Creating and following a daily or weekly schedule is often an important part of the recovery process for people suffering from substance use disorders. Many people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol often struggle to manage their time effectively; addiction takes over every area of a person’s life, making it difficult to follow a schedule.

Inpatient or residential treatment programs incorporate a structured daily schedule into the treatment process. If an individual begins treatment as an outpatient, or transitions to outpatient care from an inpatient program, that person will need to create a daily schedule to follow. Scheduling time helps to minimize triggers for relapse. The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services recommends creating a daily schedule to encourage abstinence and assist in the recovery process.

sample schedule

According to NIDA therapists should participate in the creation of a daily schedule. A therapist or counselor can offer direction on that schedule, ensuring it features key items that are beneficial to overall wellbeing and recovery. Therapists can help clients identify things they do each day that contribute to sobriety, so they can integrate them into their schedule. The schedule should be structured to avoid gaps; too much free time can contribute to thinking about substance use and ultimately serve as a trigger for relapse.

Example of a Daily Schedule in Residential Treatment

Residential treatment often integrates many services beyond individual therapy, including group therapy, fitness activities, group field trips away from the treatment facility, and entertainment. The following is an example of a schedule that one could expect in residential addiction treatment.

Sample Schedule

  1. Wake Up
  2. Breakfast
  3. Individual counseling
  4. Group therapy
  5. Lunch
  6. Free Time
  7. Alternative therapies
  8. Fitness
  9. Dinner
  10. Group discussion
  11. Free time
  12. Lights out

8 a.m.: Wake up

Residential treatment programs typically require clients to wake by a specific time. This helps add structure and predictability to the day. In addition, set bedtimes and wake-up times can help improve overall quality of sleep.

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8:30 a.m.: Breakfast

While you are participating in a treatment program, all meals will be provided on site. People suffering from addiction often neglect their nutrition. Eating healthy meals at regularly scheduled times helps to improve health and boosts physical recovery from addiction.

9:30 a.m.: Individual counseling

Individual therapy is often the backbone of addiction recovery. During the beginning stages of treatment, you may have therapy every day. Therapists may use many different varieties of therapy to help clients address addiction issues. In addition, therapists will also address any co-occurring mental health disorders, help clients to manage stress, and assist clients in adapting to life without drugs or alcohol. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Contingency Management, and family therapy are all commonly used in the treatment of substance use disorders.

11 a.m.: Group therapy

Group therapy is often used in addiction recovery, as clients learn from peers in the recovery process. Research has shown that people who participate in group therapy are able to maintain abstinence from drugs and alcohol for longer periods of time than people who only receive individual counseling. Groups are commonly integrated into residential treatment programs, and widely available on an outpatient basis.

12 p.m.: Lunch

Treatment programs typically provide meals in a cafeteria or family-style setting, in which residents eat together. Following the prescribed meal plan is an important part of the recovery process, as proper nutrition helps to maintain physical health.

2 p.m.: Free time

Residential treatment typically allows for a few hours of free time every day. This time is monitored to ensure residents do not engage in substance use. Entertainment is often provided, and socializing with other residents is encouraged. Clients may be encouraged to participate in hobbies they enjoy during this time, such as reading, journaling, or painting. Those in a residential program are not typically allowed to leave the facility during this time without special authorization.

3 p.m.: Alternative therapies

Treatment programs specializing in addiction recovery often take a holistic approach, incorporating many different treatment methods into the overall care plan. Alternative treatment methods, like yoga, massage, or meditation, can be very helpful for some clients. Generally, each treatment facility offers different complementary therapies.

4 p.m.: Fitness

Exercise releases endorphins within the brain, which boost mood and reduce cravings. As a result, exercise can be a powerful tool in maintaining abstinence and improving health, and is often incorporated into daily schedules in treatment. Some treatment facilities may offer fitness centers, complete with swimming pools, tennis courts, and basketball courts. Other facilities may include sessions with a personal trainer or fitness instructor as part of their offerings.

6 p.m.: Dinner

Meals are about more than simply meeting nutritional requirements. Within a treatment facility, meals can provide time for valuable socialization and a chance to connect with others in recovery.

8 p.m.: Group discussion

Part of the benefit of residential treatment is the community of support. Group discussion times allow people to shared what’s on their mind as they journey through the recovery process. Generally, these discussions are led by treatment center staff but they are less formal than structured group therapy.

9 p.m.: Free time

Free time in the evenings is often spent socializing, watching TV, reading, or engaging in other quiet activities.

10 p.m.: Lights out

Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is very important when recovering from addiction. Sleep allows the body to heal, and going to bed at the same time every night ensures adequate sleep and good sleep hygiene.
Once residential treatment is completed, it’s important that clients maintain a set schedule as they transition back to life in the “real world.” If transitioning from inpatient treatment to outpatient care, treatment team members can help clients to structure a daily schedule that best benefits their ongoing recovery.