When looking for a good addiction rehab program or treatment center, many different factors are important to keep in mind. Choosing the right center can sometimes feel overwhelming, but having an idea of what your specific recovery needs are as well as what a professional, high-quality treatment center should be able to provide.
While not every facility can offer every kind of addiction treatment type, especially more particular or specialized ones such as trauma therapy or faith-based programs, there still are specific standard criteria that it should be able to meet to provide effective treatment.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the main principles of effective treatment include:
To meet these requirements for effective treatment, a treatment center needs to have a good client-to-staff ratio. Read on to learn more about what this ratio looks like and what kind of staff should be present at an addiction treatment center and why.
To better understand what kind of staff is necessary for substance abuse and addiction treatment that addresses not only someone’s physical dependence but the psychological aspects of it as well, it is necessary to explain just what all goes into a typical addiction treatment program.
However, you should also keep in mind that there is no such thing as “one-size-fits-all” addiction therapy. Every individual in treatment is going to have its own specific and unique needs.
Main Medical Staff
Generally, addiction recovery treatment will start with medical detox, the process of removing all the drugs or alcohol and other toxins from someone’s system to get them physically and mentally stabilized. During detox, clients will generally experience withdrawal symptoms that may be eased through the use of different detox medications.
This process is overseen by doctors and medical detox staff who will monitor clients for any potential complications and administer medications. If a client requires medication-assisted treatment (MAT) either during detox or as part of ongoing care, as is often done to treat opioid addiction, this will also be carefully carried out by a physician.
Once someone has started ongoing treatment, it may be either in an inpatient program or an outpatient one, depending on factors such as the severity of their addiction and if they have a history of relapse.
If a client is in an inpatient program, especially a long-term residential one where they and other clients are living long-term at the treatment facility, this also requires more medical staff to ensure the necessary 24/7 access to medical care.
Whether someone is in an inpatient or outpatient program, they will be participating in different forms of addiction therapy, which will help them to understand the issues behind their addiction and give them the tools to effectively manage their addictive behaviors. Therapists and counselors are meant to provide support, guidance, education, and knowledge.
A rehab center may have psychiatrists, counselors or therapists who specialize in addiction treatment and provide general therapeutic treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy, individual and group counseling or motivational interviewing, among others. They may also employ specific kinds of counselors who focus on marriage and family therapy.
There should also be therapeutic staff specifically experienced in dual diagnosis treatment, which involves treating co-occurring mental health disorders concurrently with addiction. These staff members may specialize in treating anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or certain groups like military veterans or people on the LGBTQ+ spectrum where experienced trauma can often feed into addiction.
As with the medical staff, in the case of an inpatient treatment program, there needs to be a certain amount of therapeutic staff available around the clock to ensure ready and available access for clients living onsite.
Additional Support Staff
One of the previously mentioned principles of effective treatment is addressing needs beyond just the chemical dependence aspect of addiction. Lasting recovery means more than just stopping substance use; it means learning new and healthier behavior to replace the negative ones associated with addiction. This can include everything from spiritual counseling to mindfulness and meditation, and yoga classes from a holistic therapist to nutrition and fitness education from a dietician or physical fitness therapist.
Additional staff may also be available for helping with life-skills classes that can help for better integration back to normal life after the recovery program ends that also make it easier for clients to adjust to successfully living independently, including money-management, job hunting skills, creating educational and career goals, and more.
Simply put: a good client-to-staff ratio is a low one, as this is the key to being able to best meet the individual therapy needs of each client. As previously mentioned, there is no one form of addiction treatment that is going to be effective for everyone, and to ensure that every client receives the personalized care necessary to help them achieve sobriety and work toward being able to maintain it, the ratio needs to be kept low.
A low client-to-staff ratio means that everyone, including the doctors, therapists, and general staff, does not feel overwhelmed by the number of clients they need to attend to and can instead more fully devote themselves to providing the time and personalized care that each client deserves. It also helps see to it that any potential emergencies, medical or otherwise, can be addressed and handled quickly and efficiently.
So what is the specific client-to-staff ratio that you should be looking for? While not every client is going to require the same level of personalized care based on their unique situation, the range of client-to-staff ratio at a high-quality rehab center tend to range between 1:3 and 1:10. More than 1:10 and you can expect to start experiencing a lower level of individualized attention and care.
Apart from just having these staff members present and in an effective ratio to the number of clients in a treatment center, it is also crucial that they meet the requirements involved in working in and operating a legitimate and credible addiction rehab center.
Some of these requirements that you will want to make sure you confirm before selecting a treatment facility include ensuring that the clinical staff, which includes doctors, nurses, clinicians, and therapists, are experienced in addiction and substance abuse treatment as well as currently licensed and board-certified.
Physicians should ideally be board-certified specifically in Addiction Medicine and Psychiatry. In the case of therapists and counselors, they should be a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) and have experience in treating co-occurring mental health disorders that are often related to addiction.
If they are offering some of the previously mentioned support services, like marriage or family therapy, then they should be certified as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). The same rules apply for dieticians and holistic therapists as well. While you definitely want a facility with a low client-to-staff ratio, you also want to make sure a rehab center hasn’t just hired as many people as possible to meet that ratio without making sure they meet the strict operating standards for an addiction recovery center.
American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2017, September 15). What are the ASAM Levels of Care? from https://www.asamcontinuum.org/knowledgebase/what-are-the-asam-levels-of-care/
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). Principles of Effective Treatment. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018, June 13).Treatments for Substance Use Disorders. from https://www.samhsa.gov/treatment/substance-use-disorders