Do Rehab Centers Allow Cell Phones?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on May 27, 2022

Cell phone-friendly rehab centers often allow phones with certain restrictions, such as no phones for the first 30 days of treatment. Benefits include staying in touch with loved ones, while disadvantages include triggers and emotional distress from phone use.

Do Rehab Centers Allow Cell Phones?

Some substance abuse treatment providers do not allow cell phones in treatment, while others do. Most rehab centers permit phone use with certain usage regulations.

You may be granted full access to your phone or limited access depending on the level of care.

For example, you may have more access to your phone in a long-term residential program than you might at a short-term detox or inpatient program.

There are many rehab centers that allow cell phone use to give their clients access to their loved ones and the outside world.

Will I Have Full Access To My Cell Phone In Treatment?

This depends on the treatment center. If your rehab program does allow phone use, it will more than likely be limited in some capacity.

Some drug and alcohol addiction treatment providers collect phones upon entry and do not allow phone use during the first five to 10 days of treatment.

This is to eliminate distractions during drug and alcohol detoxification and the entry process, which is often the most vulnerable time of treatment.

Other limitations on phone use that rehab centers might use include:

  • blackout periods, which are certain periods of time when no phone use is permitted, such as during weekdays or weekends
  • limited hours for phone use, such as in the mornings or evenings
  • no phones during group therapy, to protect the privacy of all clients in treatment
  • client-dependent rules, as certain clients further along in the treatment process, may have greater phone use than someone who is just beginning treatment

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What If I Need To Use My Phone To Address Responsibilities At Home?

You may need your phone to pay phone bills, your mortgage or rent, electric bills, or be in contact with your child’s school or daycare in case of emergency.

If you know that your rehab center does not allow phones, do your best to make arrangements with trusted friends outside of treatment who can handle some of your responsibilities.

Treatment providers are also usually willing to be flexible when it comes to important tasks such as these, and they will likely work with you to make sure you can handle urgent matters.

What Do I Do If I Can’t Have My Cell Phone?

It can feel intimidating to be cut off from all communication when you’re in a treatment program, but a personal cell phone isn’t your only option.

Family support, peer support, and community support are necessary parts of the recovery process. Most treatment providers will encourage these relationships during treatment.

If you don’t have your own cell phone or you can’t bring one in, here are some alternative options:

  • See your loved ones in person during visiting hours.
  • Send letters to friends and family members.
  • Use a phone provided by the treatment center to call your loved ones.

Benefits Of Having A Phone In Your Treatment Program

You can benefit from having your phone in treatment in a number of ways, including keeping you connected to loved ones and helping you to stay connected to the outside world.

Other benefits include the following:

  • You can stay updated on your family’s activities.
  • You can keep in contact with your child’s school, teachers, coaches, nanny, etc.
  • Having a cell phone allows you to receive photos.
  • You’ll be able to keep in contact with your employer and respond to important messages.
  • You can use your notes app to journal, keep using any self-care applications, and other aspects of your daily routine that are good for your mental health.
  • Having access to your phone can help you maintain a sense of normalcy while in treatment.
  • A cell phone is a reminder that you’re not cut off from the outside world and you still have the freedom and mobility to make your own choices.
  • You can learn and grow as you go, such as deleting unhealthy applications or contacts.
  • You can create your own boundaries with your cell phone during treatment.

Disadvantages Of Having A Phone At A Rehab Center

While having your phone can be beneficial in many ways, there are also some potential risks you should be aware of before choosing a treatment program that allows phone use.

A few of the disadvantages of having your phone in treatment may include the following:

  • Having access to your contacts can lead to negative conversations, messages to dealers or people associated with drug use, or difficult interactions with people who are triggers.
  • You may struggle to delete unhealthy applications or contacts.
  • Cell phone use can have negative psychological and physiological implications, including exacerbated symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • You may feel you’re missing out on life in treatment when you see others living their daily lives on social media.

Setting Self-Limitations On Phone Use In Treatment

If you have unlimited access to your cell phone at a drug and alcohol abuse rehab center, it might be a good idea to set your own limits on phone use.

There’s a reason why many treatment providers try to curb phone use in some way: cell phones can be a distraction from progress made in therapy and create opportunities for triggers and cravings.

During your treatment program, you might consider setting time limits on your phone, deleting certain social media apps, or blocking numbers from people you know are triggers for you.

Addiction recovery is a time to take control over your thoughts, actions, and behaviors. Starting with these simple steps of self-limitation can be liberating and empowering.

Other Technology Allowed At Addiction Treatment Centers

If your cell phone use is limited, you may be able to use other forms of technology. Again, this is dependent on the treatment center and technology policies vary.

You may be able to bring:

  • iPods to listen to music
  • iTouches and iPads without Internet access
  • laptops
  • a Kindle or e-reader

Because laptops, iPads, and other devices have messaging and Internet capability, you can expect to see certain regulations on these devices as you’ll find with cell phones.

You may be able to bring your cell phone or laptop to a rehab center to complete work, school work, and perform other duties.

How To Find Out Whether Phones Are Permitted

You can either review the rehab facility’s website for guidelines on technology and phone use or reach out to their staff of treatment providers directly to ask about their cell phone policy.

You can typically find information on cell phones on the FAQ pages, pages that discuss what to bring to treatment and what not to bring, and pages that cover rehab center rules.

If you cannot find this information on a treatment center’s website, you can reach out over the phone or by email to learn more.

FAQs About Drug Rehab Centers That Allow Cell Phones

Review some of these commonly asked questions about phone-permitting rehab centers in the U.S. to learn more about your options during recovery.

❓ Can You Have A Cell Phone At All Rehab Centers?

✔️ Not all drug use treatment programs permit the use of phones or technology. However, there are many inpatient drug rehab centers in the U.S. that let their clients bring phones into treatment.

❓ Can My Cell Phone Be Taken Away From Me At An Addiction Treatment Program?

✔️ It is possible that after being granted your phone use past the first stages of treatment, your treatment specialists may decide to take your phone back or scale back your freedom of use.

All regulations are in place for the safety and recovery of the clients. Your phone may be taken away if you’re dealing with issues related to mental health, triggers, or temptations.

❓ Can Using My Cell Phone In A Rehab Center Hurt My Recovery?

✔️ It is possible that using your phone can cause emotional distress, introduce triggers, or feed into certain addictive behaviors, which is why phone use is typically limited.

❓ What Can I Do Instead Of Using My Phone In A Treatment Program?

✔️ If your treatment program has limited phone use, you may be wondering how you can spend your free hours during downtime.

Many rehab facilities allow items such as journals, materials for letters, books, music, and more.

You can also participate in recreational activities, go to the gym, go outside, spend time with your peers, and practice techniques learned in treatment, such as meditation or mindfulness.

Find A Rehab Center That Allows Cell Phones

Though there are certain drawbacks of using your phone in treatment, most substance use disorder treatment providers are understanding and can accommodate some level of phone use.

To find a treatment facility that might be a good fit for you or your loved one, you can get a free referral by contacting our helpline today.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on May 27, 2022
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