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13 Things to Look for in Quality Treatment

Updated: Apr 22, 2020

Once you meet with a certified professional, he or she will provide you with an in-depth assessment, which helps them determine your diagnosis and create a long-term individualized treatment plan. The following guide explains the step-by-step process of first seeking and then engaging in treatment for a substance use disorder.

What should you look for in a treatment program?

Finding the right treatment program can seem daunting, but this list of questions will help you understand the quality of services being provided and whether or not the program is the right fit.

  1. Is the program licensed and accredited?

  2. Do they use a validated assessment tool to determine what level of care their patient needs?

  3. How do they develop a patient’s treatment plan? Is it personalized? Does the patient play a role in developing the plan?

  4. Do they regularly monitor the patient’s progress and adjust the treatment plan if needed?

  5. How do they motivate patients to remain engaged in treatment?

  6. Do they screen for co-occurring mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and trauma? Do they provide mental health treatment as needed?

  7. Do they provide medications for patients with opioid or alcohol use disorder?

  8. What types of providers work at the facility? What are their credentials?

  9. What is the ratio of patients to staff?

  10. Do they have experience working with patients like you or your loved one (adolescents, LGBTQ, American Indian, veterans?) Can they provide culturally competent care?

  11. How do they respond if a patient relapses?

  12. Do they develop a plan for continuing care when the patient leaves their program? Do they coordinate with the patient’s other healthcare providers?

  13. Do they help engage patients in ongoing recovery support services?

Before Treatment

You should obtain an assessment from your primary care provider or a certified addiction treatment provider. This should, include a complete medical, psychiatric, and substance use history evaluation, and a physical examination.

If you are diagnosed with mild, moderate, or severe substance use disorder, you and your physician will work together to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses your SUD as well as any other physical or mental health conditions that you are experiencing - like chronic pain, depression, or anxiety disorders.

You will establish a mutually agreed upon initial goal between you and your physician - such as abstaining from substance use within six months or only using your medications as prescribed by your doctor.

Steps to achieve your goal should be detailed in a treatment plan, developed with your health care provider, and could include:

  • Medically managed detox if you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms

  • Use of medications

  • Behavioral counseling

  • Schedule for follow-up office visits and laboratory testing to monitor your progress and health status

  • Participation in recovery support services including mutual-help groups or recovery housing

  • Working with a case manager to address any barriers you might be facing in regard to employment, legal, spiritual, educational, housing, or health care coverage

  • Involvement of family or significant others in treatment

  • A plan for treating co-occurring physical or mental health conditions

  • Criteria for progressing to the next level of treatment (for example, transitioning from intensive outpatient treatment to regular counseling services)

You should understand what to expect, including how the proposed therapies work as well as associated risks and benefits.

Written informed consent may be necessary before initiating treatment.

The Treatment Process

  1. Initiate treatment as described in your treatment plan.

  2. Ongoing monitoring of your progress so that the treatment plan can be adjusted as needed.

  3. Explore any uncertainty you might feel about committing to changing behaviors related to substance use and addiction.

  4. Monitoring reduction in substance use through regular and random urine samples.

  5. For patients with opioid use disorder, obtain Narcan/naloxone and education on overdose prevention and reversal.

  6. Work with your counselors to address any problems or challenges with following your treatment plan.

  7. Reduction in destructive thinking through positive, strength-building strategies.

  8. Develop relapse prevention strategies.

  9. Development and implementation of a long-term recovery plan, including involvement in mutual-aid groups and external social supports such as family, friends, employment, school, faith, etc.

  10. Ensure you and your loved ones have a plan for dealing with a relapse or an emergency. -Know where the nearest emergency department is and - Know which treatment providers you can call if you relapse or feel you are at risk of relapse

  11. Evaluate and adjust the treatment and recovery plan as required in tandem with your physicians, counselors, and social supports.

  12. Develop a plan for ongoing monitoring by your doctor once you are in remission from SUD and no longer need regular treatment.


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