If you’re in a large city, you might find a bewildering array of treatment options. In a rural area, your choices might be more limited. Although there are a variety of factors to take into account when choosing a treatment program (or any kind of behavioral health care), the three important factors below should be at the top of your list:
Continuum of Care
Outpatient addiction treatment programs can be intensive or non-intensive. In a non-intensive program, group therapy is one hour long; in an intensive program, it can be three or more hours.
Addiction treatment programs can provide or refer to a variety of addiction treatment/behavioral health services such as: detox, medication assisted treatment, individual, family and group therapy, inpatient treatment, sober houses, auricular acupuncture, vocational assistance, life skills, trauma therapy, anger management, domestic violence therapy, relapse prevention, DWI, parenting groups, closed 12-step meetings, and more.
Although many programs do not provide the complete range of services listed above, it is important to know this before you begin treatment. You need to know if the treatment program you are considering will be able to refer you to other treatment options should you want them or should they be recommended by a counselor during the course of therapy, even if they aren’t offered by the program you’re enrolling in.
For example, if you enter outpatient treatment and during treatment it’s determined that inpatient treatment is necessary, the program should be able to refer you to the appropriate level of care, even if they themselves do not offer inpatient treatment. Or, if you’ve had a traumatic life experience that opened the gateway to substance use in the past, treatment should include therapy for this trauma. If the outpatient program where you’re getting treatment isn’t able to offer you appropriate therapy, then the program should committed to referring you to a private therapist or an outpatient mental health clinic.
Ask what a program offers when you call up for an appointment. If they only offer some services, be sure to ask if they will refer you to other services should you need them. Do this before you schedule your initial appointment. If there are simply no programs in your area that meet your requirements, and you’re unable to travel further, you should still enter treatment. Some treatment is better than no treatment at all. Addiction treatment might save your life.
Good Match For Your Demographic (Including Experienced Staff)
Are you a senior citizen or teenager? Do you belong to a certain ethnic group and feel most comfortable with members of that group? Is English your second language? Is your religion/spirituality a focal point of your life and belief system? Have you been diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder? Do you have TBI (traumatic brain injury)? Are you hearing or sight impaired? Do you have problems with mobility? Are you a veteran?
These and other important facts about who you are and how you live can all impact treatment. It’s helpful, and maybe even vital to successful treatment, that the program counselors/therapists have some experience working with people you can relate to. If a therapist has never worked with clients from certain cultures they are most likely not to be familiar with that culture’s belief systems and may find it challenging to work within the patient’s frame of reference.
It’s also very helpful and in many cases essential for you to have relatable peers in group therapy. Obviously, speaking the same language is important, but other factors also matter. A teenager in a group of older professionals won’t connect as easily with other members of the group. Of course not everyone has to be a perfect match, but feeling a connection with other members of a group from the start is helpful.
During the initial phone call, ask if counselors have worked with clients like you. Secondarily, ask if group sessions include clients from your demographic. Be prepared to enter treatment even if the answer is no: If you need help, get help, even if what’s available isn’t a perfect fit. Some treatment is better than no treatment. Addiction treatment may save your life.
Access to Care
Do you work week days and can only be free for treatment in the evenings and on weekends? Do you do shift work and can only come into treatment very early in the mornings? Do you rely on public transportation?
Often overlooked, access to care may be the single-most important factor in getting the help you need. If you can’t access care that works with your life schedule, you won’t be able to move forward with treatment. If you rely on public transportation and a treatment program is far away from any transit stops, you won’t be able to get there.
Get program hours and location before you make your initial appointment. Make sure all treatment is available during the hours you’re available. Also, make sure you can get to the facilities. Accessing treatment is essential. If the hours or location of a program won’t work, go somewhere else. If you can’t find another program that meets your needs, you may have to rearrange your work hours or ask a friend or family member to drive you to treatment. Whatever you do, don’t give up. Some treatment is better than no treatment. Addiction treatment may save your life.
In the next post, I’ll be discussing a treatment option that is becoming more and more effective and available.