Substance Abuse Treatment: Questions to Ask When Choosing a Treatment Program


By Jennifer McGregor

Selecting the proper treatment program for a substance abuse problem is overwhelming. New programs with varying methods are cropping up everywhere, leaving you unsure where to even begin. Here are some key questions you must ask when considering a rehabilitation program.

What Do I Need?

Take a moment to reflect on yourself. Do you need an inpatient or outpatient program? Inpatient care or residential rehabilitation is 24 hour supervision and may be beneficial for more severe cases such as those involving more than mere addiction. Those with underlying issues such as suicidal thoughts or mental disorders may be better off immersed in a safe environment.

Outpatient programs consist of meetings, allowing you to continue living your life at home. These work best for less severe cases. Do you have specific needs involving diet, religion, morality, or other circumstances? For example, a less spiritual person may find themselves resistant to programs that employ things like meditation. Try to consider what you feel you will best respond to.

Are you a dog person? Animal rehab is making its way into mainstream programs and can be hugely beneficial for those who respond well to animals. Do you prefer a group or one on one setting? If you are more introverted, it may be best to avoid large group therapy programs where you may feel uncomfortable discussing your issues.

Make a list of some things you would like to see in a program along with things you know you want to avoid. Use this list when researching different programs and don’t be afraid to be picky. With so many programs, one undesirable trait is enough to eliminate a program as an option.

What Services Are Offered and Are They Licensed?

An immediate red flag when choosing a therapy program is lack of credentials. A rehabilitation center should have proper licensing which means they are state-accredited and the professionals in charge have the proper degrees and certifications to be performing their jobs.

Check for mental health and addiction specialist certifications. A true, licensed program should provide success statistics and offer services for relapse. Ideally, their program schedule should be easily accessible and align with proper mental health and addiction treatment. With these things in mind, you can be aware of false programs in your search.

Are Their Methods Backed By Science?

Do a little research on the methods each program uses. If they are tried and true, you should have no shortage of scientific studies backing their claims. If you have to dig for evidence to support their claim, it is likely their methods are little more than placebo effect.

An ideal program should incorporate behavioral therapy along with proper medications. Other valuable components include group therapy sessions and an underlying theme of patient motivation.

Does it Feel Right to You?

Most important is your response to the program. If you arrive for a session and feel negatively toward the methods or healthcare professionals, it will be very difficult for you to benefit from their program. A mental opposition to anything is a definite way to slow progress. Schedule a meeting with the person you will work with, get an overview, and assess how you feel. Gut reaction is not something to ignore, particularly when it comes to your mental health.

Overcoming substance abuse is never easy. But choosing the right program and the right group of people can make a world of difference on your road to recovery. With something as important as your well-being, make sure you do the research. Everyone is different and what helps one person does not necessarily help you. Keep in mind your list of needs and settle for only the best.



Jennifer McGregor has wanted to be a doctor since she was little. Now, as a pre-med student, she’s well on her way to achieving that dream. She helped create with a friend as part of a class project. With it, she hopes to provide access to trustworthy health and medical resources. When Jennifer isn’t working on the site, you can usually find her hitting the books in the campus library or spending some downtime with her dog at the local park.


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