Structure, Schedule and Safety in Recovery



On our website, we describe Sanford House at Cherry Street and Sanford House at John Street as “structured environments in which to recover.” And although this sounds like a small detail, it holds a great deal of weight. Sanford House clients adhere to a busy schedule. And following the chaos and unpredictability of active addiction, this is often a welcome change.


Idle Minds…  

Studies have shown the efficacy of a full schedule. The National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests individuals often come to treatment feeling demoralized or out of control. A structured treatment program can help the client regain control of their lives through regular, frequent contact with treatment staff.


A predictable, structured environment helps clients to:

Learn time management skills

Completing assignments and attending sessions on time are key in early recovery. At Sanford House, staff members help our clients keep to a strict and dependable schedule. We have a little gold bell in the hallways at both houses, and when it rings, it means: five minutes to find your places!

Experience a sense of stability, security, and safety

When you know what’s coming and when, the day feels easier to manage. Every day in treatment is organized around group sessions, individual and family sessions and rigorous excursions off campus. Every aspect of the day is monitored. But, we encourage and reward progress and commitment.

Correct imbalances or unnecessary stresses on the body

Imbalances are a part of active addiction. This includes: poor sleep habits, less than vogue hygiene and irregular mealtimes. It’s why our personal chef sets a beautiful table and serves family style meals in the dining rooms. It’s why we arrange trips to the barber shop and hair and nail salon. And there is a reason our clients all say they LOVE our mattresses and bedding…

Stay focused on recovery

A predictable schedule eliminates distractions and saves mental energy! And boring recovery is never conducive to learning. So we shake it up – move our sessions to different locations and bring in therapists with specialties.

Create positive new habits

After 21 days, a behavior becomes a habit. Sanford House rituals include morning meditation, evening gratitudes, and daily meetings. Those activities become an ingrained foundation for recovery long after our clients leave treatment.


Feel “in control”

When we have a plan, it is simply easier to prevent relapse.

Meet daily requirements

…Such as chores, homework, and gym time. During active addiction, drugs and alcohol become increasingly important. All the things that make us who we are become compromised: family, career, hobbies and physical activities. Relearning daily activities in the safety of treatment, builds confidence.




In fact, our ability to self-regulate (or ground ourselves in the present) helps build resilience too. Following a schedule, even one as simple as “Wake up at 9:00… Make bed… Remember to drink water” can empower the schedule-keeper. When we accomplish what we set out to do, we feel more capable to take on other challenges. Ever tick off a to-do note? Cross things off a grocery list? It feels good


Aftercare at Sanford House

It’s important to carry this new schedule into early recovery (and beyond). At Sanford House, clients work with their therapist to develop an individualized plan that is realistic and attainable. For example, many clients commit to a 12-step meeting schedule upon discharge. We explore AA, NA, Smart Recovery, meetings at the Buddhist temple, Caduceus… and other community settings during a residential stay. When an aftercare plan is put into place, clients are equipped to select the option that best fits their needs.


It’s an Adjustment…

Adjusting to a morning-till-night schedule can feel overwhelming. But most clients report feeling healthier, more energized, and confident after “surrendering” to the process. The most difficult part, as with most things in life, is simply to start…


We can help.


Author Jess Kimmel has always had a passion for art and when she discovered art therapy it just made sense. Jess is an Art Therapist who serves as Clinical Manager, Sanford House at Cherry Street for Women. Jess has a B.S in Psychology and an M.S. in Art Therapy. Art therapy allows her creativity to shine through her work and she thrives on seeing the confidence grow in the individuals she works with at Sanford Behavioral Health. Jess is from Hartland, Michigan and currently lives in Grand Rapids.