How to Identify a Trustworthy Treatment Center

According to there are more than 14,500 facilities in the U.S. that provide some form of drug and alcohol abuse treatment. Believe it or not, all these facilities combined do not have enough beds or seats to provide treatment to the estimated 21 million Americans with some stage of substance abuse disorder. Many of these treatment facilities do good work, but many others do not. Unfortunately, this industry is lightly regulated allowing for incompetent owners and practitioners to participate and providing openings for significant outright fraud.

Some examples of illegal scams damaging the industry include: trustworthy treatment center

  1. Patient brokering – Some treatment centers pay referral fees to marketers and phone solicitors for patients. These referrers don’t care about the quality of care the patient will receive. They care only about who is willing to pay the most for their clients.
  2. Lying about treatment options – Some admission operators will say the treatment center offers certain therapies or amenities in order to get you to come on. When you get there, these are missing. They know you will be reluctant to leave once you are there.
  3. Offering enticements – Some solicitors will offer you money to enter treatment or offer to pay your travel expenses in order to get your commitment to enter treatment. Individuals with good insurance policies are often the target of these tactics. This is illegal and a giant red flag you should stay away from.

If you are an addict or the parent or loved one of an addict do not let these and other scams lead you astray. Treatment at these places is likely to be a waste of time if not dangerous to your life. Recently, the U.S. Congress and the State of California have passed new legislation to tighten up regulation and impose additional penalties on those who transgress.

With so many options to choose from how do you find a trustworthy place to go?  You need to ask questions and do some homework. Here are a few hints.

  1. State Licensed – Make sure the center you are considering is licensed by the state it is operating in. When you’re on the phone with them ask them about this, but then verify with the state. In California, go to
    Or, you can try the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
    (SAMHSA) web site It lists facilities all over the country.
  2. Accredited – Treatment facilities are not required to be accredited, but those that have higher standards than state licensing requirements and they have been subjected to a rigorous review process. Your insurance may require you to go to an accredited facility. Make sure the place you go to bears the seal of either The Joint Commission (, The National Committee for Quality Assurance (, or the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities ( These are the leading bodies that assess behavioral health centers and their seals ensure your treatment will be safe and handled by trained personnel.
  3. Holistic Approach (Biological, Psychological, and Social, commonly called Body, Mind, Spirit, or Soul) – Addiction makes physical changes to the brain so restoring physical balance is crucial to overcoming addiction. But that is not enough since addiction is usually a side effect of dealing with emotional pain. Social interaction is vital in treatment to help addicts surface the pain and learn how to deal with it in a safe place. The best treatment centers provide a variety of evidence-based therapies or modalities to help addicts. No two situations are the same so each case needs a different approach to lead to a successful outcome. You should research the types of therapy a treatment center provides and learn the science behind how these therapies help addicts. That proof makes the therapy “evidence-based”. Some of the terms to look for are
  • One-on-one counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Art or Music therapy
  • Yoga or martial arts

Although addiction treatment is difficult there are effective approaches.  New York Times best-selling author David Sheff talks about this in the Preface to his book Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy:

“…desperate people who need treatment often wind up in the hands of charlatans, rip-off artists, or well-intentioned but incompetent practitioners… Just as there are proven strategies that lower incidences of some cancers, diabetes, and heart disease, there are effective approaches to stop people from using drugs and nip early use in the bud before it advances to full-blown addiction. And just as patients with other serious illnesses pursue the most effective treatments developed by science and tested in clinical trials, so too can addicts and their families.”

  1. Client-to-Counselor Ratio less than 5 to 1 – This is a key metric to look for in order to receive the attention your case requires. The counselors are the people you will work with in one-on-one sessions to customize your treatment, measure progress, keep you on course, and plan for your discharge. These are also the people you will be talking with to work out your struggles and conflicts while in treatment. This piece of information is not usually on the web site, so you have to ask before you make your decision about where to go.
  2. Group Sizes of 8 or Fewer – Much of your time in treatment will be spent in group sessions. According to the American Psychological Association:

trustworthy treatment center “Groups can act as a support network and a sounding board. Other members of the group often help you come up with specific ideas for improving a difficult situation or life challenge and hold you accountable along the way. Regularly talking and listening to others also helps you put your own problems in perspective… It can be a relief to hear others discuss what they’re going through, and realize you’re not alone.”

These benefits diminish rapidly when group sizes are too large since not everyone has an opportunity to share.

In addition to the five hints above, other things to look for are Co-Occurring Disorders Care, Medication Management, Location, Aftercare and Relapse Prevention Services, and Positive References and Reviews. Hopefully, these hints will help you find the quality treatment centers you can trust and avoid the charlatans that will do you harm.

If someone you know is struggling with alcohol or drugs, visit or call 800-772-1097 to learn more about our treatment programs.