Choosing the right treatment facility is one of the most important decisions a family can make for a loved one who is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction or a mental health disorder. It’s also one of the most challenging decisions for a family to navigate.

In the last decade, addiction has become a big business as insurance coverage for addiction has become readily available. The $35 billion industry now includes more than 40,000 treatment facilities in the U.S. alone. At the same time, there are no federal standards for addiction counseling or treatment programs, leaving families vulnerable to what they’re seeing online or being told over the phone by treatment facilities that are often located hundreds or thousands of miles away.

“The vast majority of people needing addiction treatment do not receive anything that approximates evidence-based care,” said John Oliver, host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, in his widely covered segment on the addiction-recovery industry. And Oliver is right; addiction treatment needs to be more carefully vetted.

A website for an addiction treatment facility that uses clinical words and beautiful images can seem like a good fit, but what is it that makes a “good” addiction treatment facility? How can a family know exactly what kind of treatment their loved one needs? And just as importantly, what does it all cost?

If you’re searching online for addiction treatment and have financial limitations, a treatment facility that says it will pay for the plane ticket for your loved ones to travel to the facility seems like a dream come true. But what if the treatment is subpar and the services offered aren’t a match for the needs of your loved one? This very frightening reality has become all too common, so much so that Google has set limits on the types of addiction treatment ads it displays on its platforms citing safety concerns.

Faced with these challenges, how do we at Feinberg Health Care Solutions recommend the right treatment facilities and programs? And how do we know if they’re a good fit for someone who is struggling with an addiction or mental health disorder?

We start by spending a great deal of time with families so we can match their needs to a program that will provide sound treatment for their loved one. Through this thorough assessment, we learn about the current behaviors that are creating considerable concern.

The assessment process includes gathering as much information as family members can provide, as well as exploring any significant events or changes within the family. We investigate any history of mental health and medical concerns – up to three generations back – to examine any potential needs, and we also identify educational/vocational struggles and successes.

One of the first things we look for when placing a client in a treatment facility is its willingness to be transparent in how it works with clients. Are we being invited to sit in on clinical meetings and observe a therapy group with their clients? Are we being offered access to the CEO, Clinical Director, Medical Director, or Psychiatrist?

Another important factor we look for is whether there is a family program and what this program entails. Addiction doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and the effects are far-reaching into the family unit. It’s for this reason that we provide Family Coaching before, during, and after a family member enters an addiction treatment facility. Our focus is to support the entire family in healing and being in healthy relationships with each other, which also benefits a loved one’s long-term recovery.

Other areas of focus when vetting treatment facilities include how a program treats mental health, its capability to address medical needs, the length of the program, and what transitional programming the program provides. The reality is that 30 days is just enough time to allow the brain to begin to clear from the chemical use. It’s only at this point that we have a much better understanding of the other issues that need to be addressed. Research shows that when people stay engaged in some type of structured support for at least a year, the chances of long-term recovery increase significantly.

Beyond these factors, another important thing to know — especially when looking at a program that accepts insurance — is whether the program is more invested in the welfare of its patients or keeping beds full so that it can reap financial gains from insurance companies.

With 44,000 treatment programs in the country, it would be foolish for us to say we know all of the best programs. We don’t. What we can say with confidence is that we know what to look for based on the needs of the family we’re supporting.

Over the years, we’ve have built close relationships with leading professionals in this field, and every month we continue to learn about more programs that might serve the families we support. We personally visit them and revisit them, and you can count on our team to stay involved with these facilities through the entire treatment process and advocate for your loved one’s needs.

There are programs that provide good treatment and work with insurance. There are good programs that are private pay only. There are good programs that offer scholarships to families who meet criteria through a financial assessment. There are also some good programs that are free. If you know where to look and what to look for in treatment, recovery truly becomes possible for everyone.