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If due to your financial circumstances you do not have the luxury of choice between many available treatment facilities, you can rest assured that any treatment is far preferable to no treatment, and entering into a period of enforced sobriety and therapeutic guidance offers a lot towards a better life of abstinence.

If you do have the luxury of choice between available facilities, you need to evaluate which options offer the highest quality of care and offer the best chance at sobriety; and since many of us considering rehabs have never been in treatment, have no idea what's important and can only access information from a website or from a sales call, we feel very uncertain about how to make the best choice.

There are no guarantees, but here are some tangible and quantitative evaluation measures than may help you to decide which available option offers the highest quality of care, and the best chance of success.

1) Does it enjoy a good reputation?

If possible ask for references and ask around. Better rehabs should be able to provide you with contact information for graduates of their program, and talking with these people can give a better idea of the quality of care and the suitability of the program for you. You should also consider calling your local better business bureau to inquire about any complaints, and ask your doctor or health services provider if they have heard anything good or bad about the rehab.

It only takes a few minutes, and it may save you from a costly mistake.

2) Is it clean and organized?

Running a successful and comprehensive rehab is tough, and not everyone does it well. It can be hard to evaluate how well the staff do their jobs therapeutically, but if the staff do not keep the facilities clean and well maintained, they are likely performing poorly in other areas as well.

Ideally, you don’t want treatment at a facility where staff are overwhelmed, overworked and underpaid. If you have difficulty getting basic information on the phone, if staff do not return your phone calls in a timely matter, or if you do not feel as though you are being treated with respect, you may want to think twice.

If staff cannot provide you with information you need in a courteous manner before treatment starts, you cannot hope to receive care and information once in treatment in a manner any different. You are sick, you deserve respect and compassion, and you deserve treatment at a facility that will treat you well.

3) Is the facility accredited?

You may not have the luxury of deciding between facilities, but if you do, try to find an accredited facility employing professional addictions staff.An unaccredited facility is not necessarily poor quality, but without accreditation you have no way of knowing how well they perform therapeutically, and whether or not they meet basic governmental regulations on therapeutic care. Accredited facilities will need to offer services with proven effectiveness, need to employ qualified and licensed professionals and will receive regular evaluations from governmental agencies to ensure that standards are being met.

Accreditation does not necessarily signify a very high standard of care, but it does protect against a very low standard of care.

4) Does the facility offer a number of distinct forms of therapies?

No one form of treatment works well for all addicts in recovery, and better residential rehabs will generally offer a few very distinct forms of programming to better ensure that at least one therapy works for most.

If you go to a rehab that offers only 12 steps programming, and you find that you cannot relate to the 12 steps, you are not likely to receive much of value from your stay. Look for rehabs that offer a range of therapies including, 12 steps based, group recovery, individual therapy, cognitive behavioral therapies, and ideally, peripheral therapies such as equine therapy, yoga, karate, meditation and others. The more that's offered; the better the chances.

5) What does the daily schedule look like?

You have a big job to do and not much time to get it done, and you can’t afford to waste your days in a leisurely manner while in treatment. Ask to see the weekly schedule, and look for a program of therapies and events that fills each and every day. Beware of rehabs that offer too much private reflection, free time or personal meditation time. In small amounts these are all beneficial, but in greater amounts simply indicate a low intensity of more valuable therapies.

6) What's the completion rate?

Relying on so called success rates can be misleading. Facilities measure success differently, and some may not make much of an effort to really find out about relapse so as to keep their success statistics high. Treatment completion rates tell you a lot more. In general, the longer you stay in rehab the better your eventful prognosis, and a facility that boasts a very high completion rate likely offers a high success rate as well.

You don’t want to enter in to a rehab where most people won’t stay until the end of programming. No rehab can offer 100%, and adults are always free to leave if they wish, but rehabs with very low completion rates may have fundamental problems with the staff or programming, and may not be a good choice for your recovery.

7) Can family get involved?

Family participation in the therapies of rehab proves very beneficial to long term sobriety, and if possible you want to get your family into the rehab facility, and actively participating in education and therapies that are proven to work.

Some longer term rehabs may limit family participation for the first period of care, which is fine; but if possible, you should select a facility that will at some point involve your family in a meaningful way.

8) Do they medicate?

No one therapy works well alone, and for the best chance of success you need to have access to a comprehensive range of tools against relapse. No medications currently available against relapse work well on their own, but when combined with therapies and education, these medications do offer additional assistance towards sobriety. If possible, look for a facility that can offer you pharmacological therapies when appropriate.

Medications may also help to alleviate the physical and psychological pains of withdrawal, and are especially needed for patients with even minor forms of dual diagnosis.

9) How much aftercare is offered?

Nothing keeps recovering addicts sober better than a long and intense participation in therapies of aftercare following the graduation from a residential facility. The initial weeks and months of freedom offer great temptations, and the success rates for people who do not maintain aftercare therapies are low.

The longer the aftercare is offered, the better.

10) Does the philosophy of care match your beliefs?

If you're not a Christian, even the most comprehensive and high quality Christian based rehab will not offer much of therapeutic value. You need to ensure that you get into treatment that matches you beliefs, that resonates with your cultural background, and that treats you with respect, regardless of your race, gender or sexuality.

Get the best you can

If you have insurance or money to pay for private care, you should ensure that any facility under consideration satisfies all concerns, and answers all of the preceding questions well. If you can pay, you can go anywhere, and you have no reason to settle for anything less than a perfect fit.

If you cannot pay, and are reliant on subsidized or charitable care, you will not enjoy the same number of options and you may be forced to make some compromises. Try to select a facility that answers as many of the preceding question criteria well as possible, and remember that any treatment is far preferable to no treatment.

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Page last updated Aug 23, 2011

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