5 Important Factors In Finding The Best Treatment For Addiction

If you are wondering "how do I find a good treatment center?" this post is for you.  Finding a treatment center for your loved one can be difficult and confusing. Unfortunately, it is easy to get lost in the confusing maze of the addiction and mental health treatment. Whether your loved one is ready to enter treatment or is not even willing to consider treatment, it can be helpful to think about what type of treatment will be a better fit for your loved one and to check out some treatment options or facilities.

Here’s some help with confusing terminology you may run across

Before we launch into the process of finding a treatment center, here’s a little information about terms you may come across in your search.

Residential Treatment:  In residential treatment the person with the addiction lives at or near the treatment facility. Most residential treatment programs last 28 days to 1 month, although some programs last longer, particularly if the person is experiencing a co-occurring mental health problem.

Co-occurring Disorders/Dual Diagnosis:  Refers to having a mental health problem and addiction at the same time. Examples, the co-occurrence of anxiety and addiction or depression and addiction.

Integrated Treatment:  Integrated treatment refers to treating a mental health problem (for example, anxiety) at the same time the person is getting treatment for addiction. There is some research evidence that says that integrated treatment works better for people with co-occurring disorders; however, the length of treatment is very important. In general, treatment programs that last 6 months or longer tend to be more effective than shorter treatment programs (i.e., less than 6 months).

Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program (IOP):  In IOP, the individual lives at home (or another place that is not the facility) and attends multiple addiction treatment groups during the week. IOP programs can vary from 3 days per week to 5 days per week. Typically, the person spends a couple hours per day attending treatment groups.

Detox:  Detox can be in or outside of a facility and is used to help the person withdraw from drugs or alcohol (typically, detox occurs in a facility so providers can better monitor the physical symptoms of detox). It is typically short, lasting a couple of days or a week.

Evidence-Based Treatment:  This term refers to a treatment that has research support showing that it is an effective treatment for addiction. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a therapy that teaches people skills to change their thinking, emotions, and actions, is an evidence-based therapy for several addictions.

Peer Support:  Typically when this term is used it refers to groups such as AA/NA, Smart Recovery, or Refuge Recovery. In AA/NA and Refuge Recovery the groups are led by and include peers (not mental health professionals), while in SMART Recovery the groups are lead by trained facilitators which may be peers or mental health professionals. For all types of peer support groups the meetings are designed to provide support to people in recovery and are not professional therapy groups (even if lead by a mental health professional).

12-Step/AA/NA:  The term 12-step refers to the 12 steps of recovery that are used by groups such as AA or NA. Many treatment programs are based on or include the 12-step philosophy.

Factors to consider in identifying a good treatment program

Now that we’ve covered some of the terms used in addiction treatment, it’s time to consider some factors that may help you figure out what treatment program may be best for your loved one. Consider:

  • Your loved one’s current level of use: If you’re loved one is drinking/using large amounts, drinking/using on a daily basis, or has trouble staying sober for more than a couple of days, then detox may be your first step. Regardless of the level of your loved one’s use, it is usually a good idea to have your loved one do an alcohol and drug assessment (these are typically done whenever a person enters addiction treatment) to determine if they will need to detox before entering into other types of treatment. Any professionally-staffed treatment center will be able to conduct this alcohol and drug assessment for you and recommend appropriate treatment.

  • Your loved one’s history with addiction treatment: If your loved one has participated in treatment in the past, reflect on what parts of the treatment were helpful (for example: a residential treatment program was helpful because it removed them from places and people who triggered them to use) and what parts were not helpful (such as: not getting mental health treatment at the same time as the addiction treatment). Either way, it’s good information. If it worked in the past, it may be a good idea to start there, and then make changes as needed. If it didn’t work, then you know some things to avoid during your search for treatment.

  • Your loved one’s spiritual beliefs: Because many addiction treatment programs include spirituality (such as 12 steps/AA/NA) you need to think about how open they are to spiritual practices, and how much influence your loved one’s spirituality has on their life. If your loved one believes in a higher power and spirituality has an important role in their life, then finding programs that use 12 steps or that are spiritually based may be the right fit for your loved one. If your loved one has had negative experiences in a 12-step program or does not like or want spirituality as part of their treatment, look for programs that emphasize other approaches (e.g., Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy).

  • Your loved one’s mental health: It’s common that a person with an addiction is also struggling with psychological problems like depression or anxiety. If you think that your loved one’s mental health influences their drinking, then consider integrated treatment. You can identify this by searching for terms like “co-occurring disorders” or “dual disorders” when a place describes their treatment.

  • Your loved one’s level of motivation: Does your love one express a lot of interest in treatment? Or, does he/she believe that their use of substances is not a problem? Perhaps your loved goes back and forth between wanting treatment and not wanting treatment. If your loved one is highly motivated for treatment, then a more intensive treatment program (residential, IOP) may be a good fit. If your addicted loved one is highly motivated to quit, it is a good idea for you to work together to find the treatment that will be a good fit. If your loved one is not motivated or is not sure about treatment, then it may be useful to start with a lower level of care, such as going to a Smart Recovery meeting or talking with an intake coordinator at a local treatment facility.

Other factors to consider in identifying a good treatment program

In addition to the personal factors, there are also practical factors such as your finances, health insurance coverage (you can check with your insurer to see if they cover addiction treatment, how much they will cover, and whether authorization is needed before starting treatment), your loved one’s employment, and family considerations (such as: Will you need additional day care to attend family meetings? Who will take care of their pet?).

There are number of great resources that list questions and things to consider when seeking treatment. Here are a few of our personal favorite resources that we provide to family members:

Oh and one last tip…

If you have friends or family members who have been in addiction treatment or have gotten their loved one into treatment, speak with them about their experience. They may be able share some additional questions to consider and may even be able to recommend specific treatment resources.

We wish you the best of luck in finding a place that’s a good fit for your loved one.