Do’s and Don’ts of Family Visits to Rehab

As families trail in to visit their loved ones in rehab over the holidays, rehab staffs are often putting out fires on their way out.

Many family members often don’t understand how sensitive addicts are. Though many addicts try to harden their image with cavalier humor and dry sarcasm, more often than not they can dish it, but can’t take it. The following is a “Do’s and Don’t guide” to visiting your loved one in rehab.


  1. Don’t bring up family drama – Detoxing, eating meals and trying to shake off cravings are stressful enough, the added anxiety of the details of family feuding are not helpful to the recovery process.
  2. Don’t mention money –  It is pretty common knowledge that rehab is expensive. Reminding the client how much you are paying for their recovery evokes shame in the client that can illicit thoughts of being a failure which often trigger a relapse.
  3. Don’t mention weight gain  – Weight gain is common in recovery. Mentioning it will only embarrass the addict, which will most likely lead to passive aggressive behavior and will ruin your visit.
  4. Don’t make sarcastic remarks- Though it is glamorized on TV, rehab is not a glamorous place to be. Clients often feel controlled. Making sarcastic remarks about the facility or the addicts stay will also cause shame and embarrassment that is not helpful to recovery.
  5. Don’t discuss the future – We work very hard to keep the client “in the moment”. Talk about the weather, the news, but avoid topics of where they will move post-recovery, the job they’ll have, the pieces they need to pick-up. When the time comes they will work on that, but at this time the focus is recovery and not using drugs and alcohol.


  1. Do visit – Even if it is only for an hour or only a phone call , the addict needs to know you care about them and their recovery.
  2. Do arrive on time- The rehab is run on a tight schedule. Routine is apart of the recovery process. Please arrive on time in order to keep the routine of the clients consistent.
  3. Do praise your family members courage to go to rehab – The addict needs all of the encouragement and support they can get.
  4. Do discuss the weather and the news – Stick with the motto, “Small talk is the best talk.” More likely than not, healing is needed in the addicts family. Save feelings of hurt and disappointment for a time when a therapist is present, not during the 1 hour you have to visit.
  5. Do make a point to meet the staff – The staff has been working with your loved one, every day for the past few months. Make a point to meet them and ask the questions about progress and potential discharge date.

Recovering from substance use disorders is a challenging journey that feels more doable in an environment that tends to each individual’s complex needs and strengths. Our goal is to foster a treatment experience that is built on compassion, hope, and caring, and fueled by excellence in the provision of evidence-based and trauma-informed care.

– - Anonymous