May 6

Your Checklist When Looking for Addiction Treatment

Getting treatment for yourself or a loved one can be overwhelming. There are many options in Canada offering similar, but also very different, addiction services. The treatment you choose depends on a number of very important, personal factors. Here is some information useful for when you’re looking for residential treatment the first time or even the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th time.

These five factors are important to keep in mind when researching treatment options. These elements together will allow you to determine the most suitable treatment options:

  1. Age
  2. Location
  3. Sex and Gender
  4. Budget availability
  5. Substance(s) being abused
Age, Sex, & Location

Most adult treatment facilities require clients be at least 18 years old. Youth under 18 are able to attend youth-specific treatment options. Some facilities are co-ed, but many are also gender-specific. Your home province may have some gender-specific treatment and recovery options, but potentially not many. Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta are home to the majority of Canadian treatment providers. Be open to travelling to another province for addiction treatment as you may find a facility that better suits your needs.


Your budget will be a crucial consideration for treatment. Private treatment is more expensive than charitable and public treatment, but sometimes easier to attend right away. All treatment facilities price their programs slightly differently, but most 30-day programs cost around $15,000. Charitable (non-profit) treatment options cost approximately $5000 for 30-day programs. These types of programs include recovery homes, church groups, and transitional living organizations. Government treatment in Canada is covered by our public health care and administered by provincial governments. For some government facilities, there is a small fee per day (around $40). Government treatment may sound more ideal because of its price tag, but wait lists and bed availability may cause you to change your mind.

The substances or behaviours you wish to recover from will be important considerations in your budget, too. First, you need to make sure the treatment facility can attend to you. This is especially if you or your loved one requires treatment for two or more substances or is on methadone maintenance. Only a few programs have the resources for treating multiple addictions and supervising methadone tapering and they generally have higher fees.

When arranging detox, make sure you access the appropriate type of detox. There are two types: Medical and Social. The type of detox you require will influence your budget as well.

Know Your Needs… And Your Wants

Another important consideration when selecting treatment are the services provided within the programs. Many individuals with addictions have additional health issues – physical, mental, psychological, past trauma – that need special care. Ensure the facilities you’re considering have the resources and services to support such issues. Left untreated, these problems can impede treatment completion and recovery. Other services like fitness, sports, pool, yoga, meditation, and working privileges are important to consider, too. Not all treatment providers offer extra services outside group and individual therapy. Some won’t even permit communication between clients and their families while in treatment.

Important Note:
It is common for facilities to embellish their program services to justify higher fees. If one treatment center’s prices go up, other facilities often increase their prices, too, in the belief that they offer the same services and programs. For example, many facilities say they treat mental illness, but only some have the necessary psychiatrists or Masters’ level counsellors. Even if a treatment center does claim to have a psychiatrist, it doesn’t mean clients will be assessed. Often times, individuals are only assessed when they seem unstable.

This is the result of poorly educated administrators and uninformed staff. Some don’t know the difference between a psychologist and psychiatrist and some believe a licensed health facility means simply having a business license. The most effective thing for Canadians and Americans to do is contact the local health facility licenser. They can provide references to facilities that meet actual standards.

Choosing Public or Private Treatment

This is an important factor. In some cases, your budget will only allow you to attend public treatment. If you work for a company with extended health care, have low income, or are of first nations’ status, you may receive financial assistance and have more treatment options. Another consideration is borrowing money to go to private residential treatment. While you be thinking “Borrow $15,000! That’s a lot of money,” the following reasons show why private treatment may be a better option:

Private treatment follows it own rules
With the exception of health care laws and policies, private treatment providers can choose how to operate their programs. Behavioural Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), 12-steps, psychotherapy and Meaning Therapy are just some approaches selected by treatment providers. Because they control their own funds, they can allocate funds to specific services not normally included in government treatment. Public treatment is often limited by government policies in addition to their annual budget.

Public treatment & its resources are stretched
With constant cuts to funding in the mental health and addiction services in Canada, treatment beds are becoming less and less available and wait lists are getting bigger and bigger. To make matters harder, to be admitted to public treatment in Canada you must follow these steps.

1. Get Info
Contact your provincial hotline (sometimes it’s a website) to find an initial assessment office to get information about detox services, outpatient programs, and residential treatment.

2. Get an Intake Date
Should you decide on residential treatment, call facilities to find out their soonest intake date and all the pre-requisites needed to attend. This can include a specific referral process, being abstinent for a certain period of time before admission, and not being a recent offender (for some).

3. Set Up Your Initial Assessment
Once you’ve confirmed when you can attend treatment, create an appointment for your initial assessment where you can be schedule detox so you are able to transfer directly into residential treatment.


  1. Depending on where you live, initial assessments take place on a drop-in basis or have a 1-3 week wait period.
  2. Most government residential treatment centers have a wait list anywhere from 1 week to 6 months. Some places have up to a year waiting list.
  3. The goal is to have your detox flow smoothly into residential treatment. For example, if you’re intake date isn’t for 6 months, don’t detox next month. Most individuals cannot maintain abstinence that long.
  4. The need for addiction treatment can often be time-sensitive. If you or your loved one needs treatment right away, government treatment may not be the most dependable option. It’s worth noting that most government addiction services will only communicate with individuals suffering from addiction, not their families or loved ones.
“Success Rates” & Relapse

There is a lot of misunderstanding around success and relapse rates. When looking for treatment you may be excited by success rates shown on a treatment centre’s website, but we suggest taking these success rates with “a grain of salt” for a number of reasons:

  1. Few treatment centers have the capacity to run thorough and comprehensive research that accurately measures their clients’ success. A centre like Hazelden Betty Ford is one of the few facilities that has the attendance rates, years in operation, resources, and finances needed to complete long-term, comprehensive research like this.
  2. Relapse and success are not definitive terms. Is it still relapse if it happens 10 years later? Is a person unsuccessful if they relapsed for a short-time, but then started recovery again? Not only are these terms too vague and complex to define, they’re not fair or ethical either according to treatment experts like William White. Recovery is a long process and rarely do people get it all in one shot. That doesn’t mean they don’t get better in treatment; abstinence doesn’t mean complete success and relapse does not indicate complete failure.
  3. Treatment success rates also cannot be effectively measured because it’s not solely based on treatment providers. Treatment provides individuals with the skills, tools, and knowledge about themselves to help them address and overcome their issues with addiction. All that help is irrelevant if the individual doesn’t utilize or care about it. An individual not interested in recovering from addiction and returns to using post-treatment will lower a treatment provider’s “success rate”, but does it indicate poor service?
  4. If a treatment center gives you a “success rate” between 40-60% it is likely an honest, realistic answer; albeit, anecdotal. If you see a high success rate around 80-90%, recognize that this is not true and, if it were, there would be line-ups around the block to get in.

Instead, we recommend people to base treatment choices on individual needs and wants, not success rates.

Methadone Treatment

If you are currently on a methadone program and in search of treatment, you will have another set of factors to consider. Read this article for more information on the specific situation for accessing treatment while using methadone.

If you have any questions or inquiries regarding accessing addiction treatment or anything addiction-related, we invite you to leave a comment below or contact us.

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