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Staying Connected to the Outside World During Residential Drug Rehab

It’s common for inpatient drug rehab centers to prohibit clients from using smartphones and laptops during their stay. At first glance, this seems to make sense. Shouldn’t people be detached from stressors and potential triggers and focus only on treatment? What if their dealer texts them or they get an upsetting email from work? In reality, it’s not so black and white. There’s actually a strong argument to be made for staying plugged into the outside world during residential drug rehab.

Benefits of Contacting the Outside World During Residential Drug Rehab

To some degree, clients should be removed from everyday life enough, so they have the space they need to work on their issues. But if you completely shelter them from life outside of treatment, you may be setting them up for an overwhelming, oversaturated experience when they walk out the door. There are a number of benefits to allowing people access to cell phones and laptops in drug and alcohol rehab with close oversight.

  • Avoiding information overload: The stress of returning to hundreds of texts and emails, perhaps some from people they really shouldn’t be associating with anymore, can be a potential minefield for people in recovery. It can also be shocking to return to a world you’ve been cut off for 30 days or more with regards to current news and world events.
  • Removing barriers to treatment: For better or worse, these days, people are very attached to their smartphones and laptops. We’ve found that not having access to these devices for a period of time can be enough of a sticking point for some to forego getting the life-saving treatment they need. Our philosophy is being in drug rehab with a cell phone is better than being out on the street. If smartphone and internet use present a problem, I prefer to get them into treatment and work with them on that here. Some people have legitimate reasons for using these devices. They need to stay in touch with their children, they have legal issues due to their substance abuse and must be in touch with their lawyer, or they just can’t completely detach from their work for 30 days without jeopardizing their jobs. Allowing them to stay connected helps make treatment possible.

Other Benefits to Staying Plugged into the Outside World During Residential Drug Rehab

  • Staying in touch with loved ones: It’s especially important for people with children to be able to stay connected to them during treatment. Being able to call family helps clients maintain relationships and fulfill personal responsibilities while in treatment. It also presents an opportunity to address everyday interpersonal issues that arise.
  • Learning healthy technology practices: It’s estimated people spend over 10 hours per day on smartphones, computers, televisions, and other media devices. If a client is using technology excessively, the treatment team is able to work with them to develop healthier usage practices. Without clients having the freedom to use these devices in treatment, we would never know their leisure habits and if there is a problem. With guidelines around when clients can use smartphones, they learn the benefits of unplugging for a while and how that can improve sleep hygiene, reduce anxiety, and contribute to an overall balanced, healthy lifestyle.
  • Building trust: Many people in treatment for addiction haven’t been trusted for quite some time. Allowing the use of smartphones and laptops with guidelines can help develop trust between the client and therapist. We’ve had some instances where clients have broken the technology guidelines – for example, not deleting contacts they agreed to remove – but have come to us later and admitted to that and made a choice to follow through. Feeling trusted again can be a very healing experience.

How Access to Technology Works in Addiction Treatment

In order to ensure smartphone and laptop use isn’t a hindrance to treatment, guidelines need to be set. At The Ranch PA, our policy of allowing these devices has been successful because of the parameters we’ve set, which include:

  • Individualized usage rules: Even before clients enter treatment, we assess their needs and appropriateness of smartphone and laptop use. For example, if a client has had issues with gambling, more strict rules will need to be placed around usage. Or if a client has social anxiety and is using their phone to avoid connection with others.
  • Five-day blackout period: When they first enter treatment, all of our clients are asked to refrain from use for five days. This way, they can focus solely on getting physically and emotionally healthy, adjust to their surroundings, and build connections.
  • Set times for use: Clients’ technology use cannot interfere with treatment. They aren’t permitted to use their phones in group sessions or any therapeutic activity. They can use their smartphones and laptops during personal time and at night.
  • Technology boundaries: We have agreements with each client about how and when they can use their devices. If a problem arises, they understand that they might be blocked from WiFi. Also, they may have their SIM card confiscated or only be permitted to use their devices in public areas.
  • Adherence to privacy laws – All technology use must be in accordance with HIPAA regulations. For instance, clients cannot take photos and post them on websites or send them back and forth.

Drug Rehab at The Ranch PA

We’ve received positive feedback from clients on our flexible technology policy. It has made treatment feasible for them with their work and personal obligations. It has also lessened the anxiety of being away from family during this time. As long as clients remember that their primary reason for being here is to get better and checking into work or contacting loved ones is secondary, the use of smartphones and laptops can enhance recovery work in many cases. The Ranch PA believes in our clients. Recovery means trust. It doesn’t mean total isolation. However, we do our best to remove distractions. We try to prevent clients from experiencing triggers or using devices that may worsen their condition. Connecting with the outside world during residential drug rehab can help. It can also hurt the recovery. Thus, our expert staff makes it a point to figure out what the needs of our clients are in:

Contact us today if you or a loved one think you’re ready for treatment. Call 717.969.9126, and we will get you on the path to recovery.

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