Selecting an alcoholism treatment program isn't easy. The following guidelines were compiled by Herbert W. Winstead, chief of the Alcoholism Program of the Montgomery County Health Department, and Christine Lubinski, Washington representative of the National Council on Alcoholism:
1. Cost. How much is the program, and will my insurance cover it? If my insurance covers it partly, how much must I pay out of pocket? Can I pay over a period of time? Are there any costs tacked on after formal treatment, such as for "aftercare" or subsequent therapy group sessions?
2. Certification. Is your program certified by the state or any other agency, such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals (JCAH)? This is a must.
3. Goals. What are your treatment goals? Abstinence -- not controlled drinking or the ability to drink socially -- is key.
4. Time. How long is your program, and does it include detoxification? Do you ever extend the time period? Detox can take three days to a week, and four weeks, the "normal" time frame for residential treatment, may not be enough. The 28-day program was set up largely to accommodate the maximum coverage of most medical insurance group policies.
5. Alcoholics Anonymous. Do you make AA an integral part of your treatment plan? This is important for long-term recovery.
6. Aftercare. Do you have an aftercare program? How long? Experts consider 12 weeks of aftercare, including counseling, to be minimum.
7. Family. What do you do for the family of a client? Experts say the family should be involved in the entrance interview, in groups during treatment and in Al-Anon.
8. Staff. What are the credentials of your staff? Experts say a medical doctor (M.D.) should be available at all times and counselors should be certified by the state. Winstead likes counselors to be an equal mix of recovered alcoholics and nonalcoholics.
9. Philosophy. Do you treat alcoholism as a physical disease, or as a symptom of an underlying cause or causes? If the latter is the treatment approach, move on to another center, Winstead and Lubinski agree.
10. Recovery rate. What is your recovery rate, based on how long a follow-up sample? The average, Winstead says, is 75 to 80 percent, based on one- and two-year follow-ups.
11. Medications. Do you prescribe mood-changing drugs beyond the detoxification stage? Under what circumstances? If the answer is yes, Lubinski says, get another opinion.
12. Treatment plan. Is an individual treatment plan devised for each patient?
13. Services for women. Are there any special services if the client is female? In coed therapy, for instance, there may be two or three females to 20 or 25 males, many of them with a history of, say, abuse of women. Women-only therapy groups should be a part of treatment, Lubinski says. Resources
There are countless treatment centers of all descriptions in the metropolitan area, and every political jurisdiction -- city, county, state -- has facilities to help the alcoholic. Many government treatment facilities have sliding fees based on ability to pay, and some are free on a case-by-case basis. Look under Alcohol or Alcoholism in the Yellow Pages and Alcohol in the white pages. Consult your doctor for recommendations.
The Washington Area Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Inc. (WACADA) has a 24-hour hotline, 783-1300, and another number for information and referral, 682-1700.
The number for Alcoholics Anonymous in Washington is 966-9115, open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.