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Choosing the Right Rehab

Addiction treatment is the beginning of a new way of living. Choosing the right addiction treatment center is critical, as the changes that you make during treatment will become the foundation for your recovery from drugs or alcohol. With so many options to choose from, it can be hard to know which treatment center is best for your needs. Here are some necessary things to consider when it comes to rehab.

Getting a Referral

Even if you have a mild drug or alcohol addiction, you can still benefit from treatment. To determine the best treatment for your needs and individual addiction, you’ll want to make an appointment with your doctor. An assessment can be used to refer you to the appropriate level of treatment.1

Your doctor can use a diagnostic tool or checklist to determine the severity of your addiction and how substance abuse is affecting your life. Your doctor will also ask you questions regarding your overall physical and mental health and past drug withdrawal experiences.1

If your physician is unable to conduct a substance abuse assessment, ask if you can be referred to an addiction treatment provider. Treatment providers who can conduct substance abuse assessments include:1

  • Medical doctors who are trained in addiction.
  • Licensed psychologists who specialize in addiction.
  • Certified or licensed addiction counselors.
  • Mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and licensed clinical social workers who have training in addiction management.

If a medical professional or other addiction treatment specialist determines that you can benefit from formal rehabilitation, they will probably discuss treatment options with you and subsequently refer you to a specific recovery program. The two main settings in which treatment takes place include inpatient and outpatient.1

Inpatient vs. Outpatient

Inpatient and outpatient rehab differ in a number of ways. Depending on your individual needs, each may present certain advantages or disadvantages. Although your doctor can refer you to the setting they think will be most beneficial for you, it’s ultimately your choice.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient addiction treatment consists of 24-hour treatment and supervision. You reside at the facility for the duration of the treatment program, which can range from 28 to 90 days, and sometimes longer, if necessary. This allows you to escape your drug-using environment so that you can focus solely on your recovery.

Depending on the philosophy of the treatment program, they may offer complementary and alternative treatments, such as music therapy, art therapy, yoga, meditation, massage therapy, and equine therapy, among others. When combined with traditional therapies, these can be very beneficial. Additionally, some inpatient rehabs may include 12-step meetings, while others may have a more secular approach and include SMART Recovery meetings as a part of a patient’s treatment plan. These are all important things to consider when choosing an inpatient program.

One issue to factor into your consideration of inpatient treatment is the increased cost compared with outpatient treatment.1 This higher price is due to paying for room and board, as well as around-the-clock staff members and medical treatment.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment takes place in a variety of settings, such as a doctor’s office, community clinic, or a mental health center. This type of treatment is usually best for those with milder substance addictions who live in a relatively drug-free, stable environment with a solid support system. Treatment can range from meeting once a week for a couple hours to every day of the week for several hours each day. The more intensive outpatient options include partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs).

The advantages of outpatient addiction treatment are that you can continue living at home and attending work or school. A potential disadvantage is that you must obtain transportation to the clinic for your treatments.1 Further, you may be exposed to drugs and relapse triggers since you are still living in the same environment you were using in.

After your doctor or medical specialist has determined what level of treatment is right for you, you’ll want to consider your priorities to help you select the rehab that most aligns with your needs, preferences, and values.

Listing Your Priorities

Addiction treatment is not “one size fits all.” What works for one person may not work for another. Finding the right treatment program for your needs is crucial.2

Once you have a list of things that are important to you, then you can begin to narrow down your options by searching through online directories and calling programs.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

After you have chosen a few rehabs that you’re interested in, you will want to ask them some questions to ensure that you receive the best treatment possible. Not all programs are created equally, and you will want to give yourself the best chance for a positive outcome. Here are some questions to help you evaluate the different treatment programs.1

  • Do you create individualized treatment plans? Treatment is much more likely to be useful when it is based on your individual needs and concerns.1
  • Is your treatment based on a scientific approach? Look for an evidence-based treatment program. Ask what kind of research has been conducted on the specific treatment approach used. Programs that are based on scientific methods and have been extensively researched are much more likely to be effective.1
  • Do you offer specialized care for specific populations or types of addictions? Some treatment programs provide specialized care for women, men, LGBT individuals, doctors, lawyers, or professional athletes and others who are in the spotlight. Other treatment programs only accept people who are seeking treatment for alcohol addiction or a prescription medication addiction. If you prefer specialized treatment, ask if it is an option.1
  • Do you treat co-occurring mental health conditions? If you have a history of psychiatric illness or your physician believes that you would benefit from mental health treatment, ask the treatment center if it offers treatment for co-occurring disorders.1
  • Can you treat medical conditions or refer me to someone who can? If you have medical conditions that require ongoing care, ask how you can get medical care while you are being treated for addiction.1
  • Do you prescribe medications to help with addiction? Depending on the type of addiction that you have, certain medications may help. It is a good idea to ask about medication management.1
  • Are detox services available? Depending on the type of drug that you use, you might need medical detox services initially. Detox helps manage withdrawal symptoms, which emerge once you suddenly stop using drugs. These symptoms range from mild to life-threatening depending on the substance. However, detox can help minimize withdrawal symptoms and ensure your safety and comfort.
  • What types of specific therapies do you offer? Make sure that the treatment center provides a range of treatments. Some of the most popular treatments for addiction include cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, contingency management, 12-step facilitation, and family therapy.1
  • Will you connect me with ongoing aftercare and support services? Look for a treatment program that will help you access continuing aftercare, such as social services, sober living, therapy, and peer support, after your treatment ends. This will help you sustain long-term recovery. Avoid programs that fail to create aftercare plans.
  • Is your program accredited or licensed by the state? Only consider licensed or certified programs.1
  • What are the qualifications of your staff? Choose a program that has staff who are trained and/or licensed in addiction.1
  • What is the staff-to-patient ratio? Do you want more personalized, attentive care? Choose a treatment center that has a high staff-to-patient ratio.
  • What is the length of treatment? The exact length of treatment will vary depending on the severity of your addiction and other issues. However, treatment must last long enough for you to meet the treatment goals outlined in your treatment plan. Research has shown that people with addiction have better outcomes when they receive more extended periods of treatment, whether it be in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Longer-term aftercare and/or self-help meetings can be helpful in supporting recovery, especially in cases of relatively severe addictions and multiple previous treatment attempts.1
  • Do you offer family support and therapy? Family therapy will help your family members aid you during your recovery.1
  • What is the price? Price is an important consideration when it comes to treatment.
  • Do you take insurance? If so, what plans? Ask if they can help you confirm that your insurance will pay for services. Can they tell you what your co-insurance and co-payments will be?1
  • Do you offer sliding scale or payment plans? Many treatment centers offer discounted payment plans or sliding fees for people without insurance coverage for addictions. Always ask what options are available.1

Freeing yourself from addiction’s powerful grip is possible with the right treatment. Don’t wait to get help. Seek a treatment program that can help you begin on the road to recovery.


  1. The National Center on Addiction And Substance Abuse. (2018). Guide to finding quality addiction treatment.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know What To Ask.
  3. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
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