How To Know If An Addiction Treatment Center Is Ethical And Credible: 9 Critical Factors

Addiction Treatment Centers | Just Believe Recovery PA

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How To Know If An Addiction Treatment Center Is Ethical And Credible: 9 Critical Factors

It’s true – not all addiction treatment centers are created equal. Some have engaged in fraudulent insurance practices. Others have offered illegal enticements. But evidence-based treatment, when applied correctly by an ethical facility, can and does work.

And when the number of prescription opioid dependents, by some estimates, has reached an all-time (some two million people) we cannot afford to give up. Those of us who truly care and wish to see people recover and regain healthy lives and relationships must remain undaunted – especially in the midst of unscrupulous centers who are in business only to make money.

But how do you know when a treatment center is run ethically and can offer effective treatment? The following are some important factors to consider.

Staff Credientials

Therapists should be licensed and have obtained at least a master’s degree. There should be adequate medical personnel including doctors, psychiatrists, or registered nurses to assess and treat clients’ medical needs and administer medication.

Also, ask about the credentials of front-line recovery support personnel and if background checks are required. Essentially, these factors ensure the effective care and safety of clients.

The facility itself should also be accredited.

Evidence-Based Practices & Clinical Services

Ask how many hours of clinical services (including groups and individual sessions) does the addiction treatment center offer each week? Are they evidence-based? Evidence-based practices are those which have been proven effective through clinical research in multiple studies.

Practices from psychotherapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and holistic approaches such as mindfulness have been proven effective in the treatment of addiction. Ask about what evidence-based services are offered.

Individualized Treatment

Effective programs customize their treatment plans to the individual. There is no one-size-fits all model, and a 25-year-old female with an alcohol addiction cannot be treated the same as a 54-year-old man with a prescription drug addiction.

The same is said for people with co-occurring disorders, which are very common in those with addiction. These include depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. These conditions need to be treated in conjunction with the addiction, and neglect of them will often result in relapse.

Also, other services should be offered such as life skills training, recreational activities, exercise, social clubs, etc.

Family Involvement And Therapy

Consider how the treatment facility involves family and friends in treatment. For example, do they offer family therapy sessions and support groups?

Family plays an essential role in encouraging persons who are dependent on substances to begin and remain in treatment. Involvement of family members has been shown to fortify and increase the benefits of treatment. A lack of services dedicated to the involvement loved ones should be considered a huge red flag.

Relapse Prevention

Relapse is often a part of the treatment process, and those who do relapse should not be regarded as failures. Clients should be prepared for such an event, and be able to identify triggers, know how to minimize the impact of relapse, and what steps to take (and who to reach out to) if this occurs.

Indeed, more than half of substance abusers will relapse within the first year. An effective and ethical treatment program works with the family to identify a plan to implement if relapse occurs.

Continuing Aftercare

Care cannot end after discharge. The addiction treatment center should offer an aftercare plan, as continual support improves recovery rates, and includes such services as ongoing contact with the client and family, an alumni program, and support groups. Evidence has shown that patients who are given and accept aftercare for one full year are more likely to enjoy a sustained recovery.


It is critical that treatment centers measure and report their outcomes and what they consider a “successful” treatment. Assessments can made through performance monitoring or the tracking of outcomes, employee and client surveys, and examination of admissions and retention data.

Outcome and performance measures may include a successful transition through levels of care, toxicology tests to ensure abstinence, fewer emergency room visits, and psychiatric symptoms, etc.

Does The Addiction Treatment Center Offer Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Medication-assisted treatment has been shown to improve outcomes and prevent patients from returning to the use of much worse substances. For example, medications such as naltrexone do not induce a high and are non-addictive, but can help reduce cravings and the desire for opioids and alcohol.

Other medications include buprenorphine, suboxone, and methadone. Also, if the center offers a detoxification program, anti-anxiety medications can be rendered that improve client comfort and mental well-being.

The Quality of the Facility Itself

Is the addition treatment center clean and with the necessary amenities, including nutritious food and a well-maintained premises, inside and out? You should get a general feeling that the center is tidy, clean, safe, and comfortable.

In the end, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s your life, and you deserve to be treated effectively, safely, and with dignity and respect.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

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