How to Advocate for Your Health Needs During the Rehab Admissions ProcessAnna Ciulla
The decision you’ve made to go to rehab for problems with drugs or alcohol no doubt took a great deal of thought, courage and determination. Now that you’re about to physically get admitted, however, you must come equally prepared, motivated and determined to be your own advocate for your health needs. While the rehab admissions process may seem daunting, it needn’t be. Use this opportunity to be forthright about what you want and need during your time in treatment.
BRING A COMPLETE LIST OF YOUR MEDICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS
You might think you’ll remember everything, yet once you sit before the admissions counselor, your mind may go blank. After all, this is an unfamiliar environment you’re entering and you’re likely a bit anxious. It helps to gather all the pertinent information about your medical and mental health conditions, along with dates, doctors, medications taken in the past and currently, the last time you consumed alcohol or used drugs, and/or any past rehab admissions or relapses.
The goal of the admissions counselor at this point of the screening process is to find out where you’re at, medically and psychologically. In fact, medical and psychological evaluations are completed upon admission, giving much more insight into what is going on with the patient physically than what can be gleaned from a mere phone call. The evaluation happens relatively early in the process of admitting someone to treatment. Alex Novello, assistant director of admissions at Beach House Center for Recovery, says that most people are very forthcoming, almost immediately listing their concerns and expectations with respect to medical practices and protocol. “Many of our patients have been to multiple facilities before, and they often have horror stories specific to their previous treatment stays,” says Novello, “so it’s important that we figure out exactly what the patient wants and needs and determine whether we can deliver or not as early into the process as possible.”
Novello adds that patients are not all that upfront about other issues, such as their weight, sexual orientation, true drug use history and other issues— especially during a formal pre-screen. That’s why Novello’s personal preference is to spend plenty of time talking with clients and their families directly, getting as many details as possible, prior to performing the formal pre-screening. That way, he says, if something doesn’t add up during the formal pre-screen, he can refer to his notes about what had already been said during previous conversations. “The added time I spend getting to know the patient beforehand does help tremendously in helping the client feel more comfortable with being completely honest,” Novello says.
HOW TO CALM YOUR NERVES
About your emotions, it’s normal to be anxious when you’re facing the unknown. This applies to many situations in life, and especially so when you’re about to be admitted to drug and alcohol rehab. Even if you’ve been to rehab before and think you know what will happen, there’s always the possibility that this time will be different, either positively or negatively.
- For this reason, it’s a good idea to acknowledge that you’re nervous during the admissions process. The admissions counselor likely can sense your uneasiness, based on body language, the tone of your voice, and short answers to questions about your history of drug and alcohol use.
- Take a few deep breaths and you’ll begin to feel the stress and tension ease.
- Envision being happy, healthy and drug-free. This is what you’re coming to rehab for, and setting the stage for your desired outcome is vitally important.
IF THERE’S SOMETHING YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT, BRING IT UP NOW
Concerns about what’s going on at home while you’re away at rehab can detract from the effectiveness of treatment. Novello says individuals’ main concern is being far away, because of their responsibilities. It doesn’t matter if it is their job, school, kids, or spouses, the concern over distance boils down to the fact that leaving their home state for treatment makes it harder for people to leave early as they are not in a place that they know. This is really fear of the unknown. “Parents and loved ones are terrified of a world scenario where they’re not in control, and individuals are afraid of the same thing, just typically for different reasons,” Novello says.
As for being worried about being far from home for rehab, Novello recommends patients get out of their home town and out of their state if they can. “You never want to stand inside the blast radius of your own self-destruction,” he says. “People need to become aware that staying within walking or driving distance of the places they got high in, or the people they got high with, is setting themselves up to fail.” He notes that even those who willingly check themselves into rehab are going to have strong cravings and desires to use again while in treatment. “Their brains have been remapped to do just this, so going into treatment in the heart of the world you know is a terrible idea – as soon as someone gets a strong enough urge, they’re out of there. Trust me, I did it five times.”
Delving deeper into your concerns, you may be worried that your health needs cannot adequately be handled at any treatment facility, especially if you’ve gone to previous rehab centers without success. For example, women with substance use disorders (SUDs) have unique needs that may require a specialized treatment approach. So do pregnant women and adolescents. Older adults who’ve become addicted to prescription drugs may have special needs as well as physical conditions requiring specialized care.
It’s important to realize, though, that whatever your unique health needs, there is help available at one or another treatment center. Although Beach House is a dual diagnosis treatment facility, fully capable of addressing and treating issues like anxiety, diabetes, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in conjunction with SUDs, “if a patient is in need of a higher level of care than what we offer, it’s best to find that out right away and get them the help they need elsewhere before they change their mind to get help,” Novello says. “Time is always of the essence in situations like this regardless of whether the individual wants help or not, so accelerating the process according to the needs of the individual is quite common.”
Along with inquiring how your medical issues, such as diabetes, anxiety, depression, co-occurring disorders, polydrug use and others will be handled during drug and alcohol detox and treatment, make sure you talk about staying in touch with your family, when they’ll be able to visit, whether family treatment is also available, and other important, and possibly worrisome, aspects of treatment.
WHY HONESTY IS SO IMPORTANT
While you may be tempted to gloss over certain details or tell a less-than-complete account of your alcohol and drug use, it is not in your best interest to hold back. There is no shame in addiction, nor should you feel afraid to talk openly to admissions counselors about your history of substance abuse. Your treatment will be customized to meet your specific needs, so the more the treatment professionals know about your history, the better able they will be to address the areas of most concern. In short, be honest and state the facts as calmly as you can. If you become emotional, however, that’s fine too. This is a pivotal time in your life and getting treatment to overcome addiction is the first step on your recovery journey.
“Be open and honest as early as possible,” Novello advises. “If there are issues and concerns, whether medical or psychological, lead with them.” It’s also important to ensure that the facility you get in touch with can properly handle whatever situation you find yourself in. “People do not get many shots at rehab, so making sure you’re in the right place for you is paramount.”
Bottom line: Speak up and be proactive in advocating for your health needs, both during the rehab admissions process and throughout your treatment. If something doesn’t feel right, or you want to explore additional therapies that may be available, assert yourself and ask for what you want and need.
American Psychological Association. “Anxiety.” Retrieved May 29, 2018.
Beach House. “Admissions Process.” Retrieved May 29, 2018.
Beach House. “Drug & Alcohol Detox Programs.” Retrieved May 29, 2018.
Beach House. “Dual Diagnosis Treatment.” Retrieved May 29, 2018.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.” Retrieved May 29, 2018.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).” “What are the unique needs of adolescents with substance use disorders?” Retrieved May 29, 2018.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition.” “What are the unique needs of pregnant women with substance use disorders?” Retrieved May 29, 2018.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).” “What are the unique needs of women with substance use disorders?” Retrieved May 29, 2018.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Co-occurring Disorders.” Retrieved May 29, 2018.