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What happens in a Queensland drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre?

Woman rests her hand on a man's shoulder during a group therapy session
Help is available, and recovery is possible.

Addiction is like a river. It can often start small, like a trickle of water. With time, it might turn into a creek. As the water continues to flow, it carves a more defined path and can one day become a river.

It’s possible to redirect a river, but it’s a big job. We need time, resources, and a concrete plan. This requires the expertise of a range of skilled people like engineers, environmental scientists, and geographers. When the work begins early, while the river is still shallow, redirecting it is easier. But the work doesn’t stop once the river is redirected – things need to be done to keep the water from returning to its original path.

Like redirecting a river, recovery from addiction is most effective when it starts early, provides long term support, and involves different people working as a team. It takes time and hard work, but recovery from addiction is possible.

In Queensland, a range of services are available to people dealing with drug and alcohol addiction. Through integrated rehabilitation services delivered in local communities, people can receive the support, resources, and sustained help needed to redirect them towards health and recovery.

What is drug and alcohol rehabilitation?

Rehabilitation, also known as rehab, is a treatment option for people who are experiencing longer-term, problematic dependence on substances like alcohol and other drugs. It’s an intensive and structured type of treatment that requires people to completely abstain from substance use and to actively participate in their own recovery. Importantly, it’s voluntary – those who take part in drug and alcohol rehab want to make positive changes and are taking steps towards better health and wellbeing.

People attending rehab are often our neighbours, friends, and family members. Regular, everyday people are dealing with addiction, whether or not we see their struggle. And addiction doesn’t just impact the life of the substance user – addiction has a ripple effect that touches friends, families and the community.

Rehab services help individuals, their families, and their communities. By providing a treatment option that integrates with local community services, people are better set up to succeed once they leave the rehab centre. Structure and support in the long-term helps rehab services to be more effective.

What kinds of drug and alcohol rehabilitation services are there?

The three main types of rehabilitation services are residential rehabilitation, day programs, and outpatient treatment.

Residential rehabilitation involves people staying at a purpose-built health centre while taking part in treatment. It’s an intensive option, lasting typically for 3-12 months, and has the benefit of providing round-the-clock supervision, structure and support. The person’s loved ones can visit the centre and take part in recovery programs. In Queensland, residential rehab is generally restricted to people without a serious criminal record.

Day programs are intensive and structured, just like residential rehabilitation, but the person continues to live in their own home and attend treatment during the day. This can be a practical option for people who are working or caring for their family.

Outpatient treatment occurs like a regular health appointment – the person attends a counselling session each week for an extended period of time.

In Queensland, publicly funded rehabilitation services are accredited. They must maintain specific standards regarding health and safety and are assessed regularly.

A young man stands and shares his experience in a group therapy session

What happens in rehab?

Rehabilitation services provide holistic health care for people who want to make positive changes regarding their use of alcohol or other drugs. A range of health care providers can be involved in the rehab service, including doctors, nurses, counsellors, social workers, family therapists, and addiction specialists.

Rehab centres deliver a range of programs and services, tailored to each person’s situation.

Individual therapies are used to support behaviour change. For example, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) can help people to better understand their thoughts, emotions and beliefs, and find adaptive ways to overcome harmful patterns and behaviours. Motivational interviewing is another commonly used technique that can help individuals strengthen and sustain their commitment to change. Both CBT and motivational interviewing are recognised, evidence-based approaches to behaviour change, and are an important part of a person’s time in rehabilitation.

Family-based therapy is another strategy that can support people in their journey to recovery. Research suggests that for many people, family and partner involvement can lead to better results. For family members, participating in the rehabilitation process can also help to work through the wider impacts of addiction, and to create a positive and supportive environment for their loved one when they return home.

Group therapy is a common component of rehabilitation. Group work and peer support (such as Alcoholics Anonymous – AA, or Narcotics Anonymous – NA meetings) can provide an added layer of support that continues as the person transitions from intensive treatment.

Apart from therapeutic sessions and education programs, people in rehabilitation may take part in cooking, day-to-day chores, regular exercise and other activities. These activities can assist with establishing a healthy, productive daily routine.

When a person is getting ready to leave rehab, they are connected with appropriate services in the community. This is a vital step, as recovery is an ongoing process.

Does rehab work?

While recovery isn’t easy, it is absolutely possible. We know a lot about how to structure rehabilitation services to give people the best possible chance of overcoming addiction.

Residential and day rehabilitation centres allow people to focus their energy on achieving recovery. Rehab centres bring together a multidisciplinary health care team, the individual’s loved ones, and other community services to deliver the clinical treatment, emotional support and structures that lead to effective rehabilitation.

Having locally available services is particularly important in the recovery process. Local services are easier for people to find, access and attend. This can help people seek treatment earlier, which in turn can make the road to recovery that bit easier.

Local services can reduce the stress and pressure felt by families. When their loved one is close by, families can take part in the recovery process.

Local services integrate with other community services, providing individuals with a support network outside of the rehab setting. This makes the transition from rehab to home more supportive and successful.

Father and son walk together on a beach

What other drug and alcohol rehab services are available in Queensland?

Rehabilitation centres are just one option when it comes to treatment for addiction, and it mightn’t be the right option for everyone. Other services are available to individuals and their families.

Adis 24/7 Alcohol and Drug Support (1800 177 833) provides a free counselling, information and referral service for anyone with concerns about their own or someone else's use of alcohol or other drugs. This is an anonymous and confidential service.

You can also explore the health services near you – click the link and search for ‘drug/alcohol’ and your location.

Counselling Online is a free counselling service for people affected by alcohol and other drugs. It’s free, confidential, and available 24/7.

Families can access free public information sessions on alcohol and other drugs through the Breakthrough for Families program. These sessions are a great way to obtain information, develop support strategies, and connect to services. You can also phone Family Drug Support (1300 368 186) anytime for support.

A range of non-government services are also available, which you can find through the Queensland Network of Alcohol and Other Drug Agencies (QNADA) website.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) provide peer support to help those recovering from substance use. Other services can be found via the Ice Help website.

Lifeline (13 11 14) provides a crisis support and suicide prevention service. It is available 24/7.

Need help?

Recovering from addiction, like changing a river’s course, takes time and effort. But it is possible. It starts with seeking help.

Start today by calling Adis 24/7 Alcohol and Drug Support (1800 177 833) or speak with your GP or a loved one.

Last updated: 21 August 2019