Doing your due diligence, however, is important in setting the course for your or a loved one’s sobriety and wellbeing. A quality rehab facility can mean the difference between continuing to struggle with substance abuse and freeing yourself from it once and for all.
Below are 10 factors relating to the rehabilitation process that you may want to consider or further research before committing to a treatment program. These treatment attributes will ensure you or a loved one receives the best care and a hopeful outlook for sustained recovery post-treatment.
1. Staff Credentials
As with any health concern, you’ll want therapy and treatment services to be administered by appropriately trained individuals. Studies have found that clinicians with higher education and/or national certifications are more likely to adopt evidence-based practices.1
Rehab facilities typically display the credentials of their staff, so it shouldn’t be difficult to check whether the therapists possess relevant certifications. While therapists who have experience with addiction themselves can offer a special connection and insight, the proper certifications may be more consistent indicators of a therapist’s expertise.
2. Program Accreditation
Many addiction treatment facilities undergo a process of accreditation in addition to meeting state licensure requirements. Accredited facilities have undergone rigorous evaluation by a respected third-party organization. Official approval from the Joint Commission Accreditation for Addiction Treatment (JCAHO), or the Commission on Accreditation of Rehab Facilities (CARF), is generally a good sign that the treatment facility is operating according to high standards.2
Treatment programs become accredited and stay that way only by offering a high quality of care. An accredited facility will have to show that they employ appropriately trained staff, have high safety standards, are HIPAA-compliant, are culturally sensitive, and more, so you can rest assured that treatment will be safe and your rights will be protected. CARF accreditation, for example, “signals a provider’s commitment to continually improving services, encouraging feedback, and serving the community.”3 The other main accrediting body, JCAHO, expresses a vision for all people to “experience the safest, highest quality, best-value health care across all settings.”4
3. Financing Options
A sign of a trustworthy and quality rehab center is a sense of transparency and a willingness to help you access treatment in spite of your financial limitations.
Treatment centers that help you understand financial obligations are typically honorable in many aspects of their operations. While the facility may not be able to give you every detail about the cost right up-front, they should make an effort to help you understand your coverage options per your individual insurance provider, as well as any other financing options available, including scholarships and sliding scale payments.
A treatment facility with multiple financing options is also a sign of a patient-centered organization. Addiction affects individuals of every socio-economic status; therefore, a facility that recognizes the varying financial restrictions a patient may face and works with them to find ways to pay for their care will likely be a sincere advocate in their recovery.
4. Tailored Treatment Plans
Research indicates that effective addiction treatment is individualized per the needs of the patient.5 If the facility takes a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment, you may want to look at other options.
Effective addiction treatment is individualized per the needs of the patient.Quality treatment addresses multiple facets of one’s addiction, including any associated medical, psychological, or social issues. Effective treatment is also tailored to the individual’s age, ethnicity, gender, and culture.5 A customized treatment program will offer a combination of services to match the patient’s unique needs. For example, a patient with co-occurring disorders may require a very specific therapeutic approach that may not be right for another patient.5 Another individual who has approached treatment before and relapsed may be a good candidate for medication-assisted treatment, or MAT. The facility you choose should do a thorough evaluation of your condition and create an individualized plan that recognizes and takes into account your personal stressors and supports, as well as what did or did not work for you in previous recovery attempts.
5. Access to Quality Medical Care Onsite
Substance abuse affects the body and mind in myriad ways, some of which may not become apparent until the individual attempts to stop. For this reason, medical attention should be available to address any physical and mental health concerns arising from dependence and withdrawal. A rehab center with physicians and nurses on-site will be able to address any medical concerns without taking the patient out of their recovery environment.
In the case of detoxification, organizations like SAMHSA assert that detox programs should have medical consultation readily available for any emergencies and that physicians should be available to assess and treat patients throughout the detox process.6 Care from qualified nurses and physicians during detox is particularly important for withdrawal from opioids, sedative-hypnotics, and alcohol, due to the severe discomfort and potential medical complications, such as seizures (in the case of sedatives or alcohol).6
6. Serene Locale
Research indicates that certain social and environmental triggers enhance the potential for relapse.7 During the early recovery phase, it’s best for these triggers to be eliminated so the individual can focus on recovery without unneeded strain and distractions. A beautiful, calm, and inspiring environment will minimize environmental stressors and offer a reconnection to the beauty of nature and the possibilities of a life without drugs.
However, while location is important, be wary of rehab centers that overly accentuate their environment and amenities. Cushy rooms and luxurious facilities are enticing, but a program’s treatment approach should be the main focus.
7. Training on Life Skills
The goal of addiction treatment is for the recovering individual to live a full life after the treatment program concludes. In order to successfully reintegrate with the outside world and stay sober, you’ll need to develop life skills to cope with the inevitable daily stressors and precarious social situations that will inevitably come up.
Many treatment centers will offer general life skills coaching ranging from finance management to job hunting in order to equip patients with the knowledge and tools they need to live independently post-treatment. Staff may include coaches to share knowledge and teach patients technical skills such as how to plan meals and cook or how to track their bank accounts and address any existing debts. This type of training gives patients the confidence to thrive once they complete their treatment program.
8. Family Therapy
It is widely recognized that addiction is a family disease, meaning that addiction takes a toll on all members of the family unit.8 Relationships with family members can also contribute to the addicted person’s patterns of behavior and continued substance use. For these reasons, many rehab facilities integrate the individual’s close family into the treatment process.
Quality treatment programs often offer therapy and education that focuses on the healing of the whole family unit and offers all members a chance to better understand substance abuse disorders and the interactions that may contribute to the addicted person’s use. For example, family therapy may address unhealthy dynamics that contribute to secret-keeping and lying. The goal of family therapy is two-fold: 1) to offer the right kind of support to the addicted individual, and 2) to strengthen the entire family’s emotional wellbeing.9
9. Aftercare Planning
The recovery process extends well beyond the first 30, 60 or 90 days of treatment. In fact, longer engagement in treatment including aftercare has many proven benefits, such as fewer relapses and better social functioning.5
The best rehab centers place resources and attention on each patient’s aftercare plan. Typically, a discharge planner will be involved in the treatment process and will develop a plan with the recovering individual for care and support after treatment. This plan may include:
- Continued group or individual therapy.
- Step-down program from residential care to a formal sober living environment.
- Continued outpatient treatment.
- 12-step or other recovery support groups.
10. Alumni Programs
As a part of aftercare planning, many treatment centers offer alumni programs that provide ongoing, post-treatment support. Most alumni programs provide opportunities for alumni to connect with one another and the alumni coordinators from the treatment facility.
These programs help those in recovery by: 10
- Keeping them connected to the recovery community via events and service opportunities alongside other alumni.
- Holding them accountable to continued sobriety and wellbeing through participation in peer support groups.
- Offering encouragement, support, and fellowship from people who can empathize with their struggles.
- Providing continued resources for coping skills and tools for preventing relapse.
Finding quality addiction treatment is the first step toward sobriety. Using the above criteria as a guideline to further evaluate your options will help you discover a treatment program that matches your needs and meets industry standards so you can move toward a better future.
- Kubiak, S.P., Arfken C.L. (2008). Comparing credentialing requirements of substance abuse treatment staff by funding source. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 35(1), 93-98.
- S. Department of Health and Human Services. Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities – CARF.
- Commission on Accreditation of Rehab Facilities. (2017). CARF accreditation focuses on quality, results.
- The Joint Commission.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of drug addiction treatment: a research-based guide (third edition).
- Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2006). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Larminer, M.E., Palmer, R.S., Marlatt, G.A. (1999). Relapse prevention: An overview of Marlatt’s cognitive-behavioral model. Alcohol Research and Health, 23(2), 151-160.
- National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, INC. (2016). Family disease.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2013). Family therapy can help: For people in recovery from mental illness or addiction.
- Kaskytas, L.A. (2009). Alcoholics anonymous effectiveness: Faith meets science. Journal of Addictive Diseases. 28(2), 145-157.