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Should Laptops and Cell Phones Be Allowed in Drug and Alcohol Rehab Centers?

Cell phone and laptop use are prohibited during the clients stay in most inpatient drug and alcohol rehab facilities. When first considered, this seems like a wise decision. After all, shouldn’t those in rehab only focus on their treatment and not the stressors and potential triggers? In reality, however, the answer to this is not so black and white. In fact, there is a strong argument made for remaining connected into everyday life outside the center during treatment. 
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The Benefits of Maintaining Outside Contact

Clients in drug rehab should be disconnected from everyday life to some degree. This disconnection should be just enough to provide them with enough room to work on their issues. Nonetheless, you may be setting clients up for an overwhelming experience when they leave rehab if they are completely sheltered from outside life.
There are numerous benefits in allowing clients access to laptops and cell phones in rehab when they receive close support and oversight from their team of treatment professionals. Some of those benefits include:
       Information overload prevention – Those in recovery can face a potential minefield of stress when returning home to hundreds of emails and texts. When returning to a world where you were disconnected from for 30 or more days can also be shocking in regard to current world events and news.
       Treatment barriers removed – In today's connected world, people are extremely attached to their laptop and smartphones. In some cases, when clients have no access to these devices for even short time periods it can be enough for them to forego receiving much-needed treatment. Many rehab centers consider staying in a drug and alcohol rehab with a laptop or cell phone is much more preferred than being out on the streets using drugs.
Some clients have legitimate reasons to stay connected. They need to remain in contact with their children, are unable to completely detach from work without possibly losing their job, or they have legal issues that were due to drug use. Treatment is made possible when these clients are able to stay connected.
       Healthy technology practices education – In a 2016 Neilson study, it was estimated that people spend 10 hours, 39 minutes each day on computers, televisions, smartphones, and other media devices. For those clients who use technology excessively, the treatment team for that individual can help them develop more healthy usage practices. The treatment team would otherwise not know the leisure activities and if there is an issue had the client not been allowed to use the devices while in treatment. Guidelines for when clients are allowed to use their smartphones help them learn the benefits of disconnecting for a certain amount of time and how they can reduce anxiety, improve sleep hygiene, and add to a balanced healthy lifestyle. 
       The building of trust - Many of those in treatment for addiction has not been trusted for a long time. Trust between the client and therapist can be developed when laptops and smartphones with guidelines are allowed to be used in rehab. While there have been cases where the client has broken the guidelines, such as maintaining contacts on the device that they had agreed on removing, but later these clients admitted to these failings and made a choice to follow through on their agreement. It can be an exceptionally healing experience when these clients feel trusted again.

How Access to Technology Works in Addiction Treatment

Guidelines must be set in order for laptop and cell phone use not be a hindrance to treatment. These guidelines vary among treatment facilities but are generally the same and can include individualized usage rules, set times for use, technology boundaries, back out periods when first entering treatment, adherence to privacy laws, and more.
Facilities across the United States have received positive feedback from clients in regard to allowing laptops and cell phones in rehab centers. Allowing these devices in the facility during their inpatient stay made treatment possible for these clients with their personal and work obligations. This has also reduced the anxiety the client experiences when being away from family and home during this delicate time. Providing the client remembers the principal reason they are in the rehab center is to recover and their devices are second, the use of laptops and cell phones in rehab can enhance addiction recovery work in most cases.