights. Talking to your employer well in advance of entering rehab is the right thing to do not only for you, but for the company. Although your position is protected, your employer has every right to make arrangements so other employees or a short-term temp can assume your responsibilities while you’re gone.1

Arranging Childcare

Although barriers to seeking addiction treatment affect both genders, women tend to face myriad pressures. These barriers are associated with caregiver roles, intrinsic socioeconomic conditions and greater societal bias/stigma associated with their substance abuse. Women often fear they will be perceived as irresponsible or neglectful (“bad mothers”) if they admit to having an addiction. They worry disclosing this information will lead to losing custody of their children. These challenges often interfere with treatment initiation and engagement.2 If you have younger children, the thought of finding childcare while you attend addiction treatment can seem daunting. This can be particularly challenging if you are a single parent or your partner works full time. If you have family and close friends who live nearby, turn to them first for help. If out-of-town relatives are willing to assume childcare responsibilities, attending rehab during your children’s summer vacation is a possibility. If you are a caregiver to an older parent, this also presents a dilemma. Express your concerns to the treatment facility because they may have resources available or suggestions you didn’t consider. If the prospect of leaving your children or older parent seems wrong, consider how your addiction has impacted them and how much better off they’ll be when you are healthy.3

Paying for Rehab

Many insurance companies offer comprehensive behavioral health coverage that includes residential, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient treatment for substance use and psychiatric disorders. This varies greatly by carrier, so it’s wise to consult your provider before you arrange treatment, or most facilities can do the legwork for you to ensure your benefits are maximized. If your insurance does not cover inpatient rehab or only partially covers services, many rehab facilities can work with you to set up financial arrangements.3

Items to Bring to Rehab

The focus of drug rehab is on health and wellness, so don’t bring anything counterproductive. Any items containing alcohol – including mouthwash – are forbidden. You should also leave jewelry, expensive personal effects (e.g. designer clothing, purses or excessive cash) at home. In addition, anything sexually overt or suggestive, from pornography to sexy clothing, has no place at any drug rehab facility.4,5

  • Several casual, comfortable and season-appropriate outfits (enough for 30 to 90 days)
  • A few pairs of comfortable shoes, slippers and sandals for the shower
  • A jacket, sweatshirt and sweaters
  • A one-piece swimsuit for women and board shorts for men (no exceptions)
  • Exercise, recreation and hiking clothes
  • Personal hygiene products (e.g., toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant)
  • A couple of pictures of loved ones
  • Medications in original bottles with your name and instructions from the prescribing physician
  • Dietary supplements (e.g. vitamins or minerals), subject to approval
  • Important contact names, (e.g. physicians, lawyers and family members) with addresses and telephone numbers
  • Books, magazines, art supplies and a journal to write in, subject to approval
  • Personal pillow or blanket
  • Laptop (which will be held by staff and signed out at approved times)
  • As much as $100 cash and a credit/debit card to be held in an office safe until needed (e.g. outings)
  • Hair dryer
  • Laundry bag4,5

Although entering inpatient rehab involves preparation and forethought, it is well worth it … and the first important step on the path of recovery and a living a fulfilling life.

  1. Going to an Addiction Treatment Center with a Job. American Addiction Centers website. Accessed May 25, 2017.
  2. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment: Addressing the Specific Needs of Women. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2009. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 51.) Chapter 5: Treatment Engagement, Placement, and Planning. doi:
  3. How to Manage Work and Family Obligations During Your Addiction Treatment. Promises website. Published February 15, 2013. Accessed May 25, 2017.
  4. Packing for Rehab: What Should You Bring? Rehabs website. Published August 26, 2015. Accessed May 25, 2017.
  5. What to Bring to Rehab. Dual Diagnosis website. Accessed May 25, 2017.
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