For the Most Effective Treatment, Seek Services That Measure Up
- When choosing a treatment program, ask specific questions to find out if the program uses practices supported by research.
- Find out if the program follows the latest scientific knowledge, uses credentialed mental health/addiction professionals and prescribes medication, when available, to assist in the recovery process.
- Learn five key questions to ask when selecting a program.
Evidence-based, or scientifically proven, treatment is particularly important in the addictions field because
many myths and personal biases have slipped into professional thinking and are often accepted without
question. For example, the notion that an individual needs to reach "rock bottom" before he or she can
benefit from treatment is absolutely wrong, although until recently, many practitioners and researchers
thought this was true. Data show that individuals who have more social support and economic stability,
that is, have not lost their jobs or families, will have a much better outcome in treatment as compared to
those who enter treatment without a strong social network to support their recovery.
If you or a friend or relative is entering a treatment program, ask specific questions to determine if the
program follows evidence-based practices. This way you will have a better chance of having effective
care and improved chances for recovery.
FIVE QUESTIONS TO ASK ABOUT YOUR TREATMENT
- 1. What kind of treatment do you use and how do they work?
Effective treatment programs use a combination of therapies depending on the specific problems the
patient faces. These approaches include cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, 12 -
step facilitation and family therapy.
- 2. Do you have a credentialed psychiatrist on your treatment staff?
Patients in evidence-based treatment programs are treated by trained psychiatrists. It is especially helpful
if those psychiatrists keep up to date on developments in the rapidly evolving addictions treatment field.
Membership in a professional society such as American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry or American
Society on Addiction Medicine can help professionals keep abreast of things.
- 3. Do you provide specific medication and/or psychosocial treatment for anxiety, mood and other
Many people with addictions, especially young people, suffer from co-occurring mental health problems.
People in treatment must be screened for such disorders so that the treatment plan can take them into
account. Otherwise, chances for success are greatly reduced. Anxiety, mood and other psychiatric
disorders are the mental health problems most common among people with alcohol and other drug
problems. Medical and behavioral (talk therapy) treatments should be tailored to the specific disorder.
There is no one-size-fits-all medication or therapy.
- 4. Are there studies that support the treatments that you use in your program?
In the last two decades, and especially in the most recent years, researchers have examined many
approaches to addiction treatment to determine how effective they are. Program leaders should be able
to point to careful scientific studies, preferably using a large number of people, that demonstrate a
treatment approach's effectiveness. They should be able to tell you the name of the study or of the
scientists who conducted the study, and when the study was conducted.
- 5. How do you monitor the quality/success of your program?
Treatment programs are just beginning to carefully monitor what happens to clients and patients who go
through their programs. Program leaders should be ready and able to talk about what proportion of
patients complete their entire program, what proportion suffer relapses in the first 6-12 months after
treatment, and generally what proportion of their patients have been able to return to full participation in a
healthy life (such as going back to school, or maintaining a job). If they do not yet have this information,
they should provide convincing evidence that they are conducting studies so that they will know how well
they are doing in the near future.