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How To Tell Your Boss You’re Going To Rehab

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

January 17, 2019

Telling an employer about the desire to seek treatment for addiction may be a difficult task that most individuals are not prepared for. Before confronting their boss, individuals should have a plan and be aware of their rights and limitations.

You’ve just made one of the biggest decisions in your life—going to rehab. Getting treated for substance abuse can change your life for the better. But before you go, you’ll have to get some things in order, such as finances, making arrangements for while you’re gone, and even finding a way to tell your boss you’re going to rehab.

If you’re struggling with this task, you may first want to explore some tips for talking to your boss about rehab and your need for treatment. Also, you may want to be aware of your rights and limitations when it comes to taking a leave of absence for substance abuse treatment.

Tips For Telling Your Boss You’re Going To Rehab

Before having a conversation with your boss about leaving for rehab, it may be best to prepare yourself. Going in with a plan and knowing the answers to any questions your boss may have will put your mind at ease, and possibly make the conversation easier to endure.

The following tips may help you prepare to have this important conversation with your employer:

  1. Come prepared—before holding the conversation, look into your company’s policy for drug and alcohol abuse. You can do this by reviewing employee handbooks or any materials you were given when you started with the company.
  2. Remain honest—even if you suspect your boss already knows about your addiction, the best policy is honesty. Have an open conversation and explain your need for treatment for your overall health. Your boss may handle it better than you expect, and might even try to help you along the way.
  3. Know your rights—in being honest, know that your job is safe while you’re gone. You have the right to treatment due to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 (discussed in the next section).
  4. Don’t be afraid of being permanently marked—if you’ve been suffering with addiction, your performance at work has probably already taken a hit. But treatment will help you rid yourself of addiction and learn skills and new behavioral approaches to improve your life, and work performance, in the future.
  5. Prepare for your absence—another great way to guarantee your job is safe while you are gone is to help your boss and coworkers plan for covering your responsibilities while you’re gone.
  6. Don’t avoid the conversation out of fear—again, you’re protected by the FMLA. Very few people get the help they need, and overdose numbers are on the rise. You will do yourself a favor by getting help in treatment, and your health and well-being should always be a top priority.
  7. Keep in mind, your addiction may not be secret—when you’re pulled into addiction, you may think you’ve done a good job covering your tracks, but chances are your boss may already know you’re struggling. Admitting that you need help to overcome addiction takes courage and is admirable, and your boss probably knows that, too.
  8. If after preparing to tell your boss, you decide it’s not worth the risk, you aren’t obligated to say anything. You can ask for a leave of absence for your well-being, use vacation time, or ask your boss to not let anyone know why you’re leaving so you won’t suffer backlash when you return.

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Protection Under The Family Medical Leave Act

If you’re ready to head to rehab, it’s understandable that you might be concerned about keeping your job until you get back.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides that employees may “take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave because of their own serious health condition or to care for a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition” according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Employers are required not to discriminate against employees who seek substance abuse treatment while employed, and must allow employees a leave of absence for treatment, so long as the employees meet certain criteria. At the same time, you can take a leave of absence for treatment, but employers are not required to allow drug abuse or addiction during your employment.

The Importance Of Drug And Alcohol Rehab

It’s true—going to rehab changes your life, but it also takes you away from your everyday life for a bit. In light of this, you might be asking yourself if rehab will be worth the price you pay. Consider this: substance abuse and addiction can cause a lot of consequences for your life, from your personal life to your health to your job.

Depending on how long and how often you abuse substances, these consequences may have dire effects on your life. Rehab, and the experienced staff behind it, can help you change all of that.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that people who enter treatment in rehab centers, and successfully complete treatment programs, see positive outcomes. These include quitting substance use, decrease in criminal activity, and even improved social functioning and work performance.

This is great news if you’re struggling with addiction, but also grappling with the pressure of leaving your job. You can safely go to rehab by medical necessity under the FMLA, improve your health, behavior, thought processes, and how you handle emotions and triggers. When you get back, your job will be waiting.

What Happens In Treatment?

Once you get through the hurdle of telling your boss, you’ll probably want to know what exactly will happen in treatment. Each rehab center is different from the next, but the great ones integrate a number of treatment methods for a well-rounded healing experience.

That said, your treatment plan should be one that is designed to meet your needs. For example, if you’re struggling with cocaine addiction and depression or anxiety, your treatment would be different from someone who has cocaine addiction, but no depression or anxiety.

Different groups also have different needs. Men require different treatment from women, and teens require different treatment from adults. In the end, a successful program will assess your treatment needs (all of them) and help you work to improve them every day.

Some of the most effective, research-based methods our rehab centers offer include the following:

  • Gender-based treatment
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Adventure Therapy
  • Wilderness Therapy
  • Counseling
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Mental health treatment
  • Medication assisted treatment
  • Aftercare support

Talk To An Expert About Treatment Preparation Today

A lot of planning goes into preparing for treatment. It may be discouraging at times. But we can help you every step of the way, from answering your questions and concerns, to helping you figure out the best way to tell your boss about rehab, to addressing insurance coverage issues and out-of-pocket expenses, to finding the rehab that suits your needs best.

Attending treatment at one of our rehab centers will help you reach your recovery goals, and begin to put addiction behind you. We’re here to help you get there. Contact us at to learn more about your protection under FMLA, learn about treatment methods, and find a rehab center that’s right for you.

SAMHSA - Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)

United States Department Of Labor - Family And Medical Leave Act

U.S. News - Should You Tell Your Employer You Have A Substance Abuse Problem?

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