Our brother has agreed to go to an inpatient treatment program. He’s tried outpatient and failed. We’re going to pool our limited resources to pay for it. What’s the best way to decide?”

Obviously, shop around. Be sure to investigate at least three options, so as to get a broader idea of what’s out there. Here’s a few things to consider:

Location – You don’t say where you live, but treatment works best when the family can participate. Some facilities have a regional focus and encourage you to come for a weekend of therapy. Others are more geared to local residents and emphasize ongoing attendance at family sessions throughout the stay.

Cost – Since your resources are limited, don’t hesitate to contact programs by phone and ask pointed questions about price. They’re accustomed to this. Ask about possible discounts and gradual payment plans. Ask about typical length of stay and projected total cost. If some services are categorized as ‘extras’, ask for a price list.

Detox – Is your brother likely to need medically supervised detox? If yes, then it’s best to choose a facility that provides that, followed by a rehab stay. If detox is not a priority, then your range of choices expands somewhat.

Continuing care – what services are offered to support recovery and prevent relapse once your brother leaves treatment? Are they provided by the program or by referral? Are there potential problems in getting to continuing care based on location, transportation, or schedule? This is important — the success or failure of treatment often depends on what happens after the individual leaves the facility.

By the way, current research suggests that an optimal treatment episode is in the neighborhood of three months. That doesn’t mean it must be all in residence, however. It means at least twelve weeks involvement in total (residential, outpatient, etc.).

Co-occurring disorders – Some facilities have special expertise with other disorders often found in tandem with substance problems (chronic pain, psychiatric disorders, etc) Consider whether this is likely the case. If you think suspect your brother’s mental health or medical needs will be higher than usual, be sure to check out specialized programs.

Any other issue — Your family knows your brother best. Is there something important that we haven’t discussed yet you suspect might make an important difference in his response to treatment?

Notice I haven’t recommended close questioning about program philosophy. That’s because I’ve never been able to tell much from the answers. They tend towards generalities that don’t say a lot about what will actually happen in treatment. Still, you and your other family members should feel free to ask any such questions that occur to you.

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