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Alcohol recovery - Five things to ask when choosing a rehab clinic

Published 14/07/2008

Deciding to seek treatment for alcohol dependency may be one of most courageous and life-changing steps you or a loved one will ever take. But not all alcohol rehabilitation programmes are created equal - in fact, they vary a good deal in terms of programme options, staff qualifications, credentials, cost and effectiveness. So how should you go about choosing?

It's certainly not a decision you should rush into if you want a positive outcome, even if you've hit ‘rock bottom' and feel desperate to find a solution, says Sue Allchurch, director of the Linwood Group.

"The treatment a person receives is crucial in terms of their subsequent recovery," she says. "Each person's experience of alcohol dependency is individual and the treatment programme they choose needs to be tailored to their unique needs."

Her advice is to ask lots of questions and make sure that the answers you receive in return are clear, understandable and address any specific concerns that you or your loved one have raised. The following are a good place to start:

1. What is your philosophy and approach to treating alcohol dependency?

Alcohol dependency is a disease that progresses through predictable stages - but progression varies between individuals, so it takes a specialist to make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe the most appropriate programme treatment. You will need to know what treatment programmes are available. What different kinds of counselling and therapy are offered? How do they differ from those available at other rehab clinics? What is the length of stay likely to be? What is it likely to cost?

 2. Do you offer a detox programme?

Before embarking on a period of therapy, it's vital that people who have developed a dependency on alcohol undergo alcohol detoxification (detox). Since the symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol can be severe among those who normally take a drink to avoid them - including nausea, tremors, sweats, anxiety and, in some cases, convulsions -- this should be done under the supervision of medical experts and trained therapists. The centre should also be able to prescribe drugs that will reduce the severity of withdrawal and help the body begin to repair some of the damage done by alcohol to the brain and nervous system.

 3. What are your credentials?

The therapeutic staff at a rehab clinic are there to get you back on your feet - but in order to do so, they must have your trust and confidence. Feel free to ask about their credentials. Do they have extensive experience in treating alcohol dependency? Are they members of the Federation of Drug & Alcohol Professionals (FDAP)? Are the accredited by the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)? Do the policies and procedures at the alcohol rehab centre comply with the UK government's Drugs & Alcohol National Occupational Standards (DANOS) guidelines? What are the centre's success rates?

 4. What is the degree of family involvement in the recovery program?

Alcohol dependency affects entire families, not just the sufferer. In fact, the families of alcoholics are very often in as much need of help, so family involvement is an important component of recovery. A good rehab clinic will offer a family programme consisting of one-to-one and group sessions, backed up by educational lectures and workshops.

 5. How is the transition from drug rehab back into ‘normal' life structured?

There is no quick fix for the disease of alcoholism. Alcohol rehabilitation is an ongoing process. The skills one learns during intensive treatment must be integrated into everyday life and this takes time. A good rehab clinic will ensure that a recovering alcoholic is able to maintain and support the changes they've made, through participation in a local Alcoholics Anonymous group once they've left residential care.

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