Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Questions to Ask a Prospective Treatment Program

A treatment program should address the needs of its patient population and offers specialized and invividualized therapies.

Experts at the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggest that addicted people need three months of treatment or more in order to truly leave substance abuse behind. As a result, parents who are seeking care for their addicted teens are looking for partners who are willing to stand in the trenches with the teen and fight the addiction over an extended period of time. It’s an important decision, and interviews might play a key role. By asking each prospective facility the same questions, and taking notes about the answers heard, parents can make an informed decision that’s best for their children.

Good Opening Questions

There are no right or wrong questions when it comes to addiction care, and parents should feel free to ask about anything they think might be important for the addicted teen’s health and well-being. Many parents, however, feel absolutely stumped when they’re on the phone with treatment facilities, and they can’t think of any good questions to ask. These 10 questions might give parents a good starting point:

  1. What are the educational credentials of the people who will treat my child?
  2. How will you evaluate my child when the program starts?
  3. How will you tailor the program to meet the specific needs of my child?
  4. Will the treatment program change as my child improves? How?
  5. How will I know that my child is getting better?
  6. Is there research available to support the treatments you use? Can you tell me about it?
  7. What will the treatment cost, and do you accept payments from my insurance provider?
  8. What kind of aftercare do you provide, and how long will that last?
  9. How do support groups like AA fit into your treatment model?
  10. Do you use medications in your therapies, and if so, how?

Since parents will be asking questions of multiple providers, it makes sense to take notes. That way, when all the calls are through, parents can compare the services provided in a rational way, and they won’t be likely to mix up the services provided by different treatment centers.

Digging in Deeper

There might be specific types of care that intrigue parents, and it’s perfectly acceptable to ask if facilities offer the kind of services parents think might be especially beneficial for their children. For example, a study in the Journal of Substance Abuse found that teens who went through addiction care and who improved their family relationships as a result had families that were more cohesive, expressive and peaceful, and these teens tended to remain sober. Teens who didn’t improve their family relationships maintained their fraught family patterns, and they also relapsed to substance abuse. Families might read studies like this and become convinced that family therapy will be an important way to help the group heal. Asking about how the family is included in treatment is perfectly acceptable, and the answers might be illuminating.

Teens with mental illnesses might need specialized therapies that aren’t included in all addiction treatment programs. They might need medications to help soothe their symptoms, for example, and they might need targeted psychotherapies to help them process their symptoms and learn to live a healthier life. Parents who are aware of the mental illnesses their children have should ask about how the program accommodates these issues, and how the therapies provided might help the teen recover from both addiction and mental illness.

Some teens are new to addiction, but according to the Treatment Episode Data Set, about one-third of older teens who enter addiction treatment facilities have been treated at least once for the same problem in the past. Parents of teens like this should be upfront about their prior experiences, and they should ask how the new program provides help that was unavailable in the program the teen used in the past. This could help parents to avoid repeating therapies that didn’t have the power to change the teen’s behavior.

At Muir Wood, we know that finding the right program can be a nerve-wracking experience, and we’d like to help. We provide 24/7 access to counselors via telephone, and we’ve placed our admissions packet online for parents to read. We hope that these steps will help parents get answers to their vital questions, and we hope you’ll contact us right away if you’d like to know more.