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How to Pick the Right Addiction Treatment Program

January 02, 2024

When you or a loved one is ready for substance use treatment, success can hinge on the facility you choose. “It absolutely matters where someone gets treatment for alcohol or substance use disorder. People are most open to – and successful in – programs where they feel comfortable, safe and well taken care of,” notes J. Craig Allen, MD, vice president of addiction for Hartford HealthCare and medical director of Rushford, part of the system’s Behavioral Health Network. Here's what you need to consider. [insert-cta-small id=53158]

Choosing the right level of treatment.

There are several options to choose from, depending on the level of care you are looking for:
  • Medical detox/withdrawal management. Sometimes, especially after periods of chronic and/or heavy use, it’s best to start your path to recovery with a supervised program. This allows you to go through withdrawal with healthcare providers on hand to provide medications that ease symptoms while monitoring you for safety.
  • Residential treatment. On a special patient unit, you can access medical and psychiatric services like individual and group counseling, coping skills education and relapse prevention classes. Usually, stays range from 14 to 28 days, but can be longer depending on your situation and resources. In this structured sober setting, you can focus on your recovery. “Staying in treatment for enough time, based on the severity of your addiction, is critical to success,” Dr. Allen notes.
  • Partial hospital program. Also called “day programming,” this includes an intensive level of care five days a week with four or more hours of group therapy a day. You can return home at night. This can be an effective choice for people with stable living environments and strong support networks.
  • Intensive outpatient program. This supports those with stable, sober home environments with coping mechanisms, establishing a support system and avoiding relapse. You can try this after a residential stay to ease back into everyday life.
  • Outpatient treatment. More flexible, this can range from a few hours once a week to daily sessions.
> Related: How to Help Someone Who May Be Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol

What to look for in a substance use facility.

  1. A high success rate. When checking treatment facilities, Dr. Allen suggests researching their success rate and the approaches the clinical team follows. “It should be a place where the interventions and treatment offered are patient-centered, individualized and backed by evidence showing effectiveness,” he says.
  2. Treatments that are evidence-based. There are many ways to treat substance use disorders. But, when looking at interventions and treatments, Dr. Allen suggests making sure “real people in the real world have benefitted from this specific intervention or treatment.” One example is Food and Drug Administration-backed medications to combat opioid use disorder. Studies show that using one - methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone - significantly reduces the risk of dying from an opioid overdose, keeps people in treatment and decreases the use of illicit drugs. “Talk therapy or community support programs alone do not share these results,” Dr. Allen says.
  3. A wide range of treatment and support options. A high quality facility offers a number of different ways to treat and support you in recovery. Dr. Allen suggests choosing a facility that offers:
    1. Medical and psychiatric providers who are actively involved in assessment and treatment
    2. Motivational interviewing and enhancement
    3. Cognitive behavioral therapy
    4. Physical activity
    5. Accudetox
    6. Exposure to nature and outdoor environments
    7. Collaboration with other providers to ensure seamless transitions as people move from inpatient to outpatient care.