Picking a Rehab Center
Here’s What Makes a Rehab Center One of the Best
No two drug and alcohol rehab experiences are quite the same—some programs are more effective than others. A quick look at any treatment directory shows hundreds of American rehab centers with hundreds of unique approaches!
With so much variety, how do you find a center with the right treatment approach?
It’s hard to point to specific traits that make a rehab center “the best.” However, studies show that certain program traits are more effective in rehab than others.
Research says that the best treatment centers have these factors in common:
- An individualized approach: Cookie-cutter rehab treatments just don’t work! It takes customized care to set you up for success in recovery.
- Behavioral therapy: Therapy helps you learn to change your behavior. Controlling your behavior means control over your disorder.
- Biopsychosocial methods: This means treatment that considers every part of the client. That includes the body, the mind, and the support system.
- Long-term programs: Treatment works best when it lasts 3 months or longer. The best treatment centers offer long-term programs.
- Medication-assisted treatment: Also called MAT, this treatment is the use of medication to treat cravings.
- Medical detox: If you have a substance use disorder, you’ll have to go to detox. Detox keeps you comfortable during the early parts of withdrawal.
- Open admissions: Being added to a months-long waitlist doesn’t help anyone! The best treatment centers make an effort to keep access open for people who can’t wait.
- Ongoing check-ins: No two people move through treatment at the same pace. Your care team will check in with you regularly and change your plan according to your needs.
Most treatment centers won’t check every box on this list—however, the more boxes you can check, the better.
Prioritize the factors that are the most important to you. For instance, not everyone is a good candidate for MAT, so you might lower the priority on that. But open admissions is helpful for everyone, so that’s a great factor to prioritize.
What to Look for When Deciding on a Rehab Center
That’s not all—there are some special factors that every rehab center should fulfill. The most important factors in choosing a rehab center include:
- Accreditation and licensing: A facility that’s licensed and accredited is being held to strict standards by a third party.
- Evidence-based treatments: Centers that offer evidence-based therapies are careful to choose only therapies that are backed by science.
- Alternative treatments: Non-traditional therapies can include yoga, meditation, art therapy, and biofeedback.
- Specialized programs: Sometimes, community-specific treatment is best. Some examples of specialized programs include LGBT-only, women-only, or Christian-only treatment.
- Staff training: The best rehab centers have support staff who are trained to work with people who have substance use disorders.
Accreditation & Licensing
Accreditation and licensing are different, but both are very important! An accredited rehab center is recognized by a third-party that evaluates rehab centers. Rehab centers that are accredited stand up to strict standards of treatment and client experience.
The two main organizations that accredit rehabs are:
- Joint Commission: The Joint Commission offers a Gold Seal of Approval to selected rehab centers. This standard is one of the most detailed in the industry! Getting a Gold Seal means that your rehab is truly top-notch.
- Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF): CARF recognizes centers that put the individual first in treatment. Treatment centers that excel at monitoring and improving results are the ones that receive CARF recognition.
A licensed rehab center is recognized by the state where it operates. Licensed centers have to operate according to insurance, documentation, and treatment standards. These standards vary from state to state: contact your local Department of Health and Human Services to find yours.
Evidence-based treatment is any treatment that’s been tested and proven. Scientifically backed treatments include:
- Counseling: When substance abuse develops as a result of a stressful home life, counseling can help.
- Cognitive behavior therapy: CBT is a type of talk therapy that teaches you to mind your thoughts and behaviors.
- Dialectical behavior therapy: DBT teaches you mindfulness, a coping skill that can keep you off drugs.
- Family counseling: It’s important to have an involved support system at home. Family counseling can help.
- Group therapy: Don’t underestimate the power of social support! Group therapy can be healing in recovery.
- Medication-assisted treatment: MAT is the use of medications with methadone or buprenorphine. They can help control cravings.
- Motivational interviewing: MI is a therapy technique that teaches you to recognize and follow through on your motivations.
Alternative treatments haven’t been proven the way evidence-based treatments have, but they still have a place next to proven treatments. These treatments work best when you use them alongside evidence-based treatment like CBT.
Some examples of alternative treatments include:
- Art therapy
- Music therapy
- Nature therapy
- Trauma-informed yoga
These treatments have one factor in common. They teach you a healthy coping mechanism to replace a harmful one. Yoga, art, and meditation are all skills that you can turn to for healing when you feel a craving.
In many cases, substance use disorder develops after a traumatic experience. It’s a coping mechanism, but one that harms you instead of putting you in a safe place.
Alternative treatments give you new ways to connect with your feelings when using drugs isn’t an option. This is a skill that’s crucial if you want to sustain your recovery.
No two people have the same needs in rehab, so it’s best for rehab centers to offer programs tailored toward certain groups. Some of the most common alternative programs include:
- Age-based programs (adult-only, teen-only, or senior-only)
- Family-friendly programs (for pregnant women, for women and children)
- Gender-based programs (men-only, women-only, trans-friendly, LGBT-friendly)
- Spiritual programs (Christian, non-denominational)
That’s not all. Other specialized rehab programs include rehab for veterans or pet-friendly rehab. If you have a special need, give us a call—there’s a program out there that fits you.
It’s very important that the people who interact with you in treatment have a sensitive understanding of substance abuse.
Additionally, it’s important to have medically-trained personnel on staff, too. This ensures you can get the care you need, even if you have a complicated detox.
The best rehab centers have addiction-informed staff, including:
If you’re attending a center with a spiritual program, then a spiritual guide, rabbi, or priest may be on-site as well.
This team of care professionals will work together to bring you the best caliber addiction treatment possible.
Learn More About How We Choose Rehab Centers
We provide this information for your knowledge so you can use it in your recovery journey. It’s our goal to help you through the most stressful part of the recovery process: deciding to find treatment, and then finding it!
If you have questions or comments about rehab best practices or if you see any information that might be inaccurate or has changed, contact us at [email protected] today.
Right now is the best time to start your recovery journey!
- Buchman, D. Z., Skinner, W., & Illes, J. (2010). Negotiating the relationship between addiction, ethics, and brain science. AJOB Neuroscience, 1(1), 36-45. doi:10.1080 / 21507740903508609
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Evidence-based approaches to drug treatment. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Principles of effective treatment. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment
We would love your feedback.
Was this article helpful?
Let Us Help
Use our form below to speak with an addictions specialist today. Let our team of experts in the addiction field help point you in the right direction.