Clearing up the Stigma: My Experience at Inpatient Rehab

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Recently, I was having dinner with a friend who was describing a close friend’s sudden collapse of character, which included behaviors and activities that weren’t congruent with this person’s normal character. As a layman, I can’t diagnose the situation but it certainly seemed the person needed some serious professional help—and I mean that with all sincerity and compassion.

After listening, I started sharing my own story of going to an inpatient rehab facility. Upon observing my friend’s reaction, it became apparent to me that many who haven’t been to inpatient rehab have a certain perception of what inpatient rehab is that doesn’t match my actual experience.

Influenced by Others to Try Rehab

A few years ago, I had begun attending a 12-step group for my struggles with pornography. As time progressed, numerous members of the group shared their positive experiences of attending inpatient rehab—with two of these men being within a few years of me in age. I was encouraged to give it a shot. While I was impressed by their stories and intrigued by the results, I was quite intimidated by the price tag, as well as the leap of faith it would take to actually go through with telling my family that I needed help.

Months went by, and with the help of my therapist, I decided to voluntarily enroll myself at The Ranch in Nunnelly, Tennessee. The kicker for me was when my therapist told me that this experience would be like “a year and a half of therapy but in 35 days.” The price tag might have been large, but I saw it as an investment that would pay dividends on my life, as well as the lives of others.

My Experience in Rehab

I wish I could remember my perception of what inpatient rehab was before I actually went. However, the common perception seems to be that it’s, at worst, like an asylum and, at best, like some sort of hospital setting. I can’t speak for all, but these couldn’t be further from my experience.

My experience was more like therapy at a summer camp rather than a segregated hospital unit. We lived in homes with 10-12 other people, taking turns doing chores around the house and spending time meeting together. The houses were organized based on our addiction type. So, there was a sex addiction house, two alcoholic houses, a drug addiction house, and a trauma house. I happened to be placed in the “trauma house.”

Core to this facility’s philosophy was the treatment of trauma as the foundational force driving most addictions and errant behaviors. My experience of the “trauma house” was that it was more laid back than the other houses in many ways so that the occupants could have the space to process their trauma. During our lectures as well as group, individual, and play therapy, we spent a lot of time focusing on trauma and engaging in ways that required us to be vulnerable with each other.

The Day-to-Day of Rehab

Our days were filled sunup to sundown with various activities. Each patient was assigned a therapist who we met with once a week. Out of my whole experience, this was my least favorite aspect because I thoroughly enjoyed my therapist and wish that I could have gotten to spend more time with him. 

In contrast, the core of our therapy work was actually done as a group four times a week for two hours each. I found this to be a very helpful and healing experience. There’s a domino effect that tends to happen in group settings that you miss in one-on-one therapy.

In addition to the therapeutic model, we experienced quite a number of other activities to help us along our way. There were lectures every day on various topics, ranging from diets to relationship tips to understanding trauma, mediation, and even yoga. We spent time doing horse therapy and once a week got to experience adventure therapy, which largely included things like games and canoe trips on the river.

The facility was essentially secular, but it had a very Native American-like, earthy spirituality to it. There were also auxiliary services that you could participate in, including yoga, horse riding, pastoral care, and EMDR therapy (a type of therapy that offered a very healing experience for me).

Lastly, another aspect of The Ranch’s philosophy is that behavior patterns tend to develop within our families. So there was an extensive amount of education done on the different roles that people play in the family. 

And for those who opted to do this, each patient was encouraged to invite family members for a family weekend. This wasn’t exactly the kind of exciting, activity-filled weekend that you find on college campuses, but rather for families to come together, heal, and better understand each other in relation to the family systems theory. Both my parents came down for this weekend, and I found it to be very helpful.

Looking Back on My Experience

I can see why my home therapist said that inpatient rehab would be like a year and a half of therapy in 35 days. If you look at the scale of the activities and therapies that I participated in, I would’ve needed to have gone to several psychological and non-psychological facilities to get the same experience. All of this is great to know, but I must say it’s just a shell of what I experienced at the Ranch—I certainly left a lot of very interesting and beneficial details out. 

The truth is that this was by far one of the best experiences of my life, and I think about it nearly every day. My intention with writing this article is to clear up the misunderstandings about inpatient rehab. I see inpatient rehab as an innovative, forward-thinking model of how to do therapy. 

But that’s just it. It’s not just therapy—it’s integrated, human development. Literally anyone would have benefited from this experience. And it frustrates me that there is both a stigma and a lack of communication about what inpatient therapy actually entails.

Certainly, for many people, cost is an issue. And it’s no doubt expensive (some of this depends on your insurance as well). Fear and reluctance are other reasons. I was told at The Ranch that it is estimated that only 10 percent of people who need this kind of intensive help actually seek it, sadly.

I can’t speak for everyone’s experience at inpatient rehab but this was mine. If you are even remotely considering it, please keep doing so. Take your time and talk to trusted therapists and friends in your 12-step meetings about it in order to learn more about what type of inpatient rehab facility would be the most helpful to you.

Quarter Joe is a lifelong Catholic and has been in recovery for pornography addiction for nearly three years. He is passionate about the spiritual path of the 12-step model and the power of Jesus in the Eucharist in bringing healing and transformation.