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How Substance Abuse Treatment Centers Differ: What You Need to Know

Dillon McClernon

Authored by Dillon McClernon

On Choosing the Right Substance Abuse Treatment Center

Once a loved one has decided to move forward in the addiction recovery journey, family members are often surprised how many treatment options are available. The number of treatment centers is a tremendous benefit to families looking for the best care. However, it can also be confusing and overwhelming as well.

Of course, you want to make the best treatment choice for your loved one. But every center claims to have the necessary know-how to treat drug addiction better than the rest. So, how do you decode the abundance of information provided by the substance abuse treatment center?

The truth is, not all substance abuse treatment centers are the same. Take a look at some of the important differences you should know.

Model of Addiction

Treatment centers develop substance abuse treatment models, programs, and protocols based on a model of addiction. Furthermore, this is the framework or philosophy that guides their understanding of addiction.

  • The moral failure model of addiction understands addiction to be a deficiency in an individual’s character. Treatment centers that use this model may include language like “increase willpower” and “resist temptation” in their materials.
  • The disease model of addiction understands addiction as a neurological disorder or brain disease, in which substances fundamentally alter brain function. Treatment centers that use this model use language like “evidence-based treatment” and “medical detoxification” in their materials. (RCA accepts the disease model of addiction as supported by neurological research and findings of the National Institute of Drug Addiction and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.)

Length of Treatment Programs

Based on individual needs and circumstances, many people appreciate having the option of remaining in their facility treatment program until they have formed new healthy habits and life skills. While some centers offer short or long-term residential treatment, others may offer both.

  • Long-term residential treatment is typically between 6 and 12 months. Long-term treatment has been proven effective for relapsed individuals. This includes those with severe substance-use disorders, those with co-occurring mental disorders, and those in demanding professions.
  • Short-term residential treatment is typically between two and six weeks. Short-term treatment is preferable for those who have a strong support network and prefer to continue treatment on an outpatient basis.

Variety of Recovery Therapies

While some substance abuse treatment centers offer only limited therapies for treating substance abuse, others may offer a variety of therapies to help establish individual treatment plans.

  • Pharmacotherapies are medications that can help a person wean off an addictive substance and allow his or her brain to heal. Substance abuse treatment centers that operate under the moral failure model of addiction generally don’t use pharmacotherapies; however, centers that follow the disease model-based often do.
  • Behavioral therapies help a person develop new life skills or coping mechanisms for his or her new substance-free lifestyle. This may include sessions like contingency management, relapse prevention strategies, and group therapy.
  • Family therapies include couples and family counseling and courses in communication skills. Family programs are often intensive. They are intended to help family members impacted by addiction. Specifically, the look to help them to heal. They will do this by addressing communication, how substance use disorder is a disease, stages of addiction and recovery, and healing the family dynamic.

Understanding these key differences can make it simpler to find the right substance abuse treatment center for yourself or a loved one.

The care advocates at Recovery Centers of America are available anytime, 24/7, to answer your questions regarding addiction, treatment, and recovery. Call 1-800-RECOVERY today.

Authored by

Dillon McClernon

Dillon McClernon

Dillon currently serves as the Senior Director of Sales and Marketing at RCA. After his tenure as Chief Communications Officer and senior advisor to RCA, he opted for a full-time position at RCA where he could build a new team linking sales and marketing to directly impact RCA’s mission of saving 1 million lives.


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