How to Pick the Right Drug and Alcohol Treatment

When you or a loved one is in need of drug and alcohol treatment, many questions arise and it may become overwhelming. As with any service, there are multiple providers, varying philosophies and modalities of treatment, ranges of lengths of stay and intensities, pricing differences, and reputations. If you’re not in the business of treating addiction, all of these variations can be a bit much. How do you know? How do you find out?

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When you or a loved one is in need of drug and alcohol treatment, many questions arise and it may become overwhelming. As with any service, there are multiple providers, varying philosophies and modalities of treatment, ranges of lengths of stay and intensities, pricing differences, and reputations. If you’re not in the business of treating addiction, all of these variations can be a bit much. How do you know? How do you find out?  

The good news is that most treatment providers have staff available to walk you through the process or, at least, get you started with an assessment. Most facilities have websites that are equipped with assessment tools and emergency contact information to speak to a live person. It is our job to educate you to the various treatments available and, most importantly, to the most appropriate services for the person in need. It is your job to ask a lot of questions to determine your comfort and level of confidence in the treatment provider.  

In the treatment world, there are different levels of care. The severity of the addiction determines the most beneficial type of treatment.  

The most intensive level of care is detoxification, which is usually in an inpatient setting, medically monitored, and can last typically 3 to 5 days. Outpatient detoxification is available, but generally has very specific narrow criteria. This is a physical rehabilitation and must only be the first step with more help needed to ensure long-term sobriety.  

Residential treatment, which can vary in length, is usually a 30-day program requiring the person to stay at the facility. This is very beneficial for those who are in crisis, are not living in a safe environment, are not showing stability, have had multiple relapses, and those who have completed detoxification. 


Partial hospitalization is similar to the residential program, but the person in treatment may live at home and attend programming at the facility daily, usually 8 to 9 hours a day. Some partial programs are separate from the residential programs while others integrate residential and partial hospitalization clients in groups.   


Intensive outpatient programming, which can be 8 weeks or longer, is great for people who are able to work or go to school and have a stable, supportive living environment. Intensive outpatient programs require weekly attendance for a total of 9 to 10 hours a week.  

With so many variables, it is important to remember that each person will respond differently to each treatment. So, there is not one way of doing treatment. When interviewing providers, make sure they are nationally licensed by either the Joint Commission or CARF. It is important to find a provider that you trust, that is professional, has a good reputation for recovery treatment, is genuine and caring, and that uses various treatment approaches in their programming. It is the job of the provider to assess your needs and develop an individualized program to meet those needs. It is important for the provider to combine group and individual therapies and to involve family members and loved ones. It is important for the provider to assess mental health issues and address these issues or refer to an outside professional for further evaluation and treatment. It is important for the provider to show ethical and clinical expertise, good customer relations and compassion. I would also ask about 12-step involvement and aftercare services.

It is the provider’s job to guide you in this process of recovery, so you and your family can take the necessary steps for starting a life of recovery. It is also acceptable to ask about return policies and how they handle relapse. Some programs likes ours include a return policy during the first year for certain clients who stay for 30-35 days.

Blog written by George Joseph, LCDC
George Joseph is a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor who began his career in 1983. George is the CEO of The Right Step,...