What to Consider When Choosing a Treatment Program


If you or a family member or friend is abusing or addicted to drug and alcohol and needs treatment, it is important to know that no single treatment approach is appropriate for all individuals. Treatment varies depending on the type of drug and the characteristics of the patient. The best programs provide a combination of therapies and other services.

Finding the correct treatment program involves careful consideration regarding the setting, length of care, philosophical/medical approach and the needs of the person. Remember, some people may go through treatment a number of times before they are in full recovery. Don’t give up.

Consider these questions when selecting a treatment program:

  • Does the program encompass the full range of needs of the individual (medical: including infectious diseases; psychological: including co-occurring mental illness; social; vocational; legal; etc.)? It requires a trained health professional, often a doctor specializing in addiction medicine, to make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe the most appropriate treatment. There is an advantage to including on-site medical care in a drug abuse treatment center. Physicians and nurses provide 24-hour hospital services to monitor and ensure a safe withdrawal from alcohol and other drugs.
  • Does the program offer counseling (individual or group) and other behavioral therapies to enhance the individual’s ability to function in the family/community? Services also include structured physical activities, nutritional counseling, stress reduction, holistic approaches such as yoga, art therapy, equine therapy, acupuncture and neurofeedback, vocational training, relapse prevention support, social skills training, educational services and 12-step substance abuse programs.
  • Is the program run by state-accredited, licensed and/or trained professionals? It is important that facilities are licensed by the state in which they are located and accredited by a health care accrediting body such as The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) or Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).
  • Is there ongoing assessment of an individual’s treatment plan to ensure it meets changing needs? Centers should offer a variety of treatment programs that meet individual needs. Programs may include inpatient, residential, outpatient, and/or short-stay options.
  • Do they have a long-term aftercare support, alumni group and/or guidance encouraged, provided and maintained?
  • Does the program employ strategies to engage and keep individuals in longer-term treatment, increasing the likelihood of success? Residential treatment centers provide a multidisciplinary approach to facilitate recovery from addiction.
  • Does the program offer medication as part of the treatment regimen, if appropriate? Comprehensive chemical dependency treatment services offer a structured therapeutic environment that begins with the withdrawal/detoxification process and extends through aftercare planning following residential treatment.
  • Is there ongoing monitoring of possible relapse to help guide patients back to abstinence? There are no quick fixes for the diseases of drug abuse and alcoholism. Recovery is an ongoing process. The skills one learns during intensive treatment must be integrated into everyday life and this takes time.

Some treatment programs will offer a follow-up program but only in one location which may make it difficult to use. Treatment programs should include a quality, continuing care program that supports and monitors recovery.

  • Is there a Family Program – services or referrals offered to family members to ensure they understand addiction and the recovery process to help them support the recovering individual? Drug abuse and alcoholism affects the entire family, not just the alcoholic/addict. Quite often family members do not realize how deeply they have been affected by chemical dependency. Family involvement is an important component of recovery. Treatment centers vary in the degree and quality of family involvement opportunities. Some offer just a few lectures and others offer family therapy. Ask if there is any time devoted to family programs and if group therapy is included.
  • Does the treatment program also address sexual orientation and physical disabilities as well as provide age (adult, young adults, adolescent), gender and culturally appropriate treatment services?
  • Does the program accept your insurance? If not, will they work with you on a payment plan or find other means of support for you? The price tag for drug abuse & alcoholism is presented in many different formats. You need to know what is included in the price, what will be added on to your bill as a fee-for-service program, and what services your health insurance will cover. This makes it extremely difficult to compare prices by simply asking the question – “What does it cost?” If you are seeking the best value for your treatment dollar, remember: Price can be meaningful only in the context of quality and performance.
  • Is the facility clean, organized and well-run and does it offer onsite tours?

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