Finding a Treatment Program

by Stephen Arterburn

Chemical abuse affects every area of a person's life. The mind won't work properly. The body will be chemically imbalanced. The soul, along with values and beliefs, becomes damaged. For an pensive-2.jpgaddict to recover, each area must be treated. That is why professional care and team treatment is desirable. No one person can treat the totality of a person experiencing the severe problems associated with drug addiction or alcoholism. The need for professional help is obvious in some cases, such as when medical attention is required.

In every life, certain key moments usher in change and hope for a new beginning. Those moments are rare, however, so if someone in your family has come to the point of realizing the need for change and desires help, it is important that good decisions be made the first time around. You don't want to waste what could be the best chance for change.

Any quality helping professional or organization should know the best resources available to you. But sometimes these organizations have not yet done the research, which means you will have to do more on your own. When you start your search for help, don't ask only about psychological help. A well balanced program will focus not only on the psychological, but also takes into consideration the spiritual, mental, physical and social aspects of life.

Programs vary in their effectiveness, and some can do more harm than good. Probably the most prevalent and most serious counterproductive element in treatment programs are destructive attitudes and behaviors on the part of the staff. When you go to a treatment center, for example, you might sense a mood of depression or high anxiety from both staff and patients. If a visitor can sense this mood in a short time, you can imagine how strong these feelings must be for patients who are there 24 hours a day. The negative environment is created by unhealthful staff attitudes and behaviors, which are always reflected in the patients they treat. It is essential that a person seeking help for the first time secure it in a safe and healthful environment where staff are motivated to provide quality care.

The right reasons for choosing a treatment center might include:

  • A well-maintained facility. A facility does not have to be fancy or new, but well-maintained facilities can indicate a commitment to quality care.
  • A referral by someone you trust. Your pastor could be an excellent source of guidance if he or she has referred others and is pleased with the results of a particular program.
  • A referral by someone who has been through the program. Nothing speaks louder than the successful treatment of a person and his/her long-term recovery. No one knows a program better than someone who has been treated there.
  • A strong team approach to treatment. Nurses, therapists, patient, technicians and doctors need to work together to form treatment plans. Where a weak staff and a bullying physician team up, the treatment is poor. A strong staff which places high value on the effectiveness of the team increases the chance of quality care.
  • Healthful support for a sober life-style. This includes attention to:

  • Music: Sick music is an integral part of the drug culture and reinforces the patient's desire to use drugs or alcohol again. A treatment center that controls the patient's music creates a healthier environment.
  • Movies: Filling the mind with examples of negative behavior does nothing but reinforce these forms of behavior. Quality care means monitoring what is viewed and providing positive alternatives.
  • Language: Foul language should be discouraged. Good communication that is inoffensive to others helps a person fit into a civil and moral life-style.
  • View of sex. Often addicts will replace their dependency on drugs with a dependency on sexual pleasure. This behavior must be confronted as soon as it surfaces.
  • Personal attention. To determine whether the people in a program can offer quality care, find out if it offers individual therapy for all the patients on an almost-daily basis. If the staff-to-patient ratio is low, the quality of care will be low.
  • Family treatment. When one person becomes sick, the entire family also gets sick. It is important that each person in the family receives help if the patient is to be helped long-term.
  • Staff attitudes of sensitivity and service. The staff should realize what a family has been through to arrive at the need for treatment. Each person, especially the patient, should be approached with sensitivity. Staff members should display an attitude of service in each encounter with the family.
  • Traditional values supported. You should be assured that traditional values will not be undermined. Religious values should not be challenged but instead incorporated into the treatment process. Don't be afraid to ask about staff attitudes towards beliefs you and your family hold dear. If the program cannot support these beliefs, treatment could be counterproductive.

It is difficult to describe what constitutes quality treatment. You can't just compile a list and say that if the items on the list are present, quality care is guaranteed. It is more complicated than that. Quality care is a process that occurs over time; it has many people interacting and bringing their resources to bear on the patient. Some programs are stronger in certain areas than others. Two programs could use radically different approaches and still provide quality treatment.

Whatever the cost, quality care must be the priority. When quality care is given, patients get well.

Stephen Arterburn is Founder and Chairman of the Minirth Meier New Life Clinics, an author of many books on recovery topics and a founding member of the National Advisory Board of the National Association for Christian Recovery.