Most Americans spend more time picking out a used car than they do vetting their treatment options. The value of a used car will probably be based on its condition, mileage, reliability, performance and popularity, and we all want a car that is reliable and performs well.

To go to treatment for your addiction is a deeply personal and important decision, which merits time and consideration. For example, co-occurring disorders are always significant; ask if the center you are considering treats patients whose primary illness is alcohol or drug addiction, and whose mental or physical health conditions do not prohibit them from ambulation or participating in treatment programs.

Assess your options

Consider building a target list of treatment centers (as you might consider a target list for that car). Consider calling experts both locally and nationally; check the better business bureau, major hospitals and universities, alumni in your area, or speak to independent interventionists and other treatment centers. But like in any industry, there are unqualified purveyors masquerading as experts. If possible, take a tour of the facility as you would go for a test drive and gather as much information as possible to make an informed decision.

"Addiction is a disease that has an impact on the entire family. Family involvement has been shown to be an integral part of successful treatment and recovery."

Especially when assessing how much to spend on your recovery, you’ll want to ask if the treatment center follows the “campus model,” also commonly known as residential, or “The Florida Model,” where the residences are separated from clinical; thus offering residential-style care while remaining within treatment. Many people ask if the “Florida Model” is not as effective as a campus but the question is the wrong one; both models can be excellent choices for the right client. The more important questions are what model is right for me or my loved one and is this program a quality one and the right choice for me (us) given these circumstances. Think about the differences in picking a college, university or hotel. Some are excellent, some good or average and some probably need to improve dramatically.

Even when choosing between two very good options, one may be more appropriate than others at this time. As mentioned, much will depend on your co-occurring medical needs (diabetes, heart conditions, thyroid disorders and broken bones for example), and clinical needs (trauma, anxiety, sexual orientation or identity, bi-polar, disordered eating, anger and depression, to name but a few). Depending on your co-occurring issues and treatment history, not to mention your willingness following the consequences that brought you to this point, there are many levels of care in modern recovery. While it is important to understand the difference between detox and medical stabilization, intensive inpatient/inpatient residential, extended care and sober living (halfway, three-quarter way houses), different levels of care or models will, with the diligence of research, become apparent to you as more appropriate than others.

Consider your values

But most importantly, choose a facility with integrity! Integrity in treatment means a place that values the history of significant contributions made by research-driven, evidence-based treatment interventions that integrate the sciences of medicine, therapy and spirituality; it really means a comprehensive model of care that addresses the medical, biopsychosocial and spiritual needs of individuals and families impacted by the disease of addiction. The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers has tried and trusted values recognizing what has historically contributed best—and most ethically, with proven recovery outcomes—to the sobriety of over 20 million Americans in recovery.

Your age or gender may also factor into this decision; programs have now been designed for different age categories and many separate by gender. Addiction is a disease that has an impact on the entire family. But family involvement has been shown to be an integral part of successful treatment and recovery, so feel free to ask how a center addresses the involvement of your loved ones. In general, there is no “one formula” but the clinical/medical needs and services provided for the cost should be carefully evaluated.

This will be one of the most important decisions you’ve ever made—and a genuine lifesaver.  The good news is that recovery from addiction happens every day in America. Do your homework, make an informed decision and with commitment to the process, support and time, I’m here to tell you that the gift of recovery happens.