recovering addict participating in a recovery meeting

5 Questions to Ask Before Booking a Treatment Center


Sober Recovery Expert Author

recovering addict participating in a recovery meeting

If you’re a family or friend of someone who is struggling with addiction, you know how overwhelming it can be to find help for your loved one. You might not know a lot about addiction, much less anything about treatment options. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that you are left with the daunting responsibility of making a decision for your loved one.

The rehab industry doesn’t make the process any easier for you either. Placement specialists operate more like used car salesmen, experts in marketing their own facilities instead of explaining the ins and outs of their actual program. How is it possible then for you to find an equally ethical and reputable rehab center for your loved one?

According to Elise Williams, Admissions Coordinator at Tres Vistas Recovery, finding the right treatment center requires some extra initiative and grit on the loved one’s part. “At this point, the way the industry is going, you just have to be involved,” she says. “The more investment, the more skin you have in the game, the more likely you are to find a treatment facility that is going to put you on the right path.”

We spoke with Elise and recovery advocate Jason Wahler on how to sift through all the industry noise and find a treatment center with quality care. They provide five basic questions that you should be asking (and getting answers on) while vetting for a treatment center for your loved one.

1. Who are the staff?

Due to the type of disease that addiction is, any legitimate program—whether its 12-step, non-12 step, Christian, or holistic—should have a Clinical Director, Medical Director and Psychologist right off the bat. The industry is peppered with detox facilities that are managed by just a house tech or someone with just a little bit of sobriety time. Without proper training, these facilities are not fit to handle emergencies which can tragically lead to newspaper headlines and rehab controversies. Wahler states his case bluntly, “If they don’t have the minimum of accreditations of at least a RADT I or an EMT, they shouldn’t be in there.”

2. What is the client-to-staff ratio?

Besides having the proper staff onsite, another crucial aspect of a healthy rehab facility is their general caseload. This includes looking at the business as a whole and questioning the client-to-staff ratio in terms of therapy, the case manager, and the size of group therapy. Wahler says, “Having over 10 people in a group session will not foster connected conversation nor does a case manager with more than 5 clients.” Good treatment is one-on-one and individualized, and you're struggling loved should receive as much attention as possible during his or her stay.

With the right questions in mind, you can lead the way in deciding where you or your loved one goes for treatment.

3. How do they diagnose patients?

Another thing to get your bearings around is how the treatment center staff performs diagnosis. “So many people are misdiagnosed when they come into treatment because they come in with drug-induced psychosis, sleep apnea and are showing signs of schizophrenia, bipolar,” Wahler says, “but they’re really not suffering with those things.” A proper treatment center should let the individual get stabilized and actively rest the disease before making any final assessments. One way to see if a facility is making the right assessment is to see if they incorporate the “bio-psych-social” model.

4. What is the facility like?

Another crucial part of finding a facility is to actually tour the grounds before making a decision, especially with the way marketing has taken over the industry. Williams explains, “Anyone can tell you anything over the phone and their website might look really pretty with a lot of pictures, but being able to meet their staff, seeing where they meet, or sitting in on a group is a way to really get a feel for how they run their treatment.” Once you’re there, you can also talk to the clients there and really have a hands-on experience.

5. How do they connect with alumni?

One of the questions that you should bring up during your facility tour should be what they are doing with alumni. “[The quality of a treatment center] shouldn’t just be based on the front entrance of what they provide,” Wahler says. “It should be the full continuum of what they offer as a whole plan.” Just like any good business, this includes everything from discharge planning, follow-up, and tracking so that your loved one can have the highest chance of maintaining active recovery once they leave treatment.

Finding a quality treatment center for your loved one is a lot of work, but it no longer has to be so confusing if you know what you’re looking for. With the right questions in mind, you can lead the way in deciding where your loved one goes for treatment and what type of care they will be receiving once they get there.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-772-8219 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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