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Alcoholism Treatment Program Evaluation, II

Aug 18, 2007
It is often difficult, given the acute turmoil individuals and families find themselves in when seeking help, to sort out what makes for an effective program. Nearly all will declare themselves to be uniquely suited for meeting the needs of whoever is calling. It isn't true.

There are, however, reasonably objective questions you can ask that will help you to increase your chances of selecting a program that can help:

1. What are the qualifications of staff? While Ph.D. and Masters Degrees do not guarantee quality, they usually indicate higher standards. Conscientious counselors, and programs, seek to acquire and increase skills. A lack of degrees and other credentials is cause for concern;

2. How many of the staff members refer to themselves "recovering"? Despite assertions to the contrary, research has found no benefit to clients in having recovering individuals as counselors. Effectiveness come from empathy: the ability to listen, care and motivate;

3. Are any members of the staff themselves former clients? This is a very big red flag. Former clients who are unable to remain sober outside of their treatment setting are unlikely to be of much use in helping you to do so. The facility's hiring also indicates a possible aversion to new ideas and models. Again, expansion of skills points towards a quality program, while constriction indicates otherwise;

4. What are their programs based on? Most treatment providers rely on a 12 Step/AA base known as the Minnesota Model where it originated over thirty years ago. If that doesn't appeal to you, or hasn't helped in the past, ask what alternatives they offer. There are equally or more effective models;

5. What is their success rate? Reputable programs will tell you that they don't know for sure since all programs rely on self-reports that are notoriously inaccurate. Programs should also be willing to give you a straightforward statement of how they define success - which in many cases amounts to little more than "was not noticeably intoxicated while here".

6. If you are considering in-patient, what are the provisions for aftercare? Behavior change is a difficult process that can't be accomplished in thirty days. The duration and quality of the follow-up will probably be more important than the initial stay.

7. If you decide that outpatient is more apt to meet your needs, and budget, how flexible is the program? Rigidity isn't inspiring.

8. What types of clients does the program treat? Those who claim to treat a wide variety of conditions and "addictions" probably don't treat any of them very well, and neither problems, nor clients, are equally amenable to treatment. Look for specialists, settings, and methods you feel comfortable with.

9. Will they refer you to other possibilities if you ask? Good programs know that they are not appropriate for everyone and will want to help you find a good match either philosophically, geographically, or financially.

While reassuring answers to these questions won't guarantee success, it will help to prevent you from wasting time, money, and effort.
About the Author
Dr. Edward Wilson has been developing and providing alternative alcohol counseling, including moderation, sincve 1990. He is the co-founder and Clinical Director of Your Empowering Solutions, Inc, located in S. California. http://www.non12step.com
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