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Top 3 Considerations When Choosing Between Alcohol Rehab Centers

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Choosing the right alcohol rehab center for the treatment of an alcohol use disorder (AUD) can be a helpful step in getting sober. Many people need help so urgently that they take the first bed available at a nearby detox center. This can be a life-saving choice. However, if you have the opportunity to choose your alcohol rehab center, either initially or after detox, this can enhance and personalize your treatment experience.

In this article:

Types of Alcohol Rehab Facilities

Some facilities offer one type of treatment, but many individuals have a more fulfilling experience and better recovery outcomes in an all-encompassing alcohol rehab center. These types of centers offer a step-down treatment program where you stay with the same treatment team and facility from detox to outpatient counseling.1

1. Detox Treatment Facility

Before you begin working on why you drink and learning new skills, you often must first eliminate all alcohol from your system, especially if you have severe and medically significant physical dependence on alcohol. This is done in a detoxification facility, which is a clinical setting that gives you round-the-clock access to medical professionals.2 When choosing an alcohol detox center, determine the following which type of detox you need: 2

  • Rapid detox treatment
  • Medication management to help you avoid withdrawal symptoms
  • Non-medication management assistance except for treatment of physical symptoms (e.g., medication to treat headaches and sleep issues)
  • Detox combined with individual and group therapies

2. Inpatient Rehab Facility

After detox or if you do not require medically supervised detox, you will still have cravings for alcohol even if none of the substance is in your body. Inpatient rehab is considered a “step down” from detox. Living in alcohol rehab centers during treatment provides the opportunity for healing while also introducing you to various treatment programs that teach you how to maintain recovery.3

When choosing an inpatient rehab, think about the areas in which you need the most help. Factors to consider include:3

  • Credentials of the staff with which you will be working. Are they licensed in therapy methods you hope to receive? Do they have experience with patients like you (e.g., individuals with polysubstance use disorder, patients in your age group, or individuals entering treatment for a second time)
  • Types of therapies offered, including individual, group, alternative, holistic, peer support, etc.
  • Curriculums offered
  • Availability of medication assistance to control cravings and withdrawal symptoms, as well as any other medical concerns you have (e.g., mental health conditions and physical conditions that require frequent lab work and medication adjustments)
  • Access to medical care at appropriate intervals for your health needs
  • Dual diagnosis treatment, or the ability to treat mental health and addiction conditions at the same time
  • Ability to treat individuals in your demographic, such as whether the facility accepts teenagers

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3. Residential Treatment or Sober Living Facilities

Remaining abstinent from alcohol while in detox and inpatient rehab can be simplified because you have readily available resources and no access to alcohol. However, success in inpatient treatment is not always a predictor of readiness to return home.3

If you have not adequately practiced the skills you learned while in inpatient rehab, you may struggle to confront the challenges and triggers of your everyday life. You will have the opportunity for this practice at a residential treatment facility or sober living home. When considering a residential or sober home, consider the following:3

  • Structure of the program
  • Ability to get a job outside of the home
  • Rules and expectations
  • Ability to continue medication management, therapies, and support groups
  • Ability to and expectations for transitioning to outpatient counseling when ready to leave

4. Outpatient Counseling

Outpatient counseling programs offer varying levels of treatment for AUD. Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) and partial hospitalization programs (PHP) offer the most support, allowing you to attend 10 or more hours every week working with a counselor and peers through individual, group, and family therapies to continue learning and practicing relapse prevention and early recovery skills.4

Individual outpatient counseling allows you to work one-on-one with an alcohol treatment professional, meet once or twice a week, and continue therapy for overcoming an alcohol use disorder.4

Outpatient programs may meet in a different part of the facility that you lived in during inpatient treatment and may be facilitated by some of the same therapists you have already worked with to enable treatment continuity.

Types of Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

Techniques used in group and individual therapies are the methods and lessons used to teach you skills to identify triggers, cope with intense emotions, and implement relapse prevention tips. Some of the most effective therapeutic modalities are evidence-based, meaning peer-reviewed research has provided evidence that the modality supports long-term recovery outcomes. Below are examples of treatment modalities to consider when choosing an alcohol rehab center.5

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on changing your thought patterns to eventually change your automatic behaviors so you can overcome your struggle with alcohol use. CBT is a method that can be combined with many other treatments to strengthen your ability to maintain sobriety.5

Contingency Management Therapy

Contingency management therapy (CMT) uses rewards as motivation to stay sober. It is a technique that reduces the rate of dropout from treatment early. Incentives have been used for many years to encourage positive behavior. They can do the same when learning to maintain addiction recovery.5

Motivational Interviewing

Not everyone entering treatment is fully motivated to do all it takes to remain sober. Motivational interviewing (MI) enables you to find your personal, internal motivation sobriety that is separate from family expectations, doctor recommendations, and other external motivators. MI lets you take control over your recovery.5

Matrix Model

The Matrix Model of treatment was initially created for those with stimulant use disorders. However, over time it has been adapted to meet the needs of other substance use disorders, including AUD. The Matrix Model focuses on incorporating multiple treatment techniques for education, early relapse skills, and relapse prevention. Through group and individual therapies, you and your family receive the necessary treatment to help you stay sober.6

12 Step and Support Groups

A 12-step program, such as the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) 12 Steps, offers a guide to helping you maintain long-term sobriety. The original AA 12 Steps were created for those with AUD and has helped millions in their recovery journey. Treatment facilities offer various 12-step and other peer support groups daily to help you connect with others who also struggle with an addiction to alcohol.6

Additional Factors to Consider

Ask a lot of questions when you call a treatment facility. The first step of getting into an alcohol rehab center is talking to an admissions representative. This is your time to ask any question that can help you choose the right facility.


Choosing the most suitable treatment facility means considering the accessibility and practicality of the specific center in your current circumstances, which often means being realistic about what the treatment program will cost.8

Costs will vary between treatment facility. Many individuals find conventional rehab treatment cost prohibitive. However, many treatment facilities understand that cost can be a barrier and offer alternatives to paying out of pocket for their programs. Some facilities:8

  • Offer scholarships or grants based on income and medical need
  • Accept county or state funding
  • Take payment plans
  • Offer discounts, such as sliding scales based on income
  • Accept insurance plans

If you have insurance coverage for alcohol rehab, you may still need to get preauthorization based on your chosen program. In the preauthorization process, coverage is approved based on your medical need as presented by your treating physician. Talk to the doctors you have worked with about preauthorization if you are considering a specific treatment program or have had insurance coverage denied.

Cost can also vary based on the length of your treatment program.8 Length of stay can range from a few days to a few months, sometimes longer. You will need to consider how long you can stay at each level of treatment. The longer you stay in some form of treatment, the more support you will have to stay sober. Those who receive more treatment have a higher chance of addiction recovery success.8


The location of the facility may also need consideration before choosing an alcohol rehab center. If you have family who may be willing to participate in family therapy, you may prefer a center closer to your home. However, if you find a treatment facility that meets all your needs except location, select it. You can get family therapy later as you transition into outpatient care.

Alternative and Holistic Therapies

You can learn and use specific therapies for the rest of your life to manage stress, anxiety and promote good health. When your mind and body are healthy, you will be much stronger in your battle against relapse. Examples of alternative and holistic therapies are:9

  • Massage therapy
  • Meditation and mindfulness practices
  • Yoga practices
  • Exercise, especially mindful and joyful movement
  • Acupuncture and acupressure
  • Naturopathic medicine, which is a philosophy based on the ideas of self-healing and natural remedies
  • Ayurvedic medicine, which combines nutrition, movement, and lifestyle principles based on traditional Indian health care

Many of these therapies can supplement and enhance the coping skills and relapse prevention skills you learn in evidence-based therapy modalities. Luxury rehabs are more likely to offer a range of alternative therapies in addition to evidence-based therapies.


Searching for the right alcohol rehab center can be like searching for any service, especially other health care services. While you want and may need to get into treatment quickly, you also want to get into a program that will help you find sustainable recovery.

You can also consider the reviews of treatment facilities. See what former residents say about the program. It’s a good idea to hear directly from people the facility has helped. Learn the pros and cons as seen through the eyes of those who experienced their treatment program. You can also ask for recommendations from your primary care physician and therapist, as well as references and qualifications from the alcohol rehab centers’ staff to help you know what to expect.

Finally, seek help choosing a facility that is the best fit to help you overcome your alcohol use disorder. Call 800-948-8417 Question iconCalls are forwarded to these paid advertisers to talk to our addiction treatment specialists and discuss your needs. We are here 24/7 to help you find the right program.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Types of Treatment Programs.
  2. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2006). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US). Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45.
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); Office of the Surgeon General (US). (2016). Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health – Chapter 6: Health Care Systems and Substance Use Disorders. Washington (DC): US Department of Health and Human Services
  4. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2006). Substance Abuse: Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment – Chapter 4: Services in Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 47.
  5. Carroll, K. M., & Onken, L. S. (2005). Behavioral therapies for drug abuse. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 162(8), 1452–1460.
  6. Eghbali, H., Zare, M., Bakhtiari, A., Monirpoor, N., & Ganjali, A. (2013). The effectiveness of matrix interventions in improving methadone treatment. International Journal of High-Risk Behaviors & Addiction, 1(4), 159–165.
  7. Anton R. F. (2008). Naltrexone for the management of alcohol dependence. The New England Journal of Medicine, 359(7), 715–721.
  8. Broome, K. M., Knight, D. K., Joe, G. W., & Flynn, P. M. (2012). Treatment program operations and costs. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 42(2), 125–133.
  9. US Department of Health and Human Services. (2021). Complimentary, Alternative, or Integrative Health: What’s in a Name? National Institute of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
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