Written by Munis Topcuoglu, Editor at EHN Canada.
The process of choosing the best inpatient drug rehab center for yourself or a loved one can be stressful and confusing. There’s an overwhelming amount of information to consider and options to evaluate when looking for a residential drug or alcohol treatment program. To help you out, we’ve outlined the most important factors to consider when trying to find the best addiction treatment program for your needs.
Understand Your Goals and Needs
Before you start looking for an inpatient drug rehab center, you need to be clear what you’re trying to achieve by getting addiction treatment. And for this, you need to understand your goals and your needs.
Inpatient vs. outpatient treatment
One of the first things you need to understand is the difference between inpatient and outpatient drug and alcohol treatment.
Inpatient treatment, also called residential treatment, involves staying at a drug rehab center for the duration of the treatment program. Inpatient programs are best for people with more severe addiction who require 24/7 monitoring, an immersive environment, and comprehensive care that includes medical support.
Outpatient treatment involves attending sessions at a treatment center for several hours per week or, alternatively, sessions may be entirely online. Outpatient programs are best for people with less severe cases of addition who can still fulfill most of the important responsibilities in their lives. It’s also suitable for individuals who need addiction treatment but cannot leave their jobs or families.
Comparing Addiction Rehab Centers and Programs
Once you clearly understand your needs in terms of concurrent disorders and specialized programming, then you can start comparing drug rehab centers and treatment programs. If you’ve decided that an outpatient drug or alcohol treatment program is best for your needs, then many features related to residential treatment and the treatment center itself—such as 24/7 counsellor and medical support, comprehensiveness of treatment programs, or amenities—will not be relevant for you. This guide is primarily designed to help people choose the best inpatient drug rehab center for their needs and, hence, will cover all of those features.
What Makes an Inpatient Drug Rehab Center the Best for You?
The following are indicators of the quality of care that you’ll receive at an addiction treatment center. The best inpatient drug rehab centers are licensed and accredited, as are their staff. Having a multidisciplinary team is necessary for providing comprehensive care. The center’s location should be conducive to working on your recovery and should also be convenient for you.
Accreditation and licences
Residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers should have the relevant accreditations—in Canada, this includes accreditation from Accreditation Canada and from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). Canadian inpatient drug rehab centers should also have the appropriate provincial licenses required for residential care facilities.
Multidisciplinary clinical team with credentials and experience
A multidisciplinary team is necessary to provide you the best comprehensive care. This should include the following:
- Counsellors and therapists with masters’ degrees or at least a decade of experience working with patients who have addictions
- Medical doctors with specializations in addiction medicine
- Occupational therapists
- Registered Dietitians, ideally—otherwise, nutritionists
- Physical health professionals
- Meditation and yoga teachers
Specialized programs and treatment for concurrent disorders
If you have a concurrent mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety, or trauma, the best inpatient drug rehab center for you will be one that offers integrated programs that treat drug or alcohol addiction together with concurrent mental health disorders, and that are individualized for your unique needs. Similarly, if you have a behavioural addiction such as sex addiction (problematic compulsive sexual behaviour) or gambling addiction, then you should choose a treatment center that provides specialized support for your behavioural addiction.
Measuring treatment success rates
Measuring treatment success rates is something the best inpatient drug rehab centers do. Measuring patient outcomes is part of the process of continuously improving clinical programming and helping patients achieve the best possible results.
Treatment center location
The best locations for inpatient drug rehab centers will provide patients with privacy and freedom from distractions, allowing them to focus on their treatment programs and do the work that they need to get better. A serene environment surrounded by nature also provides mental health benefits in and of itself.
Some treatment centers will have connections to a hospital network or other established healthcare institution. Addiction and mental health treatment centers with institutional affiliations are typically held to higher standards for the care that they provide.
Quality of Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs
An excellent drug or alcohol treatment program should provide timely, comprehensive, individualized, evidence-based care. It should address the full range of human needs, including medical, psychological, social, physical, nutritional, and spiritual needs.
Wait lists and timely treatment
Compared to public treatment centers which often have long wait lists, private treatment centers usually have either no wait lists or very short wait lists. If you need residential drug or alcohol treatment, this usually means that you need treatment urgently—so the best inpatient drug rehab center for you will be one where you can get admitted as soon as possible.
Detailed assessments and individualized programs
The most effective drug or alcohol treatment programs are individualized for each patient. This means that they will do a thorough psychological and medical assessment when each patient is admitted to evaluate and understand their unique needs.
The most effective programs for treating addiction use evidence-based therapies that have established track records of helping people get better and achieve successful long-term recovery. These including the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Motivational interviewing (MI)
- Accelerated resolution therapy (ART)
- Prolonged exposure therapy (PET)
- Cognitive processing therapy (CPT)
Types of therapy and support
Different therapy formats have different strengths, offer different benefits, and are complementary to each other. Drug and alcohol treatment programs should incorporate a full range of therapy formats including the following:
- Individual counselling
- Group therapy
- Self-help groups such as 12 Step and SMART recovery
- Expressive arts therapy
Length of drug and alcohol treatment programs
All else being equal, longer treatment programs tend to produce better results for patients with addiction compared to shorter programs. However, if you need a shorter program due to your particular life situation (e.g. family or work demands) then the best inpatient drug rehab center for you may be one that offers a flexible length of stay.
Medical detox and medication assisted treatment
Detoxification (or detox) is the process through which a person with addiction stops using drugs or alcohol. Detox should always be done with medical supervision because withdrawal symptoms that occur when someone stops using drugs or alcohol can not only be intensely uncomfortable, but may also be life threatening if not managed properly. The best inpatient drug rehab centers use medication assisted treatment (MAT) to minimize patients’ withdrawal symptoms and help them detox as safely, comfortably, and quickly as possible.
Relapse-prevention skills and recovery planning
Successful long-term recovery depends on patients’ ability to avoid relapsing once they’re out of treatment. Therefore, residential drug and alcohol treatment programs should focus on teaching practical relapse-prevention skills and should give patients the opportunity to practice them during treatment to develop competence. Programs should also include guidance for patients in developing solid and realistic recovery plans to ensure that they maintain their recovery after they complete treatment and return to the real world.
Nutrition and physical wellness
An important part of addiction recovery is learning and developing the healthy lifestyle habits that contribute to physical wellness. A comprehensive drug or alcohol treatment program should teach patients about healthy eating, physical exercise, sleep quality, and why these things are so important.
Self-care and life skills
Individuals with severe addictions often forget how to take care of themselves and how to perform the simple daily tasks of living that the rest of us take for granted. Hence, education regarding self-care, as well as occupational therapy, are included in treatment programs offered by the best inpatient drug rehab centers.
Meditation and mindfulness
Mindfulness and meditation practices are an important part of bringing balance back to the life of someone who has been living with the instability of addiction. Comprehensive treatment programs should include instruction and practice of meditation and mindfulness exercises. Yoga is also an effective way of practicing mindfulness and increasing awareness of what’s going on in one’s mind and body.
The support that a patient receives from their family after completing residential treatment is an important factor in their successful long-term recovery. Hence, residential drug and alcohol treatment programs should also include education for the patient’s family in the form of family programs. Some treatment centers will also arrange counselling sessions for a patient and their family while the patient is in a residential program, if needed. If your addiction is related to issues you have with your family, this may be important for you.
Visitors and contacting people outside the treatment center
Residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers will have varying rules regarding how often, and when, patients can contact their family while they’re in treatment. They’ll also have rules regarding whether, how often, and when their families can visit them. The best inpatient drug rehab center for you will be one that has rules with which you feel comfortable.
Abstinence based vs. harm reduction
Some drug and alcohol treatment programs are abstinence based, whereas others are based on the principle of harm reduction. “Abstinence based” refers to the idea that once someone has an addiction, they can never safely use drugs or alcohol again. Harm-reduction programs suggest that patients can continue using or drinking in a controlled manner after they complete treatment. If your addiction is severe enough that you need residential drug or alcohol treatment, an abstinence-based program may be more appropriate for you.
Quality of Patient Experience
Many factors affect the quality of the experience that you’ll have while in residential drug or alcohol treatment. Important factors that distinguish the best inpatient drug rehab centers include availability of counsellors and medical support, amenities, formally stated patient rights, and how they handle relapses during treatment.
Counsellor and medical team availability
One of the most important things during drug or alcohol treatment is that you always feel supported and that you are taken care of. Consequently, the best inpatient drug rehab centers have counsellors who are there for patients 24/7 to offer support whenever needed. Similarly, they offer 24/7 nursing to provide medical care around the clock. Further, medical doctors should be onsite every day to provide quality medical care for patients. A psychiatrist should be available for consultation according to patients’ needs.
Amenities such as a fully equipped gym, nutritionally balanced meals that also taste good, fitness programs, yoga classes, massage therapy, chiropractic care, and acupuncture help improve patients’ health and wellbeing, and accelerate their progress towards recovery. Amenities can be a matter of personal preference, so the best inpatient drug rehab center for you will be one that offers the amenities that you feel are the most important.
You should know what rights you have as a patient before you get admitted to a residential drug and alcohol treatment center. You should get a document stating patients’ rights, which should include detailed descriptions of at least the following:
- The right to an individualized treatment program according to the patient’s unique abilities; physical, social and emotional needs; and cultural and spiritual preferences
- The right to health, safety, privacy, and dignity
- The right to a fair and effective process for expressing concerns, making complaints, and resolving disputes
- The right to transparency and accountability regarding costs, fees, services, rules, policies, and relevant laws that are related to the patient’s treatment program
- The right to be accommodated if the patient has disabilities
- Rights regarding visitors and communication with people outside the treatment center, under both normal and exceptional circumstances
Handling relapse during treatment
Handling relapse during treatment can be tricky—a treatment center needs to balance the needs of the patient who relapsed with the need to protect the rest of their patients who are in residential treatment. The best inpatient drug rehab treatment centers take a nuanced approach and weigh all the evidence before deciding whether or not to discharge a patient who relapses during treatment.
Aftercare Programs and Post-Treatment Recovery Support
Participation in aftercare is essential for successful long-term recovery after completing a residential drug or alcohol treatment program. The best inpatient drug rehab centers know this and they continue to support their patients after they complete treatment. If you don’t live near the treatment center, ensure that they provide online aftercare options. The treatment center should also help you find additional continuing care options in your own community if you don’t live nearby.
Cost of Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs
Treatment programs vary in cost—but, usually, you get what you pay for. High-quality drug and alcohol treatment programs require highly qualified and experienced staff. The best inpatient drug rehab centers must be well equipped to provide comprehensive treatment. These factors increase costs, but they also improve your chances of getting the best results and achieving successful long-term recovery. One important thing to ask is whether everything is included in the cost of treatment, to avoid hidden fees.
Insurance Coverage for Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs
If you’re wondering how you’ll be able to pay for residential addiction treatment, you may have a number of sources of help. Treatment at many inpatient drug rehab centers is covered by health insurance and employee benefit plans. Often, if you talk to someone at a rehab center, they can help you figure out what your insurance or employee benefits coverage is. Many treatment centers also offer financing options to make their treatment programs more affordable.
The Test of Time
One of the best indicators of an inpatient drug rehab center’s quality is how long they’ve been around. If a rehab center has been providing addiction treatment for more than a decade, or if it’s part of a network with a long history and a reputation for successful outcomes—those are good signs that they provide effective addiction treatment.
Call Some of Your Top Picks and Ask Questions
Once you’ve picked a few treatment centers that look good to you, call them and ask some questions about the residential programs that they provide. If the treatment center offers a number of different types of treatment programs and you’re not sure which one is right for you, then ask them for guidance. When you’re talking on the phone with treatment center staff, they should be friendly and helpful, and should answer all your questions to your satisfaction. If treatment center staff can make you feel comfortable on the phone, that’s a good sign regarding the experience that you or a loved one will have as a patient.
Questions to Ask About an Inpatient Drug Rehab Center
Below is a checklist of questions that you should ask when you call and talk to someone at a drug and alcohol treatment center.
(1) What accreditations and licenses do they have?
(2) What are the credentials and experience of their counsellors and therapists?
(3) Do they have medical doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, dietitians or nutritionists, physical health professionals, and meditation and yoga teachers as part of their clinical team that provides care for patients?
(4) If you have concurrent mental health disorders—do they have a specialized program for treating your type of addiction together with the concurrent disorders that you have?
(5) Do they measure patient outcomes? If so, what are their results?
(6) Where are they located? What are the surroundings like?
(7) Are they affiliated with any established healthcare institutions?
(8) How quickly can you get admitted? Do they have a wait list?
(9) Do they do detailed assessments of new patients and create individualized treatment programs?
(10) Which evidence-based therapies do they use in their drug and alcohol treatment programs?
(11) Which types of therapy and support are incorporated in their drug and alcohol treatment programs?
(12) How long is the treatment program that they’re suggesting for you?
(13) If you need detox—do they offer medically supervised detox with medication assisted treatment?
(14) What relapse-prevention skills do they teach during treatment and how do they help with recovery planning?
(15) What nutrition education, and physical education and training do they provide in their drug and alcohol treatment programs?
(16) What self-care and life skills do they teach in their treatment programs?
(17) Do they teach meditation, mindfulness skills, and yoga?
(18) Do they have family programs? Would they arrange counselling sessions for a patient and their family, while the patient is in treatment, if needed?
(19) What are their rules regarding visitors and contacting people outside the treatment center while you’re in treatment?
(20) Are their drug and alcohol treatment programs abstinence based or harm reduction?
(21) What is the availability of counsellors for patients? What is the availability of medical care for patients? 24/7 or less?
(22) What amenities are available for patients in residential programs?
(23) What are your rights as a patient in one of their residential drug or alcohol treatment programs?
(24) What happens if you relapse during treatment?
(25) What aftercare is included with their residential treatment programs? How do they connect you with other continuing care options after you complete treatment?
(26) What is the cost of their residential drug and alcohol treatment programs? Are all the services included or are there any extras?
(27) Can they help you figure out if your insurance or employee benefits will cover all or some of the cost of treatment?
(28) How long have they been providing residential drug and alcohol treatment?
We’ve Included these questions in a printable format below here.
Get in Touch With Alumni
The best sources of information about what it’s like to be an patient at a drug rehab center are people who were previously patients there. Ask around and try to get in touch with a few people who’ve completed residential programs at the treatment centers you’re considering, and ask them about their experiences.
Visit a Treatment Center
After you’ve called a treatment center and have had all of your questions answered to your satisfaction, it’s still best, if possible, to visit in person before scheduling your admission date. This will allow you to talk to some of the staff, and to experience the physical and cultural environment. It will help you get a good idea of whether or not you’ll feel comfortable there and whether or not it’s the best inpatient drug rehab center that satisfies all your needs. If it’s impossible for you to visit a residential treatment center in person—which may currently often be the case due to COVID—then check their website for virtual tours or photo galleries.
Learn About EHN Canada’s Residential Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs
If you’d like to learn more about the addiction and mental health treatment programs provided by EHN Canada, enrol yourself in one of our programs, or refer someone else, please call us at one of the numbers below. Our phone lines are open 24/7—so you can call us anytime.
- 1-800-387-6198 for Bellwood Health Services in Toronto, ON
- 1-587-350-6818 for EHN Sandstone, in Calgary, AB
- 1-800-683-0111 for Edgewood Treatment Centre in Nanaimo, BC
- 1-888-488-2611 for Clinique Nouveau Départ in Montreal, QC