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How Do You Choose a Good Addiction Treatment Program?

How Do You Choose a Good Addiction Treatment Program?

If you, or someone you care about, has finally realized drugs or alcohol have become a problem and it’s time to get help, congratulations, you’ve taken the first big step toward a better life. However, the next step--figuring out where to get help--can be incredibly challenging. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are more than 14,000 addiction treatment facilities in the US alone.

Some of them are excellent, many are mediocre, and a few are terrible. Treatment is a big commitment of time, money, and effort, so it pays to do your research before you commit. The following will at least help you narrow down the field of treatment options.

First, Assess Your Needs

Start by figuring out exactly what you need from treatment. It’s a good idea to start by talking to your doctor and therapist, if you have one. There are also independent consulting services that help people identify good treatment options. You may also ask for recommendations from your doctor, therapist, or people you know who have been through treatment. As noted above, be sure to research those recommendations thoroughly before committing.


One thing you definitely want to look for is accreditation. The two main accrediting agencies are The Joint Commission and The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. These are non-profit organizations that base accreditation on industry standards, client outcomes, and value. Typically, treatment centers will display these accreditations somewhere on their homepage.

Evidence-Based Methods

Evidence-based methods are the next big thing to look for. That means there is actually scientific evidence for the treatments provided. Just as you expect that any treatment administered by your doctor has been shown to be effective in clinical trials, you should expect that addiction treatment has some evidence supporting its effectiveness. Unfortunately, evidence-based practices are the exception rather than the rule among addiction treatment providers.

Some common evidence-based methods include cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, family therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, or EMDR, and motivational interviewing. There is also substantial evidence that wellness practices, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise significantly strengthen recovery.

Qualified Staff

The best available treatment methods don’t mean much unless there is a competent, experienced staff to administer them. Ideally, a program will have a doctor certified in addiction medicine as well as qualified nursing staff. There should be therapists with graduate degrees in psychology or social work, as well as qualified counselors. Common certifications for addiction counselors include LADC, LPC, CAC, and CCDP. There should also be experts in other areas, such as exercise and nutrition.

Works with Insurance

Most people entering addiction treatment will rely on insurance to help them pay for it. However, even if you’re paying out of pocket, you want to be sure that a facility works with insurers. Insurance companies want to know their money is well spent and typically don’t cover programs with poor outcomes. Good programs typically work with several different insurers.

Clean, Comfortable Facilities

Some programs try to sell you on their luxury facilities but that’s typically not what you want. It suggests that your money is going to amenities rather than treatment. Neither do you want facilities that are excessively spartan. That suggests low regard for clients and perhaps even cutting corners. You certainly don’t want facilities that are dirty or shabby. Look for the middle path--something clean and comfortable but not too fancy.

Individualized Treatment

Everyone has different needs in treatment and it’s crucial to find a program that tailors its treatment to the individual. There is no one-size-fits-all in addiction treatment. Patented methods and miracle cures rarely work. You want a program with flexibility, that can use a diversity of methods to meet your specific needs.

Equipped for Co-Occurring Disorders

Most people seeking help for addiction will have some kind of co-occurring disorder. At least half of people have a co-occurring mental health issue, such as depression, an anxiety disorder, ADHD, borderline personality disorder, and others that must be treated concurrently for recovery to last. Many people will also have medical issues, perhaps related to their substance use that will require special care. Be sure to ask in detail about a facility’s capacity to provide care for these issues.

Watch Out for Red Flags:

Lack of Rigor

As noted above, addiction treatment should be individualized. Even programs that provide individualized care know that not everyone is suited for their program. Quality treatment programs will want to be sure you or your loved one are a good candidate, that they can meet your needs and that you will do well in their specific environment.

Therefore, they should ask lots of questions about your addiction and medical history, ask to see your medical records and contact your therapist. Treatment centers are bound by the same privacy rules as hospitals, so don’t worry about sharing this information. However, if a program seems to take anyone who calls, it might be a sign that they don’t really care whether you are a good fit for their program.

Guarantees of Success

Addiction is a chronic condition and therefore inherently difficult to treat. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 40 and 60 percent of people relapse in the first year after treatment. Therefore, if a program guarantees a high success rate like 80 or 90 percent, you should probably be skeptical.

Some programs offer a guarantee in that you can return for free if you relapse after completing the program and that’s fine since they’re acknowledging the ongoing nature of addiction recovery. As with anything in life, beware of miracle cures.

Unsolicited Referrals

Finally, beware of generic addiction treatment services that don’t seem to have a physical location. These are often referral services who claim they will match you to an appropriate treatment provider but will really sell you to the highest bidder. You want to be doing your own research and making your own decisions as much as possible.

Choosing an addiction treatment program is one of the most important decisions you'll ever make. Treat it with the gravity it deserves. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you feel weird about a program or you feel like someone is being evasive, move on. There are plenty of fish in this particular sea and you should feel good about your final decision. At The Foundry, we know what a big decision this is and we want to help you make a good one. Call us today at (844) 955-1066 to ask us anything you want to know.

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