How to Avoid Scam Rehabs (Expert Round-Up)

In the last few years, the addiction recovery industry has seen an incredible influx of scam rehab facilities.
These facilities look to mill patients in and out, claiming insurance money but giving little thought to patient care or recovery.

If it's your first time dealing with addiction recovery (whether for yourself, or for a loved one), these places can be hard to avoid.

We asked these addiction recovery professionals how to identify and avoid these scam rehabs and how to identify a real facility where recovery can begin.

Erin Parisi, LMHC, CAP

"Consider which red flags are deal breakers for you, and if there are several red flags, look elsewhere."

Those looking for drug and alcohol rehabilitation should do their research!  Look for recommendations from people you know that have been, or trusted professionals in your area (physicians, therapists, other people in established recovery) and find out how long the programs have been around.  Ask your insurance company for referrals, since they will have their own monitoring and treatment standards.  Find out about the program’s accreditations (look for ACHC Accreditation), as there should be some oversight. Read online reviews, because while they may not be the most accurate, unbiased reviews of programs, it can help you put together a list of questions to ask facilities you’re interested in.  Also think about the factors that are most important to you about a treatment program.  Do you want to be in a co-ed program?  How important is seeing a psychiatrist to you?  How significant are your co-occurring disorders?  I also recommend touring the facility before enrolling, if you’re able.

There are a lot of red flags that can tip you off that a program may not be legitimate.  Consider which red flags are deal breakers for you, and if there are several red flags, look elsewhere.  Programs that promise to “cure” addiction would be concerning to me, as the medical and psychological communities don’t see addiction as something that is “curable.”  Programs that give clients too much freedom (using the phone at any time, clients can come and go as they please, limited structure) are also worrisome.  Programs that don’t have psychiatrists and therapists on staff are typically not treating co-occurring disorders (though many claim to).  Programs that use professionals like these “as needed” in my experience have team members that aren’t as well informed, the continuity of care is lacking, and clients have an easier time manipulating staff and avoiding the work that helps them make necessary changes.  Programs that aren’t accredited and/or don’t work with insurance companies aren’t held to the same standards of care.  Also, be wary of a program that seems too good to be true!

While none of these things guarantee any specific outcome for someone seeking treatment for their substance use disorder, it can help narrow down the available choices.

Dr. Matthew Bruhin, PhD, LMFT, RAS

"See what is happening in person and make sure that what you are signing up for, feels right for you.

Unfortunately, the addiction rehab industry is going through some major growing pains. For years, addiction was treated by very few professionals and was largely served by 12-step participants and alumni. In recent years, and largely aided by the influx of the opiate epidemic, many individuals sought to profit from the rehab business due to the ability to bill insurance that was now mandatory due to the affordable care act. This has led to the many poor outcomes and unreputable practices nation-wide in the addiction treatment field.

In order to seek out reputable and skilled treatment practitioners and treatment facilities, prospective patients and family members need to keep a few things in mind in order to find reputable places that offer treatment.

First and foremost, make sure that any provider or facility is accredited by a known accrediting body, in addition to being licensed in their State of service. Make sure that treatment protocols provided are evidence based. This means that studies have shown that the treatment one is getting works! Make sure that any provider or treatment facility, researches their own methods and can provide outcome based measures to show efficacy. Finally, make sure you visit and see the prospective treatment center, if possible, prior to admission. See what is happening in person and make sure that what you are signing up for, feels right for you.

If one follows these steps, they can better ensure that the services they receive will work and more importantly, last!

Nancy B. Irwin, PsyD, C.Ht

"Clients/Patients are typically quite vulnerable at the time they are researching appropriate facilities to enter for detox and recovery.  
Having a sober friend or family member help choose the best fit at this time can greatly reduce the risk of being taken advantage of by a "body broker" or similar nefarious facility."

Clients/Patients are typically quite vulnerable at the time they are researching appropriate facilities to enter for detox and recovery.  Having a sober friend or family member help choose the best fit at this time can greatly reduce the risk of being taken advantage of by a "body broker" or similar nefarious facility.

Make sure the facility you are interested in is accredited. The two best accrediting agencies for addictions facilities are CARF (carf.org) and JCAHO (www.jointcommission.org).  

These agencies regularly audit rehab centers for consumer protection, and patients/clients have access to contact info posted in the facility, in the event there is a breach of services.

Ask for a testimonial  from a satisfied client.  Of course confidentiality must be respected, however, some clients are happy to share their experience with another, and this can be done anonymously. If a client/patient or their helpful loved one feels pressured in any way, then that is a red flag, that that center is not the place for you.

We who work with addicts know that pressure is the last thing an addict needs; change only works if the addict wants it and is ready to do their part to heal.

Koorosh Rassekh, M.M.F.T.

 "Be wary statistics of success because they often don’t reflect reality."

 

It’s important to look for a treatment program that matches your philosophy. You can look through the facility’s materials to understand their theoretical orientation and treatment approach. Each rehab has certain ways that they understand how problems happen, which influences how recovery happens. Look out for long lists of treatment modalities. If it seems like the program does every type of therapy that exists, it may be a sign that they do not actually practice them all.

It’s also important to visit before signing up. Meet the staff and therapists. Ask about their credentials and experience. Look at weekly treatment calendar to understand the program’s day to day events. Good treatment has well-defined interventions and can easily state their objectives. Watch out for schedules that require participation in free social support groups or field trips. While some of those activities can feel great and can be beneficial to some, they are not clinical in nature.

A big red flag is a guarantee of success. It’s attractive to hear that clients will be cured in 30 days, but the reality is that it is impossible to solve complex problems in very short window of time. Be wary statistics of success because they often don’t reflect reality.

Most importantly, find a rehab program that respects your desires and outcomes. Rather than requiring you to subscribe to their ideas about outcomes for your relationships, substance use, and lifestyle, it’s important to have a program that supports your goals.