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How to Choose the Right Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center

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When you or a loved one is dealing with a substance use disorder (SUD), getting help can seem overwhelming. How do you know which addiction treatment center is the right choice? Keep reading to learn more about the different types of treatment, the factors you should consider when choosing, and the questions to ask to ensure you get the right treatment for you.

Figure Out Your Treatment Needs

For many people, the first step to finding treatment is knowing your personal treatment needs. Your primary care doctor, therapist, or other licensed healthcare professional can help you with this. They can help you understand your treatment needs, such as length and level of care needed. Location, price, and amenities may be factors as well.

Treatment Types and Settings

There are several different treatment types and settings to meet your needs at different points in the recovery process. These include:2–5,7

  • Medical detox. For many people, this is the first step in the treatment process. Detox involves clearing your body of drugs or alcohol while managing withdrawal symptoms to keep you as safe and comfortable as possible. It can happen in a doctor’s office, an outpatient detox clinic, an inpatient treatment center, or a hospital.
  • Rehabilitation, or rehab, is often the next step after detox and can be delivered in either an inpatient or outpatient setting. With inpatient or residential rehab, you stay at the treatment center around the clock. In outpatient rehab, you live at home and attend scheduled appointments during the day. Some people start with inpatient care and move to outpatient care as they continue along their recovery journey. Because addiction has often caused serious consequences in many aspects of a person’s life, rehab may include a variety of treatments and services designed to meet a person’s medical, mental, social, occupational, family and legal needs.13
  • Co-occurring disorders. If you have other mental health issues as well as an SUD, this is called co-occurring disorders. It is best when treatment addresses all of these issues together.
  • Aftercare, or continuing care, is another important part of recovery for many and involves services that support sobriety following formal inpatient or outpatient treatment. This can include mutual support groups (such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous), alumni support groups, individual or family counseling, sober living houses, and other community resources.
  • Telehealth, an outpatient method of giving care through phone or video calls, web portals, texting, or email. Telehealth gives people easier access to a wider range of care, no matter where they live. Addiction treatment centers increased their telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic so patients could get the critical help they needed safely and effectively.14

Therapy Types

Drug addiction treatment centers may specialize in one or more types of evidence-based therapies to treat SUDs. Some common therapy types include:1–3,5,12

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), where you learn to identify the behaviors and thoughts that lead to substance use, as well as how to avoid and cope with them.
  • Motivational interviewing/motivational enhancement, which helps increase your motivation to change and stay in treatment.
  • Contingency management uses small rewards as incentives to encourage positive behaviors, such as not using drugs and alcohol and attending treatment.
  • Family therapy, which invites family members into treatment. It addresses not just addiction but its effect on the entire family. You work on communication, conflicts, relationships between family members, and the mental health of other family members as well.
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) uses prescription medicines in combination with behavioral therapy to increase engagement in treatment, reduce cravings, and lower the risk of relapse or overdose. It is mostly used to treat opioid use disorders, where a person is addicted to heroin or opioid pain relievers.
  • Alternative therapies can include art or music therapy, animal-assisted therapy, yoga, meditation, aromatherapy, or acupuncture. Although there isn’t a large evidence base to support these methods being effective on their own, some research suggests they may be useful when combined with evidence-based addiction treatment.15

Program Length

Many people wonder how long they should spend in treatment. The answer depends on your unique treatment needs, including many factors, such as: 1

  • How severe your addiction is.
  • What your treatment team suggests.
  • The type of treatment you get.
  • If you have co-occurring disorders.
  • What your insurance will cover.

Many treatment centers tailor a personalized treatment plan with a program length that meets your needs, but then revisit the plan according to your progress and the ways your needs may have changed.1

Treatment Center Location and Amenities

Some people may prefer attending treatment close to home to be near family and other supports. But others may prefer going to treatment farther from home so they can avoid common triggers and focus on recovery. And some people may feel more comfortable in a treatment center with certain amenities, like a gym or organic meals.

That said, location and amenities are less important than making sure that the facility can meet your treatment needs. It is essential for those who struggle with access to proper addiction recovery treatment programs to find a treatment center that offers support services such as transportation, childcare, or help with basic needs.2 Many treatment programs work with community partners such as food banks, legal assistance, day care, financial counseling, and health care services to help people in recovery as well as their loved ones.2

Decide How You Will Pay for Treatment

When choosing a treatment center, it is important to consider how you plan to pay for treatment. Some health insurance plans may cover some facilities and not others or need you to get a referral or special approval.6 If you don’t have health insurance, some facilities may create a payment plan or adjust payments on a sliding scale according to how much you make. Other facilities offer treatment at reduced or no cost.6,8

Find and Compare Treatment Centers

When you know what your needs are, how you’ll pay, and your ideal treatment location, you can use a number of online tools to help you narrow down your options. Some companies, such as American Addiction Centers, have local directories to help you find the right treatment to meet your needs. You can also use the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) treatment services locator to find treatment centers based on specific criteria such as location, payment options, and services that meet your needs. You may also want to consider credentials and reviews.

Treatment Center Credentials and Licenses

When a treatment center is accredited and licensed, it means that they been assessed by an independent, non-governmental agency to ensure that they follow existing nationwide or statewide standards for safe, high-quality services and care.6,9 National accreditation can be offered through the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) or the Joint Commission.9,10 The facility should also have and display a valid, current license or certificate to operate within the state. You can contact your state’s Mental Health Agency to confirm proper credentials. All facilities in the SAMHSA treatment directory are accredited, licensed, or certified.

Ratings and Reviews

Whether you need help finding a drug rehab center or choosing a detox center, you might consider what outside sources have to say about a program. Many websites have online ratings and reviews, but be careful to choose trustworthy websites. An unbiased site, such as the Better Business Bureau, may have a mix of positive and negative reviews rather than only positive reviews. Additionally, when looking at “average ratings,” you may want to consider how many reviews are posted.

Questions to Ask about Rehab or Detox

After you’ve narrowed your list down, how do you choose which detox center or rehab to attend? A good start would be to make a list of questions to ask your top treatment centers. Here are some examples:1–3,6,11

  • Do you accept my insurance? This ensures that you will be able to pay for treatment.
  • Do you use evidence-based treatments? And, what specific types of therapies are offered? This shows you that the facility uses treatments and makes decisions about an individual’s care that are consistent with the current best evidence published in peer-reviewed scientific studies.
  • Do you screen patients for co-occurring mental or physical health issues? How are co-occurring disorders addressed if they are present? This ensures that the facility can help you effectively if you have other issues such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or chronic pain. If you know you have an existing mental health condition, the National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends that substance use treatment should address both (or all) of these issues.
  • Is treatment personalized to the unique needs of each patient? Effective treatment often involves tailoring the program to each person, and a person’s needs may change or progress more slowly or more quickly during treatment. Treatment programs should adjust personalized treatment regularly according to your changing needs and individual progress.
  • Do you offer aftercare when I finish the treatment program? If so, what type of ongoing support is offered? The need for support and services doesn’t end when treatment does, and many people find aftercare helpful for ongoing recovery.
  • Are you accredited or certified by state or national organizations? Programs that are accredited or certified by reputable independent organizations have been shown to offer high-quality care and are focused on maintaining the standards required by the accrediting or certifying organization.
  • Is the staff at your facility licensed and credentialed? Just like visiting a properly licensed and credentialed medical doctor, you want your mental health care team to be properly licensed and credentialed. This means that they are legally operating per state and local government rules that define their scope of practice, as well other state-determined standards.
  • What is your success rate? How is the success of treatment measured? This may help you to learn how effective the program’s treatment is. Find out how the facility measures that effectiveness (for example, short-term vs. long-term sobriety) and examine the data they give you.
  • Can family members take part in treatment? Family and close friends or loved ones are often a major source of support for people in treatment, and their participation during treatment may help the whole family recover together.
  • How does your program maintain cultural or religious sensitivity? This can be very important for religious people, those closely tied to their culture, or those outside of mainstream religion/culture.
  • Does your program offer treatment for groups with unique needs, such as veterans, LGBTQ+ individuals, older adults, teens, or women? People belonging to these communities often have unique treatment needs, and many programs offer specialized tracks and other services tailored to those needs.
  • How long does it take to get an appointment for treatment? It is ideal to start attending treatment as soon as possible. Waiting too long to start treatment can lead to loss of motivation to change substance use behaviors, so earlier treatment is likely to have better outcomes.

Begin Treatment

The process of beginning treatment will depend on the facility you choose, but it often begins with a phone call. During the call, the treatment center may check your health insurance. They will also typically ask you questions about your substance use, overall physical and mental health, family and social issues, legal concerns, financial troubles, educational or employment problems, and home life.2,4

American Addiction Centers makes this process as simple as possible by conducting a prescreening over the phone. We’ll help you choose the right treatment program and be there every step of the way to answer questions and offer support. Call 1-888-509-8965 Who Answers? to get started on the road to recovery today.

Sources

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013, June). Seeking drug abuse treatment: Know what to ask.
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. (2004). What is substance abuse treatment? A booklet for families.
  3. National Institute of Drug Abuse. (2018, January). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (Third edition).
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). TIP 45: Detoxification and substance abuse treatment.
  5. National Institute for Drug Abuse. (2019). Treatment approaches for drug addiction DrugFacts.
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Finding quality treatment for substance use disorders.
  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Telehealth for the treatment of serious mental illness and substance use disorders.
  8. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. (2019). Paying for treatment.
  9. Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities International. (2021). Accreditation.
  10. The Joint Commission. (2021). Accreditation and certification.
  11. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. (2019). Calling a facility.
  12. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. (2021, January 4). Medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
  13. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, July 10). Treatment and recovery.
  14. American Society of Addiction Medicine. (n.d.). Supporting access to telehealth for addiction services: regulatory overview and general practice considerations.
  15. Aletraris, L., Paino, M., Edmond, M. B., Roman, P. M., & Bride, B. E. (2014). The use of art and music therapy in substance abuse treatment programs. Journal of addictions nursing, 25(4), 190–196.

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