Shopping for a treatment program by calling intake counselors and looking at websites can be a little unnerving. Questions will pop up as you go through the process like, “Am I just talking to a sales person or is he genuinely interested in what’s best for the person I’m trying to help?” Or, “The website presents the program like an advertisement for an inspirational Lifetime movie, people with outstretched arms embracing a sunrise, and testimonials from people who look like they’ve never had a drug problem in their lives, reuniting with their loved ones and families in ways that seem to good to be true. Is it?”
This is what I recommend when shopping for a good treatment program:
- Without meaning to knock the hard work that goes into a well put together website, the fact is that the website isn’t the treatment program itself. It’s a website. My point here is not that you’d disregard what’s on it but take what you see with a grain of salt. Be skeptical of the website verses the actual program it represents.
- Get references. Any treatment center that I’ve worked with has good references and is perfectly willing to offer them to people who call. Some intake counselors will tell you that they can’t give you references because it’s a matter of protecting their clients privacy. In my view this is an excuse. HIPPA law doesn’t apply to references. While a treatment center cannot volunteer clients personal information without permission, clients can and do give permission to give out their contact information for the purpose of providing references. This bypasses privacy concerns. There are plenty of treatment centers that offer references from past clients or their families who have signed a piece of paper that says they are perfectly willing to discuss what their experience was. If the intake counselor out right refuses to offer references this is at the very least, highly suspect.
- Don’t tell intake counselors what other treatment centers you’re looking at. The fact is that the person you’re talking to, as well intended as he or she is, has at least two things that work against his objectivity. First, it’s likely that he graduated from the program you’re looking at, and like anyone whose life has been saved and is now dedicated to a treatment program, true objectivity is not in the equation. Second, he or she is paid to get people into that particular program. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It does mean however that they have a personal interest and whether or not you choose their program. I’m not trying to vilify intake counselors. Most people I know who work in this kind of position are extremely caring and devote hours upon hours helping families like yours. Take advantage of it. Pick their brains. But before you start telling them what other programs you’re looking, remember that it is part of their job description to discourage you from choosing something else.
- Don’t believe everything you read online. There are a lot of interests both big and small that fight against programs becoming truly successful. This can be easily seen in the case of most holistic programs that don’t promote the use of psychoactive drugs. Industries that sell their products like antidepressants and antipsychotics – which are some of the most profitable drugs in the world – spend a lot of money marginalizing holistic programs that don’t sell drugs as part of recovery (ironic). I know it might sound like a conspiracy theory but I’ve been in this business for many years and I know what I’ve seen. Also, devotees of certain programs bash other programs online. I’m not suggesting that you need to be paranoid about what you’re reading because the internet does contain a lot of useful resources. My point is to be careful of your sources. If you find yourself reading some damning information about a program you like, check the WHOIS database and find out who is behind it. What you discover may surprise you.
- One of the absolute best ways to research a program is to visit it in person. While this is not always possible, you should strongly consider it. I recommend going when there’s a graduation event where you’ll be able to talk to other family members who are in attendance. Another way to do this is to accompany the addict to the program so that you can get and in person assessment of the program while you deliver the person into it. This will either handle any remaining doubts you have, or can confirm them so you can avoid making a bad decision.
One piece of advice I can’t emphasize enough since I’ve seen it cause so much damage in so little time, it Is to fall prey to a bait-and-switch on the part of the person you’re trying to help. The scenario usually goes something like this:
You and other family members have spent hours online and on the phone researching treatment programs. You’ve even gone through several days of an intervention. You’ve poured your heart into this along with hopes that your carefully researched program is going to be the right one. Then, when the addict errupts into crisis and makes your choice wrong, listing off the reasons why the program is the wrong philosophy, length of time, location or whatever, the family, as a purely emotional reaction based on fear of all their hard work falling through, agrees to send the addict to a different, shorter, closer or cheaper program they never would have agreed to.
The reason I call it a bait-and-switch is that the addict usually says something to the effect that he is willing to go to treatment (the bait), but he isn’t willing to go to the program you’ve chosen (the switch). He baits you with his willingness to go to a program, which causes everyone’s blood to rush to their head in the sudden hope that there is hope, and then switches your decision with ease, because at this point the family is willing to take something over nothing.
This is one of the most common ways interventions fall on their face. But fear not. The solution is relatively simple; be ready for it. Be ready for the addict to erupt in a crisis so that when he does you can remain calm, and be ready for him to shoot down the program, again so that while he does you can remain calm. And most importantly be ready to stick to your guns. Stick to your original decision and do not waiver from it. I am not suggesting that you should never change your mind in terms of what program he should go to. What I am saying is that that decision should never be made as an emotional reaction out of fear and panic and exhaustion simply to get things over with. The irony of doing that of course is that the addict will not have presented the program that has a higher success rate or is longer in duration. Quite the opposite, so agreeing to something like that is simply going to place you back right where you started and you’re going to have to do this whole process all over again, only this time you’ll be fighting against the fact that he has just done a program he chose, you’ll have that much less money, and that much less faith from other family members who are going to say, “He’s already gone to treatment. Why try this again?”
During the interventions I’m hired to do I’ve spent numerous times just getting the family just to stick to their guns in terms of the treatment program they’ve spent hours or days researching and choosing.
If you’re going to change your mind, don’t do it because the addict is demanding it. The reason you’re doing an intervention in the first place is because the person you’re trying to help isn’t making good decisions, especially long-term decisions that have to do with his mental health or state of mind or improving his operating basis. All you need to do is look at his track record. Would you contact a local drunk or actively using drug addict to get advice on which treatment center you should choose to help the person you love? Of course not. So why listen to the one who’s sitting right in front of you? It sounds harsh but it’s true.
In conclusion, even if you’re doing an intervention because life has suddenly turned upside down, take what time you need to do your research and find the right program. It is the single most important thing you can do to make sure that the intervention succeeds. All of the effort you’re going to put into getting your loved one too agreed to go and getting him into the program is only going to mean something if the program is a good one. After close to 400 interventions, believe me I know. All roads lead to choosing a program that has the best chance of bringing your loved one back and a chance at enjoying all of the things life has to offer.