Important Questions to ask a Treatment Program or Centre

Important Questions to ask a Treatment Program or Centre

If you and your healthcare provider feel that a residential Drug Addiction Treatment Centres is the best treatment setting for overcoming drug addiction or treating alcoholism, misusing substances, there are a few things to be aware of in terms of cost and quality for counselling and alcohol and drug addiction programs .

In Canada, we have both publicly funded and privately funded residential Treatment Centres. If you attend a publicly funded residential Treatment Centre, the government will cover all or part of the cost of treatment. However, wait times can be long because spaces are often limited, and programs are not as personalized or comprehensive. Many rely on 12 step meetings to provide programming and some do not have discharge planning.  If you attend a privately funded residential Treatment Centre, you or your insurance company must cover the cost of treatment, wait times are shorter, and you can choose a program that is a better fit for your family’s needs with your program fees going directly towards your program. 

Some private Centres offer beds that are publicly funded, which typically means a portion of the private fees are used to help support the costs of offering a government funded bed, so that the programs are can be delivered with equal quality.  A government bed may be in a quad room vs a private bed will be in a semi -private or private room. Unfortunately, these private Centres have very minimal government funded beds as the vast majority are private fee- for- service beds.

The quality of services offered in both publicly funded and privately funded Centres can vary widely.

Unfortunately, in many provinces, there are still no regulations governing addiction treatment.

When choosing any Treatment Centre, publicly or privately funded, it is important to ask many questions, such as whether a program is accredited and by what accrediting body, and what qualifications the staff have.

Below are questions to consider asking a treatment program or centre.

1. What type of program is offered?

Ask about the structure of the program and the types of activities and services that are included. For example, does the program include withdrawal management (detox) or medically supported detoxification, does it include an assessment, is the program a day program, is there group or individual therapy, does it help connect you to continuing care after treatment? Do they have virtual aftercare available for you and your family? You can also work with your Addiction or Healthcare Provider to find the right program for you.

2. Is the program ACCREDITED?

Only consider programs that are ACCREDITED. Accreditation means that the program and facility have been evaluated to make sure their services meet certain quality standards.

Six organizations in Canada can evaluate addiction treatment programs:

Accreditation Canada, Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities Canada (CARF), Council on Accreditation, Canadian Accreditation Council, Canadian Centre for Accreditation and Conseil Québécois d’Agrément.

3. What qualifications do the staff have?

Look for a program that has some or all of the following professionals on staff: medical doctor (M.D.), psychiatrist (M.D.), addiction medicine specialist (MD), licensed/registered psychologist (Ph.D., Psy.D., M.A., M.Sc.), licensed/registered social worker (B.S.W. and M.S.W.), licensed/registered psychotherapist or counsellor (R.C.T.), National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program (NNADAP) worker or other certified addiction counsellor. Ask if a Medical Withdrawal is part of the program.  A Medical Doctor should be supervising a Medical detox/ withdrawal and should be a part of Treatment Team.

4. Do they have special programs for people like me?

How do you accommodate Spiritual or Cultural practices?

There are special programs for Women, Youth, LGBTQ2, First Nations, Inuit, Métis, Veterans, and Trauma Survivors in some locations. Ask whether the program can accommodate your specific Spiritual or Cultural practices. Is it Gender specific?

5. What therapies does the program use?

Ask for a description of the different types of therapies offered. Each therapy can use a different approach, and some can be a better fit than others. Look for staff who are trained to provide these therapies.

6. Does the program have medical withdrawal (detox) if I need it before starting the program.

Look for an Accredited Program or Hospital that either offers Accredited Medically Supervised Detox or can refer you to a Withdrawal Management Centre- (typically connected to a local Hospital) that offers a Medically Supervised Detox.

7. Can the program also treat my mental health issues? If not, can you refer me to a healthcare provider who can? Can I obtain a psychiatric evaluation if necessary?

Look for a program that meets your specific wants and mental health needs.

8. Does the program have a doctor on staff who can help with my medical condition? Is there a doctor on staff who can check whether addiction medications are a good fit for me?

Look for a program who has a Medical Director or Consultant who has experience with mental health and addictions.

9. Is individual therapy or counselling offered? If so, how long are the sessions and how frequently are they offered?

Look for a structured program that offers several hours of group therapy and activities each day as well as one to three hours of individual therapy per week.

10. What happens if I relapse during treatment?

Ask about the program’s policies related to relapse.

11. What about Continuing Care or After Care?

Look for a program has a case manager who will help you to create a discharge plan based on the professional recommendations, and either provides follow-up care after the program ends or that can connect you to an addiction treatment provider that does. Continuing care will be very comprehensive in the first few months, or years and should continue for several years following inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment.  Inquire if they offer online or virtual therapy for you and your family.  Do they work with EAP’s Employers, WSIB and advise them of the recommendations post treatment?

12. How much does the program cost?

Even if the program is free, check to see if there are any other costs. For example, costs related to housing, comfort items or transportation may not be covered by the program. If the program is privately funded, ask if there is any help for funding. Some insurance plans, WSIB, Veterans Affairs, or Musician Funds etc  will look at funding inpatient and outpatient services.

13. Ask practical questions

Where does the program take place? How long does the program last? Are visitors allowed? Are the rooms private or shared? What should I bring for supplies and clothing? What is a typical program day like? What rules does the program have?

14. What do I need to do to get treatment?

Ask what your next steps should be. For example, do I need to fill out any application forms? Do I need a referral from my doctor? Do I need to make an appointment?

Important things to remember:

  • Do not rush to make a decision. Picking treatment should not be fast or based on emotion.
  • Do your due diligence.
  • Do not believe everything you read in reviews, on websites or over the phone.  Some of the information they post is just to entice people to go there but makes no sense at all, or is untrue.
  • Do not believe websites that say they offer recommendations for free—this is untrue as they will only recommend the treatment centres that are paying them to send you there or paying for advertisements.
  • Read the fine print on guarantees as there is no cure for addiction
  • Make sure they are accredited with a reputable organization.
  • Check the government sites in your area- like Connex Ontario, or Alberta Health etc to see who they recommend.
  • Ask a professional if they can recommend a centre, or will they help you find a centre.

~~Credit and adapted from Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction- Canada Treatment Guide


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