Deciding to get help for alcohol addiction can be one of the most rewarding and life-changing decisions. But the sheer number of rehab options can make finding a rehab facility feel overwhelming. Considering some key factors can help you make an informed and confident decision when choosing the best alcohol rehab center for you.
How Do I Choose the Right Alcohol Rehab Center?
The right alcohol rehab center is one that meets your personal recovery needs and goals. Treatment for alcohol addiction isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and many programs do not fit into a traditional drug treatment category.1 You should choose a rehab center that works with you to create a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses all aspects of you—your addiction, your mental and physical health, your social needs, and any job or legal concerns.3
We know this process can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Taking some time to consider all the factors that inform this decision can help the process feel more manageable. When you know the right questions to ask and things to look for in an alcohol rehab center, you’ll be better equipped to choose a rehab program that aligns with your recovery needs. In general, the process has 3 simple steps:
- Figure out your treatment needs.
- Find and compare rehab programs.
- Choose the program that most aligns with your treatment needs and recovery goals and get ready to start treatment.
Decide Your Rehab Goals and Needs
Most often, the first step in finding the right rehab center is figuring out your treatment needs and overall recovery goals. Your primary care doctor, therapist, or other licensed addiction specialist can help you with this. They can also help you understand any underlying medical or mental health needs that may need to be addressed in your treatment plan.
Substance use treatment is diverse, and programs offer different interventions, services, and amenities.1 Before selecting a treatment facility, it is crucial that you clearly understand what your treatment objectives are. Location, price, and amenities may be factors as well.
Research Your Rehab Options
As stated, each treatment facility varies in levels of care offered, length of treatment, program structure, amenities, and more. It’s important to know what you’re looking for and compare that to what each facility offers.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are 5 signs of quality treatment:8
- Medications used for alcohol or opioid use disorders.
- Evidence-based practices.
- Inclusion of family members.
- Aftercare support.
The following sections break down these and other factors to consider when choosing an alcohol rehab center.
Inpatient versus Outpatient Rehab
Alcohol rehab can be delivered in either an inpatient or outpatient setting. During inpatient rehab, you live at the treatment center for the length of treatment. In contrast, you still live at home during outpatient treatment and attend regular appointments during the day.
Both treatment settings include programs that vary in intensity and length. For example, medically managed inpatient treatment is the most intensive form of treatment, offering medical care and support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.1
Outpatient treatment is less intensive than inpatient and may include intensive outpatient programs, individual counseling, and family counseling.1 Some people start with inpatient care and move to outpatient care as they continue along their recovery journey.
Treatments and Therapies
No matter which treatment setting you choose, treatment will likely include one or more evidence-based therapies. Common therapy types to treat alcohol use disorder include:2
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you identify and change harmful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that lead to unhealthy alcohol use.
- Motivational interviewing/motivational enhancement, which helps increase your motivation to change and stay in treatment.
- Contingency management (CM) or motivational incentives (MI) uses vouchers or other prizes to reward patients for healthy behavior, such as negative breath or urine tests.
Treatment centers may specialize in both which substance use disorders they treat and who they serve. For example, some places treat both substance use and mental health disorders (called co-occurring disorders). Some treatment centers offer specialized tracks for specific populations, such as veterans, LGBTQ+ individuals, older adults, or women.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that effective treatment needs to meet all of your recovery needs, not just your drug use. This can include factors such as your gender, age, ethnicity, and other personal variables.3
Length of Treatment
How long should you spend in treatment? The answer depends on many factors, including:
- Your substance use history.
- Your insurance coverage.
- The type of treatment you get.
Treatment can be both short-term (a few days or weeks) or long-term (up to a year or more, in some cases), depending on your recovery needs and insurance.4 Most treatment centers will tailor the length of treatment to your recovery needs.
Cost is often the biggest factor in choosing a treatment center. Fortunately, most insurance companies do cover alcohol treatment to some degree per the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAE) of 2008. The MHPAE states that insurance companies need to cover mental health and substance use disorder services at the same level as other medical services.5
Even if your insurance covers longer lengths of treatment, longer treatment programs may not be an option due to finances or family commitments. If this is true for you, or if you don’t have insurance, know that cost doesn’t have to prevent you from getting the treatment you need. Many treatment centers offer payment plans or sliding scale fees, and some offer treatment at no or low cost.
For some people, going to a treatment center close to home is essential so they can attend to home and family commitments. For others, finding a facility far from home can be helpful to avoid triggers and focus solely on recovery.
Keep in mind that amenities offered in treatment vary by treatment facility and location. If you have a strong preference for a specific amenity, such as having your own room or being able to practice yoga, you may want to keep that in mind when making your decision.
That said, amenities are less important than making sure the treatment center is evidence-based and can meet your treatment needs. It is essential that those who struggle with access to addiction recovery programs find a treatment center that offers support services such as transportation, childcare, or help with basic needs.6 Many treatment programs work with community partners such as food banks, legal assistance, day care, financial counseling, and health care services to help people in recovery as well as their loved ones.6
Treatment Center Accreditations
Keep in mind that not all treatment facilities are accredited. Accreditation is important to ensure you are receiving high-quality, evidence-based care. The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) requires that rehab facilities focus on the unique needs of each person, commit to quality improvement, and monitor the results of services offered.7
Accreditation varies by state and facility; you can contact your state’s Mental Health Agency to confirm proper credentials. All facilities in the SAMHSA treatment services locator are accredited, licensed, or certified.
Questions to Ask Alcohol Rehab Centers
Contact multiple treatment centers before making your final decision. Create a list of questions to ask your top treatment centers. Some questions to consider asking include:8–10
- What type of insurance do you accept?
- How much does treatment cost?
- How long is your program and will that fit my treatment needs?
- What services and therapies do you offer and are they evidence-based?
- Do you offer medical care based on my medical needs?
- Do you tailor treatment plans to each person?
- Is your staff licensed and by whom?
- Do you offer continuing care services after I complete rehab?
American Addiction Centers (AAC) understands that the process of finding the right rehab center isn’t always easy. Many of our highly-skilled admissions navigators have been through recovery themselves, so they not only know what you’re going through, but can help answer these and any other questions you have about alcohol rehab treatment.
There is no time like the present to begin your recovery journey. While the process of beginning treatment depends on which treatment center you choose, it usually starts with a phone call. AAC’s admissions navigators will treat you with respect and compassion as you begin the treatment process and will help you every step of the way. Call our free, 24/7 helpline at 1-888-685-5770 or get a text to get started.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (third edition): Types of treatment programs.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (third edition): Behavioral therapies.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (third edition). Principles of effective treatment.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019, October). Treatment options: Types of treatment.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019, October). Paying for treatment.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. (2004). What is substance abuse treatment? A booklet for families.
- CARF International. (n.d.). Why does accreditation matter?
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (n.d.). Finding quality treatment for substance use disorders.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019, October). Treatment options: Calling a facility.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013, June). Seeking drug abuse treatment: What to ask?