Five Things to Look for When Picking the Right Treatment Center

Search on computer.

When I was a kid growing up on the family farm, working on cars, barns, houses, tractors, anything that moved and shouldn’t, or anything that should move and didn’t, my dad used to tell me something that stuck with me to this day.

I’d struggle with a particularly challenging project, and in my teen angst I’d complain to him that the job, “couldn’t be done.” He’d sort of look at me with that wise and ever so slightly judgmental look that parents cast on their ornery teenagers.

“If you have the right tools for the job, the rest is just keeping at it until you figure it out. But if you don’t have the right tools, you’ll never get it done.”

I find a fitting analogy of that life lesson to drug and alcohol addiction treatment — an industry I’ve been involved with for nearly a decade. There are over 14,000 drug and alcohol treatment centers in the United States according to Market Watch, but if those treatment centers don’t have the right tools to help their recovering addicts, how effective will they be?

Asking the Right Questions

If you are seeking help for yourself or a loved one struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, odds are you’ve done some cursory research and looked online for treatment centers in your area. Odds are you’ve also been more than a little overwhelmed by the advertisements, marketing tools, pictures, videos, sales pitches, incentives, etc. Sometimes it can feel like choosing the right treatment center to go to is like buying a used car off the dealership lot. Should it feel like a sales pitch? Of course not.

That’s why knowing which questions to ask, what to talk about when speaking with treatment centers, and how to gauge a representative’s response is critical. For better or for worse, addiction treatment is more or less privatized in the United States. This means that some treatment centers will be more in it for profit margins than success rates. That’s just an unfortunate downside of privatization. However, many centers are non-profit organizations.

Of course, that’s not to say that state or federal-run addiction treatment would be any better. Such programs are often underfunded, understaffed, and operated by individuals not well-versed in addiction and behavioral health.

One has to know how to find the gems, the private treatment centers that do have their prioritizes well worked out, the rehabs which have good intentions and which have the know-how and training to back it all up.

1. An Effective Drug Withdrawal Program Is Key

Narconon withdrawal delivery.

One of the first things you should ask about and look for in a qualified addiction treatment center is how they address drug withdrawal. First off, most rehab centers don’t even touch on this. They don’t have the facilities, licensing, staff, or capacity to tackle this area of the recovery process, so they expect recovering addicts to come to them already “detoxed.” But detoxing on one’s own is dangerous, so a withdrawal program within a treatment center is ideal.

Such a withdrawal program will offer special techniques, good nutrition, physical exercise, and hands-on processes to assist recovering addicts in weaning off of drugs. This is all done in a medically supervised setting so that a recovering individual can feel safe and protected during this difficult time.

Different rehabs have different approaches to this. The best ones use a multitude of holistic techniques Not only to ease withdrawal but also to clean up the body from toxic drug residuals. At the end of this Withdrawal Phase, the person should be “Drug Free.”

2. Treatment Needs to Be Comprehensive

A treatment center needs to be comprehensive and cover all bases. There is no “one size fits all” approach to addiction treatment. Different people are going to require slightly different services that meet their needs. Individual rehabs can carry the flag of their unique program and stand by it, but they need to offer enough variety in their services that recovering addicts from all walks of life can find solace, peace, comfort, and workability from their programs.

3. Friendly, Kind, Compassionate Staff Are Helpful in the Recovery Process

You can tell a lot about a treatment center based off how the staff treat you from your first phone call with them to your arrival at the center itself. Are they curt and businesslike? Sort of like a government office would be? Or are they friendly, warm, welcoming, eager to answer your questions and to make you feel welcome?

Are they compassionate and understanding of you or your loved one’s problem? Or are they a little brusque?

If a phone call with a treatment center reminds you of a visit to the DMV, that’s cause for concern.

For several decades during the 20th century, our nation more or less followed the idea that we needed to be a little harsh with addicts. Such was the approach even when handling them in addiction treatment centers. It was like we had to authoritatively “teach them a lesson” that what they were doing was wrong and that they needed to change.

For as long as we held to that standard, the addiction problem only grew, further exacerbated by the War on Drugs in the late 1900s. Treatment centers that work are treatment centers that handle their clients with dignity and respect, plus compassion, understanding, and a commitment to the betterment and correct application of accepted techniques as evidenced by the Program’s success with its clients.

4. Life Skills Are Crucial in Recovery

Narconon Life Skills Courses.

The life skills component often gets left out, and that’s a real shame. Most rehabs focus only on the addiction itself, ignoring other aspects of a person’s life. That’s a mistake because addiction affects all areas of a person’s life.

While in recovery, it’s important to work on other areas of life that likely suffered due to a person’s drug habit. Rehabs that offer life skills courses prove by that very fact their dedication to recovering the whole person, not just part of them.

5. Ongoing Support from a Treatment Center Is Important

Here’s another misnomer, “All you have to do to get clean from drugs or alcohol is go to a treatment center.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. Going to a treatment center and getting clean is essential and it is the first step towards recovery, but getting off of drugs and alcohol requires so much more than that. Such an effort becomes a journey, something that recovering addicts work at for years.

With that said, treatment centers which go the extra mile to stay in touch with their clients are the types of programs one wants to engage with. This is also called “aftercare.” It’s the effort of the recovery program to maintain a connection with their graduated clients. This ongoing support and help from one’s treatment program can make a huge difference in the overall recovery process.

The Value of Choosing an Excellent Recovery Program

Getting clean from drug and alcohol addiction is a challenge no matter what, but it’s a worthwhile one. Who you work with in this process and how you go about seeking help for yourself or your loved one in doing so will make the most significant difference in the long run.

Be sure to pick a treatment center that has the above characteristics as the very essence of how they do things, as that program will be one which genuinely has your best interests at heart.


Reviewed and Edited by Claire Pinelli ICAADC, LADC, LADC, RAS. MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.