What makes a great rehab center: The devil is in the details

A double-edged sword has made this the decade of the modern rehabilitation center. With an increase in rehab marketing, those suffering from addiction are more quickly able to find facilities offering services that they need. While this is good for those in the business of running rehab clinics, the fact points to an uncomfortable truth: the rise in rehabilitation clinics is only a reaction to the rising need for them.

A long-term escalation of opioid painkiller and heroin addictions find more and more Americans in desperate need of quality care for their recovery process. The growth in rehab markets can also be attributed to the Affordable Care Act, which allowed many more addicts to use their insurance to cover rehabilitation services. With so many treatment facilities, it may be necessary to review what makes a rehabilitation facility a success. It may seem that all that is required is to rent an office and hire a therapist to create a rehabilitation facility almost overnight. Renting a home that can be converted into a dormitory takes the facility a step further as a residential treatment option

Glossy brochures and advertisements aside, what really makes a rehabilitation facility a success? Let’s consider some of the factors. The bottom line is what the clinic’s success rate might be for sending its clients back into the world clean and sober. Unfortunately, this is a tricky question. As American Addiction Centers notes “there is no standard definition of rehab, so there is no standardized way to measure the success of addiction centers.”

Does success mean clean and sober as a client leaves the facility? Keeping someone clean and sober for a month, when their access to drugs and alcohol are restricted, may not be such a difficult task. But what about three months after they leave the clinical setting? What about six months later, or a year later? Without standardized measurements, a clinic can boast about its success rate without any clear indication of what they are bragging about.

Having credentialed staff members is certainly a solid measurement of a clinic’s effectiveness, but even here there are disparities in what “credentialed” can really mean. “All staff are credentialed as addiction recovery counselors” might mean that their staff has all attended an afternoon lecture and been given a certificate of attendance. Certainly, you need more details than that to appreciate the staff’s expertise.

The answer to figuring all this out does lie in the details. To get to the bottom of the question, in so many words, you need to be armed with the right questions to ask. A lot rides on the answers, so arm yourself with a pad of paper and a pen and don’t be shy.

Certainly, ask about a clinic success rate and how they define success. Ask also how do they define relapses and what services are available if that occurs.

Ask about staff credentials, but go right down to asking what colleges they attended and how many years of experience they have. Ask about the staff-to-patient ratio, but also about the number of credentialed staff. Sometimes there’s a lot of staff, but most of them are untrained workers.

Ask what therapy methods they employ. What is the clinic’s philosophy on recovery and on therapeutic intervention?

Ask follow-up questions, too. What do the terms they use mean (such as “cognitive-behavioral” therapy or “humanistic approach”)? What emphasis do they put on 12-Step programs? How do group therapy sessions work in their clinic?

Are other activities provided? One cannot be in therapy all day long – but time outside of therapy can be counter-productive if patients are bored. Time outside of therapy is a good time to be exploring activities that can be done without abusing substances.

Of course, ask what kinds of insurance they take and make sure it matches up with yours. Ask if there are services that they use that are not covered by your insurance. You might not want to hear after the fact that you were charged extra for use of the gym or the swimming pool or for a daily massage.

In-service means treatment while a bed and meals are provided. Out-patient care refers to services given while the client lives at home. Ask about how this arrangement affects recovery, especially if scheduling is difficult. Furthermore, recovery is often thought to be a life-long commitment. Ask what that means from the clinical point of view.

What services are provided after a patient leaves the facility? Is there follow up therapy? Can a patient expect to make positive connections in the community – including schooling, jobs, new activities, new friends?

After this is all done, ask as many follow questions as you can imagine and then make sure you check in with your gut reaction. Does this clinic simply feel right or wrong for you? Remember, recovery is awkward, emotionally difficult and anxiety-provoking, but you still need to check in with your gut instinct and make sure you find a place that is challenging, straight-forward and comfortable in your eyes. If you don’t understand their methods, then that clinic might not be the best fit.