Can You Use Your Phone During a Rehab Program? (& Other Rules)

Medically Reviewed

Many individuals rely on their smartphone or some similar electronic device to keep in touch with the outside world. Perhaps the most common question that is asked by someone considering rehab is if they will be allowed to use their phone during treatment.

The policy about phone use is not unanimous across all rehab facilities, but the vast majority of these facilities will limit the use of smartphones and other electronic devices. Some may ban their use altogether, whereas some may only allow the use of a phone during certain hours. For instance, people who need to use smartphones or other electronic devices to access email for work may be allowed to do so. 

Very often, regulations about the use of electronic devices like smartphones are based on the person’s level of recovery. Individuals who are in the very early stages of recovery will typically have much stricter limits placed on their use of these devices, whereas individuals who are further along in the recovery may have fewer restrictions.

Other Rules and Regulations

The reason that smartphone use is limited in rehab is that individuals in these facilities are expected to focus on their recovery. Too much access to electronic devices can lead to significant distractions, particularly in the early stages when it is crucial that the person’s focus is on learning the basics of recovery and applying the principles to their life.

Once a person has achieved some stability and has a successful recovery routine, these restrictions can be slowly lightened up. There may also be the potential for increased stress if an individual is allowed unlimited access to a smartphone, tablet, or computer, so this needs to be managed. As a person becomes more grounded in recovery, the use of electronics may be gradually reintroduced. If their use presents a problem, it may be scaled back until the person has a stronger footing in recovery.

Part of the process of being involved in a rehab program is the need to learn to adhere to a strict set of regulations to become abstinent and develop a plan of recovery. In general, there are other important rules that most rehab facilities expect their clients to follow. Among them are:

Limited sharing of information outside the facility:

When a client is allowed to use an electronic device like a smartphone or tablet, there are strict regulations on what the person can share. For instance, most rehab facilities will ban the practice of sending photographs of therapists, the treatment schedule, or other clients in the program. All of this information is considered to be confidential, so clients are not allowed to send out photographs and other revealing information.

Mandatory attendance at all treatment sessions:

It is crucial that the client attend all treatment sessions. Treatment sessions are what make the program work. One may only miss sessions if they have special permission to do so.


Total abstinence from alcohol and drugs is required in rehab. The only drugs an individual is allowed to take are those that have been prescribed for them. Individuals are not allowed to bring in their own medications, use over-the-counter drugs, or take any other type of substance unless their physician has approved it. Clients are not allowed to keep drugs or medications in their room, and if they take medications, they are administered to them by the staff. 

No relationships:

Engaging in romantic relationships in rehab is not permitted, and even couples who attend rehab are often not allowed to attend the same rehab program at the same time. The rule is designed to limit stress and other complications that occur as a result of intimate personal relationships. While some clients in rehab may develop personal or romantic attractions to other people in the program, the focus of rehab is on recovery.

Strict regulations on media use: 

Many facilities do not allow individuals to listen to music, watch TV, or watch movies unless these are specifically part of the treatment program. Again, the focus should remain on recovery, and it is important that clients avoid all types of temptations and triggers that may interfere with their focus. Many of the television programs and music that individuals enjoyed before their rehab experience may serve as reminders of or triggers for alcohol or drug use. As an individual begins to establish a solid program of recovery, they may be allowed some leeway.

Activity restriction:

Clients who are in inpatient or residential treatment programs are not allowed to leave the facility unless they have special permissions. In general, clients are not allowed to leave the treatment facility unless they go with an employee, or they are attending an organized event where there is supervision.

Highly structured schedules that are designed to keep the individual busy:

Rehab facilities have very structured and busy schedules that allow their clients to stay busy. Clients must attend numerous therapy sessions, group sessions, and other activities. These activities and the strict schedule are designed to keep the person busy and focused, and to allow them to get the maximum amount of benefit from the program.

No aggression, hostility, or violence:

Most rehab centers have strict rules regarding aggressive or violent behavior directed at other clients or members of the staff. Very often, any form of violence or aggression will result in the person being released from the program. Rehab facilities must remain safe environments for all clients.

Limits on visitation:

Rehab programs certainly want their clients to be able to get the support from family members and close friends that they need. However, because of the structured nature of the program, visitation hours are typically limited. Unless the client has special permission, these visiting hours must be observed by guests. This helps to keep the client on schedule and to maintain the structure and integrity of the program.

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