Technology in Rehab

In the 21st century, our phones have become our lifelines. We use them for virtually every aspect of our daily lives and can’t imagine how we ever functioned efficiently without them. People are usually distraught at the idea of being without their phone for a day, much less an entire month. So it’s not surprising that an individual who is considering a stay in inpatient rehab for drug and alcohol addiction has concerns about being without their smart phone for an extended period of time. It’s wise to find out in advance what a treatment facility’s rules are regarding phones, computers and technology in general. The rules regarding technology are one of many factors to consider when choosing where to go to rehab but an important one all the same.

Every treatment facility is different when it comes to policies around personal devices and other technology. Some insist that clients are prohibited from using their devices for the entire duration of treatment while others permit phone usage throughout someone’s stay. Others may allow phones but restrict the usage or access to them. The treatment team at Recovery Malibu requests that every client shuts his or her phone down for the first three days they are at the facility. The initial 72 hours are dedicated to getting acclimated into a new environment and clearing the mind from its everyday distractions. Also, assessments are done during that time; as such, physicians and therapists need the resident’s full attention in order to devise an effective, individualized treatment plan.

The role of a phone in someone’s life does vary depending on his or her occupation and personal obligations, among other things. Someone with a demanding, high-stress job at which they hold a position of leadership may face more pressure to be accessible to colleagues and clients. High-end facilities in particular understand the needs of executive level clientele in relation to laptops and phones. They are usually busy people with big lives—whether it’s small children at home in addition to their stressful job or simply an overwhelming amount of professional obligations. In fact, part of why certain treatment centers even allow phones is the acknowledgment that the stress of not being able to stay in contact with work or personal contacts could negatively impact someone’s program or even deter them from seeking help in the first place. Having said that, almost anyone can usually comply with shutting down for a minimum of three days. Three days without a phone could even be considered a welcome reprieve whereas a full week might start to evoke anxiety.

The Pros and Cons of Phones at Rehab

Sometimes smart phones can be considered a valuable tool in early recovery. Apps that keep track of minutes, hours and days sober are encouraging milestone markers. Wellness apps for meditation, yoga and nutrition are all readily available to aid in the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. Social media apps can be helpful for sobriety too. For example, there are several Instagram accounts solely dedicated to sobriety and recovery; Twitter hashtags meant to promote a sober lifestyle; and Facebook groups dedicated solely to be private support systems for sober people. Obviously none of these outlets are a substitute for actual treatment but they can be a form of additional support, encouragement and wisdom during downtime.

Of course, there are also arguments to be made for the merits of totally unplugging and disconnecting while in treatment. Clients are less likely to be in contact with people who might not necessarily be a good influence on their recovery, or might even be companions who aided and abetted their drug or alcohol abuse. If not moderated properly, technology can become an addiction in itself. Social media can quickly go from being a source of encouragement to a cause for unhappiness if the client is feels he or she isn’t measuring up to the happy facades people portray on their Instagram or Facebook accounts. So ultimately, even if phones are permitted, it is advisable for the client and his or her treatment team to work out boundaries for usage.