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The concept of drug rehab treatment has some people seriously nervous these days, as the public becomes increasingly informed about unscrupulous treatment centers that bribe doctors for patient referrals, bill insurance companies for unneeded services, cut clients off from outside support networks and even supply their clients with drugs to keep addictions (and payments) going indefinitely. Part of the problem is that in many places, “drug treatment centers” and “sober homes” are loosely regulated—almost anyone who can invoke a remote connection to medical- or counseling-related credentials can open a center.
Until more effective regulations are initiated, primary responsibility for making sure a treatment center is reputable—and that its approach, facilities and location are a good fit with individual needs—falls on prospective clients and their families. If you’re in that situation, Beach House provides an online checklist of points to consider in finding the best rehab center for you or your loved one. This article expands on those points with a list of questions to ask rehab admission counselors and other staff.
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A few general tips for finding a professional rehab facility:
- Never choose a center based on its own advertising: get referrals from objective sources. These may include your doctor, your insurance agent, a social-services provider, a religious center or a representative from a prominent sobriety support network.
- Thoroughly review the center’s website and social media threads, as well as any good or bad publicity it has gotten and any official complaints filed against it. An online presence that is updated regularly, is well-designed and well-written, posts a staff list (double-check their credentials and current status through another source) and includes articles with helpful general information (to educate rather than selling) is a good indicator of a professionally run place that puts mission before profit.
- Visit the center in person and request a tour of its grounds, plus an interview with at least one doctor or therapist who works directly with patients.
The rest of this article recommends questions to ask during those interviews.
QUESTIONS TO ASK DURING INTERVIEWS WITH REHAB FACILITIES AND ADMISSION COUNSELORS
WHAT TREATMENT APPROACHES DO YOU USE?
Different rehab centers have different approaches to physical detox. If you have strong feelings about “tapering off” vs. cold turkey, or using medication to ease withdrawal, look for a center that provides treatment in accordance with your views. If, conversely, you know little about the specifics of detox, ask the center to explain in detail which methods they use, how these methods work and why they believe these methods are safest.
Physical detox, however, is only the first stage in rehab treatment—the following stages, which include ongoing therapy for planning a long-term sober future, can last three or four months. So it’s also important to make sure the center’s overall philosophy aligns with yours. Do they:
- take a “kid gloves” or a “tough love” approach?
- analyze the past or focus on dreams for the future?
- use one therapy model for all clients, or work with a variety of models for a variety of needs?
- follow the worldview of a particular religion?
If you aren’t comfortable with the thought of having their approaches shape your recovery and long-term goals, you won’t get the benefit you would from being “in tune” with your therapists.
In addition, see if the center provides physical checkups and psychiatric evaluations, to see if you have a co-occurring mental health issue that needs treating, or if the drug use has done any physical damage.
HOW DO YOU HANDLE SPECIAL NEEDS?
If you follow a kosher or vegan diet, are allergic to milk, can’t climb stairs, are hard of hearing or have low vision, make sure the center can accommodate you. It’s awful on both ends when you realize only after checking in that you’re going to have major difficulties picking out a menu you can live with—or even getting to the dining hall.
WHAT COMMUNITY OUTREACH DO YOU PARTICIPATE IN?
Is the center a frequent participant in health fairs and other community events? Does it furnish speakers for seminars and conferences? Does it have ongoing relationships with local professional associations and medical centers? If it’s located in a populated area, what do its neighbors—residential or business—think of it?
HOW DO RECOVERING CLIENTS SPEND THEIR TIME?
Few centers allow clients to bring their own sports equipment or spend the day on their own electronic devices, but since most inpatient centers accommodate recovering clients for weeks if not months, they should provide recreational equipment and reading material onsite. Especially after the worst of initial detox, clients shouldn’t be left with nothing to do except eat, sleep and attend scheduled counseling. A good recovery center arranges for interesting free-time options as well as organized recreational activities.
Also ask about having friends and family visit regularly. While most centers limit “dropping in,” it’s a red flag if there seems to be any deliberate effort to isolate patients from their loved ones outside.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH EMERGENCIES?
Make sure a qualified person, preferably a licensed MD, will be on hand at all times to deal with any medical emergencies that may arise from drug withdrawal—also that patients have means of calling for immediate help. (It’s best if the patient-to-staff ratio is low—there could be a tragedy if multiple emergencies occurred while every staff member was trying to keep up with an impossible list of duties.) What will the center do if someone goes into cardiac arrest, stops breathing, suffers a seizure or tries to commit suicide?
Besides being prepared for individual medical emergencies, every addiction treatment center should have a plan in case of large-scale disaster that requires evacuation or sheltering in place. Anyone who follows the news knows that natural disasters occur all too often these days and aren’t expected to lessen much any time soon. Preparing and coping is challenge enough for a household of able-bodied people: how will the center ensure the safety of multiple clients, some in the severe-illness stages of drug withdrawal?
HOW DO YOU SUPPORT CLIENTS’ LONG-TERM SOBRIETY?
Even after detox is complete, sobriety is a lifelong journey requiring an active support network and frequent parrying of temptation. Give a center bonus points if it sponsors its own support groups, checks on former clients periodically or has a strong alumni network.
After reviewing all the above, ask yourself one last question: allowing for general nervousness about the situation, does the center just “feel right”? Gut feelings are more accurate than we usually give them credit for. If this is the best rehab center for you, your deepest instincts will confirm it.
If you have more questions about finding affordable addiction treatment or about our rehab facility, please contact one of our admission counselors. They are available 24 hours/day, 7 days/week and all calls are 1