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The Staff Members Found at a Treatment Center

Structurally, a drug rehab center runs like almost any organization. Treatment facilities have an executive and administrative staff that runs the day-to-day operations while the professional staff members provide the rehab services.

A rehab facility that offers inpatient services may also include residence managers and housekeepers. A center that treats co-occurring conditions, both mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders, will have a psychiatrist or team of psychiatrists on site. Depending on the amenities and degree of luxury offered, there may be additional support staff members, including a lawyer, life coach, chef, nutritionist, physical trainer, yoga therapist, or massage therapist.

As the National Institute on Drug Abuse points out, the quality of the relationship between a client and his treatment providers influences the likelihood of treatment success. While it is not possible for a prospective rehab client to know what the dynamic will be like with any given staff member, a professional atmosphere can lay the groundwork for trust, which is a key ingredient of success in treatment.

The Importance of Experience

A review of the staff of any rehab center in America will usually reveal decades of professional experience in the field of addiction. Often, the executive and administrative staff members are medical doctors or professional addiction specialists. Even though these administrators may not render direct services to clients, their substantive experience in addiction treatment is vital. Drug treatment is a highly specialized area, and for this reason, the executive, administrative, and professional staff members most often hold degrees in related areas and direct work experience.

In some cases, staff members are recovered drug abusers who succeeded in earning the necessary credentials to work in this field. Also, some founders of rehab centers were once drug abusers who, empowered through recovery, have dedicated their lives to helping others recover from substance abuse and addiction. These people could be said to combine the best of both worlds as they know addiction from firsthand personal experience and have received the academic and clinical training to become rehab service providers.

Staff biographies are generally provided on treatment websites as this information factors into the decision of whether to attend to a specific program. Staff titles can provide insight into the level of expertise to expect from the people at a treatment facility. Common positions include:

  • Founder/CEO, President
  • Psychotherapist
  • Admissions director
  • Social worker/clinician/counselor
  • Program director
  • Detox specialist
  • Doctor (MD), psychiatrist
  • Case manager

It is important to understand that drug treatment facilities are state-regulated, and treating professionals are generally subject to a stringent state credentialing process. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has published a National Review of State Alcohol and Drug Treatment Programs and Certification Standards for Substance Abuse Counselors and Prevention Professionals that describes licensing requirements from state to state. The review covers the compliance requirements that facilities must follow as well as the licensing, certifications, and credentialing of rehab staff.

For instance, regarding social workers, while an undergraduate or graduate degree is a substantial accomplishment, it is often not enough on its own to warrant working in addiction treatment. Graduates will generally need to complete a certain number of clinical hours (through an internship usually) and then pass the necessary state exams to receive a license to practice (which is different from an academic degree). Requirements vary from state to state. Any acts of noncompliance with a state’s legal requirements would be a good tipoff that a rehab facility is not up to standards.

What to Expect in Rehab

Addiction writer and recovered alcohol abuser Anne Fletcher, author of Inside Rehab, takes readers on a tour behind the doors of several rehab centers across America. Fletcher visited hundreds of treatment programs, staff members, and clients in a four-year period in order to write the book. Fletcher was inspired to write the book because she felt there was a lack of understanding about what rehab really entails. She found from her own experience that much of the focus on rehab relates to getting a person into it, rather than exploring what goes on during treatment.

The Fix, an informational site dedicated to providing information on drug abuse and recovery, interviewed Fletcher about her experience reviewing rehab programs. To be expected, Fletcher had both positive and negative feedback on operations at rehab centers. It is important to note that negative reports can be highly instructive when selecting a program and help point out questions that should be asked about staff credentials, programming, and success rates.

Regarding staff members at rehab centers, Fletcher found that they relied mainly on 12-step recovery programs and had little knowledge of secular alternatives. Fletcher’s concern is primarily that 12-step programs, which are faith-based and part of the lineage of Alcoholics Anonymous, do not work for everyone. Fletcher believes that when a person relapses after completing a 12-step program, that person should not return to the same 12-step program and simply try again. For Fletcher, rigidity in treatment approaches is dangerous, and she calls for treatment to expand beyond the 12-step approach.

Fletcher’s point can be translated into guidance to those seeking a rehab program. An admissions counselor will conduct a full intake of the incoming client and work with a team of addiction specialists to create a tailored program. If the rehab program follows the 12-step model, and that model has not worked for the client in the past, an inquiry can be made as to what alternative type of treatment may be available. It is important to keep in mind that rehab is a complicated process, and a relapse does not necessarily mean there was a deficiency in the program.

The best practice is for a rehab client to maintain open and honest communications with staff members throughout treatment and advise them of any ways that treatment feels lacking or ways it could be improved. Although addiction treatment is a highly specialized field attended by professionals, clients have a voice in the process, and any staff member worthy of her credentials will listen and respond appropriately to client concerns.

Advanced Recovery Solutions was founded by Rich Whitman and Cody Leicht, each of whom have at least 30 years of experience in the field of addiction. Their expertise in this area has made them ideal consultants for substance abusers who are ready for rehab. For family members and other concerned persons, Whitman and Leicht provide expert intervention services. Both Whitman and Leicht work with clients in several supportive capacities, including sober coaching, sober transportation, and placement in an expert rehab program.

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