Making the choice to get help for drug or alcohol addiction, an eating disorder or any number of behavioral health issues such as depression or anxiety, is a lifechanging event. But where to find that help? A Google search of “addiction treatment” will return a virtual flood of ads about facilities, methods and services that seem like viable choices. But deciding between such a wide range of treatment styles and facilities across the country can be mindboggling. How does one choose treatment that’s effective and safe? Who should you trust?
Separate the Good from the Bad
When it comes to addiction treatment, there are scary stories in the media about shady facility operators, crooked billing schemes, unqualified treatment gurus. There are unethical people who aren’t qualified to treat patients, and who are raking in money on the backs of very sick people. But such unethical establishments are the exception and not the rule. Don’t despair – there is a path to finding good treatment.
Behavioral health treatment isn’t new, and it’s getting better all the time. New scientific discoveries have provided insight into how the addicted brain works, as well as the mechanisms involved in many mental disorders. As a result, there are many effective treatments – new medications, innovative therapeutic approaches – that can help you or your loved one succeed on the path to recovery.
Tips for Choosing
Track Record First and foremost, consider a center’s credibility. Look for details such as how long the center has been in operation. Check for certain accreditations and state licenses that a facility has obtained. (For example, the Joint Commission objectively evaluates health care organizations on their performance, so JC approval is a good sign. Be sure facilities have the proper state and local licensing.) Understanding industry licenses and certifications can help you steer clear of treatment centers that are involved in illegal activities or unethical practices.
Type of Therapy Patient/ Needs Treatment styles and recovery methods are another key consideration; there is more than one path to health and recovery. Be sure there’s a wide range of options for counseling, detoxification, chemical and natural therapy methods to choose from. Prospective patients might like the idea of combining yoga and art therapy with more traditional approaches, such as group therapy and one-on-one counseling. Consider the length of time that the program entails, and if it includes post-treatment recovery resources that help a patient assimilate back into everyday life.
Other considerations include each individual patient’s needs. According to a Narconon International article, a person who’s struggled with substance issues may need extra support with life skills, like managing emotions and finances in a healthy, responsible way. In that case, success might mean attending weekly therapy meetings or becoming gainfully employed. Often family therapy might be needed if the addiction and other problems have caused divisions and damage to familial relationships. The effects of drugs and alcohol may have caused actual damage to the brain and how it functions; in some cases, there are exercises and strategies for dealing with such deficits. Taking care of these types of issues during treatment can help patients heal on many levels and prepare them for their lives after treatment.
Length of Stay There are short- and long-term treatment programs. The most common length for a rehabilitation program is 28 days. But sometimes, this is not long enough to reverse the physical and mental damage that a battle with substance addiction can cause. Be sure the length of stay can be adjusted as needed.
Consult Various Sources To help you choose a trustworthy and ethical treatment center, talk to a trusted family physician, therapist, clinician or a knowledgeable community member for recommendations. Check established government health agencies, for example, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Every year, SAMHSA publishes the National Directory of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Treatment Facilities (http://bit.ly/2I0rEbl), a national directory of treatment centers that includes treatment facilities that are (1) licensed, certified, or otherwise approved for inclusion in the Directory by their state substance abuse agencies, and (2) provided data about their programs on the annual National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS). All government and private facilities in this directory are approved by state substance abuse agencies, so it’s a great resource for finding credible and trustworthy programs. Another good resource is to look for Harvard Medical School Affiliate’s McLean Hospital eBasis participation. This resource is unique because McLean gathers information every three months from 50 treatment facilities nationwide and creates an unbiased assessment of patients’ treatment outcomes over the last quarter. What is unique about this method is that the information is based on patients’ feedback about their treatment.
Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT)
Although it may seem counterintuitive to prescribe drugs to a substance user, many drugs actually help patients to recover. Asking a potential rehab service what medications they prescribe and why helps patients to understand why there may be a need for prescription medications. When used correctly, MAT can be instrumental in helping patients to succeed.
Patient Motivation and Comfort
The next step in finding the right treatment center is researching a program’s methods and practices. As explained by Alexandre Laudet, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Study of Addictions and Recovery, “The person has to feel that continuing to come to this program is going to be to their benefit.” Factors that influence patient comfort include whether friends or family are allowed to visit, and if the family participates in counseling sessions. Other amenities such as meeting patient dietary requirements (e.g., vegetarian, kosher) may matter, in addition to options such as fitness programs or massage therapy.
Remember, there is a facility that is right for you or your loved one, so don’t delay. Get treatment, save a life, plan for a better tomorrow. Addiction can, and must be, treated.