Ten Questions to Ask a Treatment Center

Holding a question sign.

You are a parent, a spouse, or a son or daughter of an addict. You’re looking for help for your loved one. Or you are yourself struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism, and you need to find help. The first thing to know is that help is available.

But maybe you already know that. Perhaps you already know that there are thousands of addiction treatment centers in the U.S. alone, and tens of thousands more internationally. Maybe your current struggle is not in finding help, but instead, it’s in finding the right help.

Addiction treatment is something that you want to get right the first time if you can. That makes one’s selection of which treatment center to go to almost as important as the fact of just going to treatment in the first place.

But how does one choose which treatment center to go to? Maybe you or a loved one have been to treatment before, so you have an idea of which aspects to treatment have worked in the past and which haven’t. But even then, and especially if this is your first time seeking out treatment for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to know what to look for in a recovery program.

The process usually begins by having over-the-phone or in-person discussions with representatives from prospective treatment centers. You should ask specific questions of those representatives to gain insight about their programs.

Asking Questions – How to Get to Know a Rehab Program

Want some help in knowing what to ask rehabs? We have some excellent examples of smart questions, both direct and open-ended alike. Getting answers to these questions allows you to learn about the program you’re discussing.

1. How long is the program?

Duration is critical in addiction treatment. Many rehab centers only offer a 28-day program, but this time frame does not serve the participants’ best interests. 28 days is not nearly enough time to overcome a drug problem. However, 28 days is what most insurance programs will pay for, so it’s what most treatment centers offer. Try to find a rehab center that will provide months of treatment.

2. What results do you expect from the individuals who come to your program?

Different rehab centers expect different results. Some programs anticipate that their graduates will need to continue on a medication maintenance program, such as suboxone or methadone. Some programs indicate that a few relapses are normal and to be anticipated. Some programs go the extra distance and insist on total sobriety as the end result with no drug or alcohol use whatsoever. Be sure to know what you want, and work with treatment centers which will provide that.

3. Does your program engage in medication-assisted treatments?

Medication-assisted therapy is a relatively new idea in addiction treatment. In this model, treatment centers trade the end-goal of 100% sobriety for an approach that still includes some drug use, except this kind of drug use is legal and monitored. The idea is that a supplemental, legal drug will make the recovery process easier on the individual. The only problem is, we essentially trade one addiction for another. If you are looking for a program that offers total sobriety, then a medication-assisted treatment program is probably not for you. Don’t confuse a Medical Detox with Medication Assisted Therapy. Sometimes drugs are necessary during detox to ensure a safe initial withdrawal. This should only last around a week and be done in a supervised setting. If drugs are used past this point, you may want to look for another facility

4. How does your program assist recovering addicts in coming down off of drugs and alcohol?

This is an important question. Be sure any treatment center you are considering has a plan for helping their participants in coming down off of drugs and alcohol. A program that does not plan for this usually makes their patients quit cold turkey, an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous process. While some amount of discomfort may be necessary, certain drugs require close medical supervision. Make sure you ask about the facility’s detox protocol. Is a medical detox available?

Man praying with cross.

5. What is the “bigger picture“ of treatment at your program?

This is an open-ended question, and it’s a good idea to throw a few of these in to get a feel for the kind of rehab program you are talking about. Some treatment centers have a bit of an agenda, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The 12 Step program has an approach to addiction treatment that carries with it a strong spiritual element. Participants are expected to follow this path for the rest of their lives. Other programs are heavily religious, incorporating their chosen belief system into the recovery program. Know what you want in this regard and be sure to ask as to a prospective program’s “higher calling,” if they have one.

6. What are the meals like at your treatment center? 

You can tell a lot about a treatment center by how they feed their clients. A treatment center should offer tasty meals, but the focus should be on healthy meals and well-planned food groups that are conducive to healing the body.

7. Does your program focus on any other areas besides addiction withdrawal?

This is important. Addiction is a multi-faceted crisis, with its tendrils of destruction reaching their way into just about every area of a person’s life. A good program will offer “electives” of sorts. These are usually additional services which help prepare a recovering addict for life after treatment.

Young women studying.

8. What are your thoughts about life skills and are those offered at your center?

The staff at a good rehab center know that, while they certainly can do much for their clients, they are still only the first step in a recovering addict’s long journey to a better life. Therefore, a good rehab will do their absolute best to help their clients prepare for their life after treatment. This ties in with the previous question, “Does your program focus on any other areas other than addiction withdrawal?” Be sure to ask representatives if their programs offer life skills, and if so what kind of life skills and how they go about providing them. Recovering from addiction means getting one’s finances in order, learning how to pick one’s friends, how to repair relationships, how to get and keep a job, how to organize one’s life and plan for the future, and so on.

9. What are your program’s beliefs about addiction?

Different rehabs feel differently about this one. Some believe that addiction is a chronic disease of the brain. Some think that it is a poor moral choice. Others feel as though addiction is a crippling affliction, but something which can absolutely be addressed and removed with permanence. Make sure you pick a rehab center who’s beliefs align with yours.

10. Does your program offer any aftercare, i.e., ongoing support post graduation from the center, and if so, how does it go about doing this?

This one is important, too, yet many rehabs don’t go this extra distance. A good rehab will stay in touch with their graduated clients, ensuring that life back out in the real world is working for them. Such rehabs will supply help and assistance when necessary.

Much goes into addiction recovery. Be sure to ask the above questions and any others you might think of. Getting clean or helping your loved one to do so will be one of the most significant events in your life. The decision on where to go for treatment is vitally important. Take your time, ask your questions, get a good feel for the programs you are considering, and your (or your loved one’s) recovery experience will be all the better for it.

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Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, MCAP, RAS



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.