Packing For Rehab: A Guide For Patients And Their Caregivers

If you're ready to tackle your addiction through residential treatment, you may be feeling both excited and nervous all at once. Above all, however, you may be feeling uncertain about the practical concerns, like "What do you pack when you're heading to rehab?"

It's important to be as comfortable as possible while you're away from home, which is why many residential addiction treatment services have a home-like setting and avoid an "institutional" feel. However, packing for rehab still requires some care. Here's what you should do.

1. Get a list of prohibited items

Every treatment program has its own rules and restrictions on what you can bring. You can usually obtain a list of prohibited items that will serve as a guide to help you avoid any "contraband" items in your suitcase. 

You may also be asked to adhere to a specific dress code while you're there, which can affect the choices you make when packing your clothes. Find out what restrictions are on things like shorts, skirts, tank tops, and other "revealing" attire before you pack. That's the best way to avoid problems later.

2. Keep the limitations of your space in mind

Your room may be small, and your storage space may be limited, so the smart thing to do is to pack a variety of clothing that you can easily mix-and-match and layer as you go. That way, you're best prepared for all types of weather conditions and temperatures and can easily reuse articles of clothing as needed.

Some suggestions include:

  • A mix of cotton shirts, soft pants, and sweaters in neutral, solid colors
  • A few pairs of jeans
  • A few pairs of pajamas or pajama pants and soft t-shirts
  • A week's worth of underwear

You also want to take along a bathrobe, a jacket or coat (depending on the season and climate), and a pair of comfortable shoes. It's also smart to take along one dressier outfit (like something you might wear to church) for special events. Do not bring along anything that requires special care, like dry cleaning.

3. Don't forget these items of convenience

Within the limits of your rehab facility's rules, you may want the following items with you:

  • The names, addresses, and phone numbers of anyone you want to contact
  • Your prescription medications (in their original bottles from the pharmacy)
  • A small amount of cash for vending machines (small bills are best)
  • A calling card for long-distance calls (if needed)
  • A notebook and reading material for your downtime

It's generally not wise to take anything particularly valuable. If you have a piece of jewelry that you never take off, that's probably acceptable. (Otherwise, leave precious items that could be stolen or lost at home.)

The decision to enter residential addiction treatment isn't easy, but it's a good one. Make the most of your time by starting out on the right foot when you pack.