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How to Choose Addiction Treatment

Once you’ve decided to pursue treatment, how do you know which options might be right for you? If you can, start by talking to a trusted health care professional, such as your doctor. If it’s too much for you to consider researching treatment options right now, don’t put it off; instead, ask your physician, a family member or a close friend to help. You may well find that your loved ones are concerned about you and will welcome the chance to help you find the assistance you need. After all, addiction touches everyone in an addict’s life.

Here are some important questions to ask when looking for the treatment center that’s right for you:

  1. Is the facility licensed and accredited? The best way to check is to look for a license issued by the state in which the center is located and accreditation by such national organizations as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). These accrediting bodies require programs to meet high standards of patient care. When deciding on a center, also be sure to ask if they have experience treating your particular type of addiction. Consider centers that give you the option of a gender-specific setting or ones with professional/executive, Spanish-speaking, teen/young adult, faith-based or LGBTQ programs if you would benefit from one of these – this way you can recover in a setting personally tailored to your needs.

  2. Does the program work with insurance? Many facilities will check your insurance benefits for free if you’re a potential patient — meaning the center will reach out to your insurer to see how much of your care would be covered at their facility. You can also go to SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator and search for a facility both by payment/insurance accepted and by whether the facility offers payment assistance (such as a sliding fee scale).

  3. Does the staff have the credentials to provide expert care? The therapists and staff will be the ones working closely with you and offering guidance on how to stay healthy and sober. While their own life experience — and their personal recovery stories — can make staff inspirational, it’s also important that they have top-notch qualifications. Your treatment team should include certified alcohol and drug counselors (CADCs) or licensed alcohol and drug counselors (LADCs) — these individuals may go by a variety of titles — as well as master’s-level therapists and social workers, among other specialists such as consulting psychiatrists and an around-the-clock nursing staff. A high staff-to-patient ratio is another important consideration; more staff generally means more supportive, individualized care.

  4. Does the treatment center treat co-occurring mental health disorders? Many people who struggle with addiction also are dealing with co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety or a personality disorder. All of these issues require treatment, so you’ll need a center with a team of experts that might include a psychiatrist, 24-hour nursing staff, case managers and other therapists (social workers, art therapists, addiction counselors). Research shows that integrated treatment (meaning you’ll be treated for both addiction and mental disorders simultaneously) is most effective.

  5. What is the center’s environment like? Look online at pictures or, if you can, visit and tour the property. Some addiction treatment centers offer the amenities of a resort, such as swimming pools, private rooms and beautiful views in desirable locales. Others have a more home-like atmosphere that can be equally comforting. Choose the center where you feel most at ease.

  6. What types of therapies and activities are offered? Most programs offer medical detox, individual, group and family therapy. Others might also have art therapy, equine therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for trauma and other ancillary treatments. You might want to choose a program that has on-site activities for mind, body and spirit, like yoga, acupuncture, massage and other holistic therapies. Also be sure to take into account that the types of activities are ones you enjoy. Some programs promote outdoor recreation such as hiking or rock climbing, while others schedule outings to theaters, shops and local entertainment venues. All of these activities offer ways to learn or re-learn how to have fun while still maintaining your sobriety.

  7. Will my partner or family be involved in my treatment? Healthy family relationships should be fostered in treatment. Many centers involve family members in couples or family therapy sessions, and loved ones may be asked to attend a family weekend. In some settings, partners and family members may be included more than in other programs. If it’s important to you that your loved ones have easy access to you, and you to them, be sure to say so.

  8. What happens when I’m ready to leave treatment? An after-treatment plan will help you stay healthy and clean. Ask about a facility’s relapse prevention and continuing care planning as well as long-term treatment options (whether sober living, therapeutic communities or something else). Sometimes there will be support team, transportation to 12-step meetings or visiting nurses to keep an eye out for signs of relapse.

Getting straight answers to these questions will give you a clear direction, helping you to make a treatment choice with confidence.

Sources: Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities; Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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