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Choosing the Right Rehab

Learn how to choose the right treatment setting for your needs.

Once you’ve made the decision to seek treatment for an alcohol or substance use disorder, you’ll need to choose a program that will meet your needs and circumstances.

There are lots of different treatment options, but how do you find the best addiction treatment setting for you? Here are some key things to consider.

Before selecting a treatment program, seek help from a qualified and unbiased medical professional who has experience referring people to addiction treatment and can help you identify your needs.

To get help seeking treatment, dial the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-4357.

Non-clinical professionals, such as experienced recovery coaches, can also help you find treatment. Learn more about finding a recovery coach.

Types of treatment programs

Rehab centers and other treatment programs differ by where care is given, how long treatment lasts, and how intensive and structured the program is. The health care provider who assesses your condition can help you choose the treatment setting that will meet your specific needs.

  • Outpatient treatment. Patients live at home and go to a clinic or facility regularly for sessions with addiction treatment professionals. Telehealth outpatient treatment may supplement or sometimes replace in-person visits.
  • Inpatient treatment. Patients stay in a hospital and receive intensive and highly structured care for addiction and other severe medical problems.
  • Residential treatment. Patients stay in a nonhospital setting and receive intensive and highly structured care for addiction and other medical problems.
  • Recovery housing. Patients live in supervised, temporary housing. Clinical treatment programs in recovery houses vary: some offer little direct clinical treatment, and others partner with more intensive programs.

Weighing your options

After identifying the best treatment setting or rehab center for you, you will want to narrow down which program best meets your needs. Ask the staff of each program you are considering to provide the following information.

Treatment approach

Find out if the program provides a wide range of effective treatment methods. Treatment programs that offer only one or two therapy types may not be able to customize care to your specific needs. In addition, a program that offers a variety of evidence-based therapies — therapies that have proven to be effective in practice and scientific studies — may be able to meet your changing needs as you continue in your recovery.

If you are also experiencing mental health challenges, it’s also important to find a program that can provide treatment for those specific conditions. Mental health challenges can contribute to substance use disorders, and vice versa.  

Ask these questions:

  • What types of treatment therapies are offered?
  • Can the program offer medication?
  • Are staff members qualified to treat both mental health issues and addiction?
  • Is treatment tailored for each patient?
  • What are the program's requirements and/or expectations of me?
  • What can and should my family do while I’m in treatment?
  • Can you provide patient rights and responsibilities in writing?

Measuring effectiveness

To help you compare rehab programs, get a sense of whether and how the program tracks its patients’ progress and recovery. Ask:

  • How do you measure patient progress?
  • How do you determine if treatment has been effective?
  • Can you provide data on your patients’ long-term recovery?

Handling substance use during treatment

As with other medical conditions, it takes time to achieve recovery, and you may encounter some setbacks as part of the process. Resuming alcohol or drug use during treatment — sometimes referred to as a relapse — is common during the recovery process.

It’s important to understand how the treatment program responds if a participant begins using drugs or alcohol again. Ask:

  • What happens if a patient uses alcohol or other drugs during treatment?
  • Does the program discharge patients for using alcohol or drugs?
  • Are program staff members trained to handle a patient's resumption of substance use, adjust treatment plans, and escalate patients to higher levels of care when appropriate?

Rehab programs should not discharge patients for resuming substance use. Rather, the use of alcohol or drugs during treatment should be handled on a case-by-case basis. And as long as it is safe to do so, the treatment plan should first be adjusted so the patient can remain in the same program.

If adjusting the treatment plan is not successful, or if the patient cannot safely remain at the current program, then the rehab program should facilitate transitioning the patient to a higher level of care as seamlessly as possible.

Patient and family expectations

Understand your rights and responsibilities and what will be expected of you and your family during treatment. Ask:

  • What will I have to do during rehab?
  • What can and should my family do while I’m in treatment?
  • Can you provide patient rights and responsibilities in writing?

Quality care checklist

It’s important to know that some programs offer features that are not proven to effectively treat addiction. Review the quality care checklist below with your qualified addiction professional to determine if the program you are considering meets the following basic standards:

  • Care is overseen by independent medical practitioners, such as physicians or nurse practitioners, with specialized training and experience in treating substance use disorders. Experienced, full-time medical staff should be available to meet your recovery needs. 
  • A range of effective treatments are available, not just one. These may include different professional therapy options as well as medication treatment
  • The program has the availability and time for effective clinical treatment sessions.
  • Treatment is available for other medical conditions you may have.
  • Continuing care and support after treatment are provided.
  • Patients are not automatically kicked out of the program if they resume substance use (a "relapse").
  • The program is licensed or accredited. If you're looking into residential and inpatient programs, check their program accreditations on our treatment locator

These credentials show that the program meets standards set by a state, if it has licensing standards, or a professional organization. However, licensing and accreditation don’t necessarily mean the program offers effective treatments. So it’s important to also look for other indicators of quality.

Ultimately, the question isn’t “What’s the best rehab?” but rather, “What’s the best treatment for me?”

Work with a qualified clinician to use the guidance here to make the right treatment choice for you and start your recovery today.

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Content reviewed by Dr. Jasleen Salwan, MD, MPH, FASAM, February 2023.