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Choosing the Right Rehab

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

Once you’ve made the decision to seek treatment for a problem with alcohol or drugs, you’ll need to choose a rehab program that will meet your needs and circumstances.

There are lots of different treatment options, but how do you find the best alcohol or drug rehab center for you? Here are some key things to consider.

Before selecting a rehab program, seek help from a qualified clinician who specializes in addiction and can help you identify your needs. To find a clinician who can advise you, click here.

Types of rehab programs

Rehab 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.
  • 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 and can participate in treatment programs.

Weighing your options

After identifying the best treatment setting 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. Rehab 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 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 misuse problems, 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 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?

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 relapse

Just as in the treatment of other medical conditions, relapse is common and can be part of the recovery process. It’s important to understand how the program responds if a participant begins using drugs or alcohol again. Ask:

  • What happens if a patient relapses during rehab?
  • Does the program dismiss relapsed patients?
  • Are there program staff members who are qualified to treat patients who have relapsed?

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 from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse with your qualified addiction professional to determine if the rehab program you are considering meets the following basic standards:

  • Care is overseen by one or more physicians with specialized training and experience in treating substance use disorders.
  • A range of effective treatments are available, not just one.
  • There are plenty of effective treatment sessions offered for at least three hours each week.
  • An addiction medicine physician or addiction psychiatrist is on staff full time.
  • 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 relapse.
  • The program is licensed or accredited.

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 rehab 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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