Conversely, there are some immediate “red flags” or warning signs of those treatment centers that they may not have your child’s best interest at heart:
☒ Their website makes it difficult to track down a physical address or talk to someone actually at the facility. Many websites have 800 numbers, which may not connect you with the actual facility you’re looking at, but rather are referral services who are paid for filling beds at treatment centers. Additionally, some websites use names similar to popular treatment centers, so you may think you’ve reached the reputable facility you were calling, but that isn’t the case.
☒ They use a lot of stock photography and enticing landscapes. Websites may feature beautiful beach scenes, mountain vistas and spa pictures to distract from the lack of actual facility pictures.
☒ Their only staff are people in recovery. While those who have gone through recovery themselves can be a major asset to your son or daughter as he or she approaches his or her own recovery, by no means should they represent the only staff. There should be professional clinicians with addiction counseling credentials providing evidence-based treatments.
☒ They have a “one-size fits all” approach to treatment. Your son or daughter shouldn’t be lumped in with a large, varied group (such as older adults), nor should his or her treatment be led by a single-style program. Rather, it should be personalized to his or her needs. 12-step programs are helpful to many during treatment, but this shouldn’t be the only element of the treatment program.
☒ They over-emphasize the “environment” of the facility and its amenities. While big-screen TVs, private rooms, and pools are nice amenities, they’re not treatment for addiction. Be wary of treatment centers who spend more time talking about the facility rather than their clinical services.
☒ They don’t have a thorough day-to-day schedule of activities, or won’t let you see one. Good programs will have lots of structure to define counseling sessions, recreational activities and responsibilities. If you ask and they are only able to give you verbal highlights or tell you that you must be enrolled in the program before seeing the specifics, be wary.
☒ They don’t have many options for family involvement. If “family involvement” for this program means a simple one-off call or visitation, it’s not likely to be a quality program. Good programs will recognize that the family’s role is paramount to the recovery process.
☒ They’re not clear on the step-down or discharge process. One of the most important parts of treatment is to have a plan for continuing care, when your son or daughter leaves the facility. Be cautious if everyone from the facility is discharged to the same sober living facilities and intensive outpatient programs. Good facilities have delineated staff roles to structure quality aftercare including vetting programs and professionals they are recommending.
☒ Their policy is to discharge your child without any supports if he or she relapses while at their facility. Programs should be designed to keep all participants safe, so addressing use of substances while in treatment is critical. That said, kicking someone out who relapses without any supports can be dangerous. Quality programs have procedures in place to address relapses, which may include sending the person to a detox facility for a few days or transferring them to another program.
☒ They are extremely murky on costs. Less reputable places will make claims of low, all-inclusive costs, but once your child arrives, you’re told that your insurance won’t cover certain charges and there is an unexpected out-of-pocket outlay. This is especially true for lab tests including urine screens, but may also apply for food, recreational activities, etc. Generally speaking, residential programs will ask for a drug screen on admission, and otherwise only after extended periods of time off campus. In outpatient programs, screens are done randomly, usually once or twice a week.
☒ They offer to find health insurance or waive deductibles. In some cases, unethical facilities will offer to “sign you up for insurance” and/or waive all or a portion of the co-pay. Once your child is in treatment, they may charge you for treatment that you thought would be covered by your child’s new insurance plan,
☒ They offer to pay for flights and hotels to get your child to treatment. Often using patient brokers, less reputable programs will offer incentives, such as free flights, hotels, massages, etc. to get your son or daughter to treatment. In most situations, it’s illegal to offer to fly your child to their facility as that’s considered a solicitation.
☒ They offer to pay for free recovery housing. Again, the offerings of something free that sounds too good to be true probably is.
☒ They talk about “curing” your child, especially in a short amount of time. Struggling with substance use and addiction is a process that usually follows an individual throughout his or her entire lifetime, and is not something that can be magically “fixed” in a short time. As nice as it sounds, claims of rapid detoxes and instantaneous recovery are not realistic and are plainly untruthful. Be very wary of bold claims like this.
☒ They claim that they have “high success rates.” Because every individual circumstance is different, and because relapse is extremely common with substance use, “success rates” don’t hold a lot of weight – particularly if they’re pitched in a “salesy” manner.