Over the years I have looked at many different drug rehabs and been asked I don't know how many times how to choose a rehab for drugs or alcohol. Recently I have evaluated several programs for different people and in a couple cases the person contracted me in advance to do a bit of due diligence on a center prior to them admitting themselves or their family member.
If you have ever read any of this blog before you will know I was the CEO for a very popular center in Thailand for a time and the marketing director for the better part of a decade before that. What did I learn while doing that? Well all the tricky words and techniques to make a center sound more qualified then they are. So below you will see some of my criteria when looking at how to choose a rehab.
First though lets talk about the drug and alcohol rehabilitation business, if you are looking at anything other then a government run drug and alcohol center then it is a business and there is ALLOT of money involved. There is fierce competition between centers and companies. In many countries rehab centers are starting to get bought up and merged with large healthcare providers. Why? Because of the amount of money involved and with the new healthcare laws in the USA HMOs will have to pay for rehab.
With estimates of 22 million people in the USA alone that are addicted to drug or alcohol and an average price of 20 - 30 thousand dollars for a one month drug or alcohol rehab program and you can start to get an idea of the size of the industry. Basically if we use the average number of 25k for a one month program and there are 22 million people needing rehab that is over 500 billion dollars worth needed outstanding medical care.
It has attracted the attention of allot of big and small players alike. That said of course not all the people are going to goto rehab in the same year, however I read an article that the rehab industry was expected to do 35 billion in revenue in 2014 and over 2.5 million people would go for treatment.
In the USA alone there are over 14,000 treatment centers.
So what happens when the industry gets that big? Well some people start getting into it for the wrong reasons, money. Right off the bad I would like to state, almost all the centers I refer to are for profit, private companies. The shareholders want to earn money from their investments and need to balance the books in order to stay in business. That said the centers I refer to are good programs done right and don't skimp on the necessary aspects of treatment. By that I mean they might buy generic bottled water and not Evian Mineral Water but their therapists are properly trained, qualified and given the resources they need to do their job properly. Unfortunately not all the centers I see are as ethical.
How to Choose a Rehab - Visit if You Can?
The first step if you are considering a local rehab and you want to know how to choose a rehab, go visit them and see the place if that is a possibility. If they refuse to give you a tour and let you talk to the staff in the center then that should be a warning light right off the bat. They may not allow you to speak with or meet clients and that is fine, it could be a confidentiality policy and I have no problem with that but you can ask to speak with previous graduates of the drug or alcohol program. If it is a good program there should be plenty of people that are willing to tell you about their experience in the center even if they are not willing to use their own names. When I was running the rehab I had a number of past clients that were more then happy to talk to potential new people considering the center providing we took pains to ensure their anonymity. This was fairly easy to do by us calling the person then handing the phone to the potential new client.
How To Choose a Rehab - The Quality of Staff
Next step, look at their marketing materials, by that I mean printed as well as websites. Forget about all the pictures of how pretty the place is and shots of food, etc. Providing your getting 3 squares a day and a decent bed to sleep in thats not important. Go directly to their "about us" page and look for their "team" link.
There should be a number of qualified professionals working there. By qualified I don't mean people that have in their bio, "I was an addict for 12 years and have been in recovery for 25 years. I know what works." I don't give a lick about your personal history, what are your professional qualifications? Having a history of addiction can be a good thing in this industry but that shouldn't be the only qualifying criteria of being an addiction counsellor. You want people with psychology degrees and counselling certifications from verifiable schools and counselling bodies. If I had a nickel for everyone that sent me a resume with BS qualifications and diploma mill degrees on it I would be a rich man. As I said above personal history of addiction can be a useful tool for a drug and alcohol counsellor however it is not enough, there needs to be a solid verifiable qualifications and certifications of their training.
When I am auditing a rehab for a client I go a step farther and actually call the universities and qualifying bodies and check that the person actually has the certification or degree. I have never actually called and found out someone didn't, as the people that don't are never willing to sign the privacy waiver allowing me to get the information from the schools. A fair number wouldn't sign the waivers by the way and I do not recommend or refer clients to the centers with staff that refused to allow me to do a background check on their staffs qualifications.
So when looking at their websites if they do not list their staff with qualifications on the site then that will make me very suspicious. I start to think, if the staff are proud of their program why aren't they willing to attach their names to it? Or why doesn't the management want me to be able to check out the people working their prior to me calling? Basically, no qualified staff listed on a site smells wrong to me.
Also be sure to look at the people that will be treating you, not just the Founder or CEO of the center. Chances are the CEO of the center is going to be very busy with the business end of the company and not treating clients much if at all.
How to Choose a Rehab - What is Their Refund Policy?
Next, and this is more important when you are going overseas for treatment and can't visit the center in advance. What is the companies refund policy? If you show up and you have already paid and the place is a dump and not at all like the marketing materials and what they have told you in advance, can you get your money back? If you can how much of it will you get back? If the company is not willing to give refunds then they are not very confident in their ability to keep you there are they?
Be sure you check their refund policy and that you are happy with it and can live with it.
How to Choose a Rehab - If They Call Themselves Dual-Diagnosis
If the place is calling itself a "dual diagnosis" center ask them what they mean exactly by that. Since if they are truly a dual diagnosis center then there should be a Psychiatrist, qualified Psychologist or a qualified Therapist for your particular issue on staff. There are very few centers in the world with full time psychiatrists, first it would be prohibitively expensive and secondly they are not needed full time. Their job is more to come in when they are needed for an hour or so then head back to the hospital or their private practice. That said if it is dual diagnosis then they should have a Psychiatrist ready availability when required. As for a Psychologist or Therapist on staff that is a different story and if they are going to be treating mental disorders in conjunction with drug and alcohol addiction then they should have one on staff full time.
The Differences between the three from Carl Janowitz's website:
• A Marriage and Family Therapist has a master’s degree in psychology, counselling psychology, clinical psychology, or marital and family therapy. Emphasis is on primary service in counselling and psychotherapy from a variety of therapeutic orientations with individuals, couples, families, and groups.
• A Psychologist possesses a doctoral degree in psychology or a related field with a license to practice therapy and often conducts psychological testing and research.
• A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in psychiatry. Emphasis is on prescribing and monitoring psychotropic medications and sometimes offers psychotherapy.
How to Choose A Rehab - Success Rates
Next is success rates, I am not going to get into success rates here and if you are interested in my take on way most success rates are misleading you can read my article on Drug and Alcohol Rehab Success Rates basically to summarize a couple thousand word rant on the topic into just a few, "If it sounds to good to be true, it is!"
How to choose a rehab - Their Philosophy on Treating Addiction
Another thing you are going to want to look at when asking how to choose a rehab is their philosophy on treating addiction. All rehabs are different and so are all addicts. Make sure that you pick a center that does not contradict your core beliefs. An examples of this, if you are an atheist I wouldn't recommend a faith based program where you are going to be spending the majority of your time in prayer and studying religious texts. On the other hand if you already have strong religious beliefs that might be just the program for you.
How to Choose a Rehab - Industry Certifications
A lot of similar articles to this one from other people on how to choose a rehab will say first that you need to be sure they are certified. Where I don't think that is a bad thing and it can be useful, when looking at centers around the world you would need to know what was entailed in getting certified in the country that the rehab is located for the certification to have any real meaning. Also what you will see a considerable amount is logos like NAATP - National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers being plastered all over rehab websites. Sounds great right? But what is NAATP? Well from their vision and mission statement:
Vision Statement NAATP is the leading voice of addiction treatment providers. Mission Statement NAATP’s mission is to provide leadership, advocacy, training and other member support services to assure the continued availability and highest quality of addiction treatment.
What does that mean? They are a industry lobby group. To be a member you need to meet their basic qualifications, fill out an application and pay your dues. Please don't get me wrong here they are a good organization and do good work, however they are not what many rehab websites would have you believe they are. They are an industry membership and lobby group, they do not come around and visit your center and check your qualifications. Providing you meet the basic requirements of having something to do with the industry and pay your dues you can display their logo on your website. This is not like JCI where they will come to your center, background check your staff, program, record keeping, etc. etc. etc.
So as far as I am concern most of the "certifications" that a rehab business can get are irrelevant to my way of thinking, I am much more interested in the peoples experience and qualifications that will be hands on treating you. What is the point to you personally of the CEO of a rehab having every qualification and certificate known to man if he or she is never at the center due to the marketing and lecture circuit they are on?
So let me put it this way, if you need a new set of breaks on your car. Who would you rather do the job? A master mechanic with 25 years experience and his trade certifications all up to date with a small backyard, but well set up shop? Or a 19 year old 1st year apprentice who is working at the a large auto repair chain with the really fancy signs and great TV advertising and the owner of the 15 chain auto repair center is a master tradesman but doesn't touch your car?
How to Choose a Rehab - Conclusion
In conclusion also remember when you are reading their websites that you are reading sales and marketing materials. The only purpose of their websites is to promote their program and get you to call them. No matter what you think about the people on the other end of the phone it is a sales pitch, they are probably not going to tell you, "You know I don't think this is the right program for you, our competition could probably serve you better." When asking how to choose a rehab, the due diligence is your responsibility.
If you need I can be contracted to do the due diligence for you where by I will assess a center or several of them against your personal requirements and then give my opinion on the best center for your needs as well as check the qualifications of the staff. If I can be of any help to you on how to choose a rehab for drugs or alcohol please don't hesitate to get in touch, my contact details are on the Contact Page.