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Getting Into an Addiction Treatment Center

Do you know someone who needs to be in an addiction treatment center? The process is a bit more involved than you might think, although it’s certainly possible to make rapid moves toward recovery. However, it’s never as dramatic as the cases depicted on daytime talk shows. You’ve probably seen when a television host showcases a family led by an intervention specialist to confront an addicted relative or friend about the need for treatment.

But in the real world, there is no rapid “whisking away” of a family member into an addiction treatment center. If that happens, it’s because the host of the television show has worked behind the scenes with the family and with the treatment specialists. Let’s find out what usually happens.

The Real World

In the typical case, there is an addicted friend or family member whose use or abuse of a specific substance is wreaking havoc on his life. Perhaps he is endangering his health through substance abuse. In many cases the person is no longer able to sustain good personal relationships. He may lose his job or flunk out of school. Maybe he’s had a brush with the law, for driving while intoxicated or even been charged with a theft, committed because he needed money to support his habit.

If that sounds familiar, then you’ve probably been putting up with this person’s use for quite some time. Initially, everyone excuses it. The person promises she can quit whenever she wants, and everybody gives her chance after chance to do so. The thing is; it never lasts.

The Elephant in the Living Room

 The family member’s addiction becomes like an elephant in the living room. This is a popular analogy among addiction treatment specialists. It’s an apt description because the addiction really takes a lot of time and energy from the people who have to put up with it. You have to feed the elephant, by helping the person get enough money to buy his substance of choice. You have to tend to the elephant, making excuses for the addicted person—calling his work when he can’t make it in because of a hangover, for example. You even have to clean up after this horrible, huge elephant:  Paying legal fines, smoothing over episodes of verbal or physical abuse from the addicted person, and worse.

The amazing thing about the elephant in the living room is that everyone pretends it’s not even there. There is no problem. There is no addiction. As soon as the person sobers up and apologizes to everyone, the elephant goes away—until the next time. Sound familiar?

What Is an Assessment?

 When you call an addiction treatment center, you can expect a counselor or intake person to schedule an appointment for what is called an assessment. The assessment will be a meeting between a counselor licensed in addiction treatment who will talk with the person about what substances she uses, how often she uses them, and how she takes them. There will be other questions concerning the person’s family life, work or school life, any legal difficulties, and even any mental health issues. The counselor will meet with the addicted person and will then talk with family members only if the addict signs an authorization permitting the counselor to do so. The addict’s confidentiality is strictly protected by federal law.

At the end of the assessment, the counselor will recommend a “level of care”. Most states require therapists and treatment facilities to recommend the least restrictive level of care for someone seeking help. That means that no matter how angry you may be with the person, no matter how much you want to put him into a treatment center, the first step will most likely may be in an outpatient setting.

  • Outpatient substance abuse counseling takes place once a week, usually in one-hour sessions with a licensed substance abuse professional.
  • Intensive outpatient counseling gets the addicted individual involved in a set number of sessions per week—usually three sessions per week, for two or three hours per session. Just as the name says, it’s more intensive!
  • Partial hospitalization is a day program. It is less restrictive than residential treatment because the patient goes home at the end of a day spent in therapy.
  • Residential treatment centers will provide a bed for the addicted who has agreed to seek help. The addict will remain there for a specified length of treatment and abide by the treatment center’s rules. The rules are set up to keep the patient focused on his need for treatment, and he will participate in daily treatment programs through groups and therapeutic activities and may only have visitors as approved by his substance abuse counselor, so that the patient is focused solely on his own recovery.

Involuntary Commitment

 There is another option available when the family or friends of an addict believe that she constitutes a danger to herself because of her substance abuse. The family can require the person to be assessed by staff at an area mental health hospital. If the addict’s behavior is out of control, the family can ask for police assistance in transporting the person to the hospital for evaluation.

The hospital personnel will then determine if the person’s substance abuse merits immediate hospitalization to keep him safe. Usually, however, the hospital’s care is limited to stabilizing the person over a period of about 72 hours and then the person is released. While they always recommend follow-up care at one of the levels mentioned above, it is up to the individual to accept the recommended treatment.

When the Courts Come Into Play

The court system is usually a last resort.  If the addicted individual has broken the law through her behavior, it’s up to a member of her family to go to the county prosecutor’s office and press charges against her. In many cases, an addict will not get help until she is court-ordered to do so.

Helping a member of your family a friend to get help at an addiction treatment center is emotionally painful, but just remember: You are probably saving that person’s life.

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