Treatment centers might have a notoriously low rate of success, but they do have a couple of things going for them. For all the things that they do wrong, they still get some of the stuff right, and people do recover. Treatment is not a magic bullet by any means, and there are a number of flaws to be found, but some of what they are doing is genuinely helpful.
Let’s dig in and see what works:
1) Stable environment – This is critical for the newly recovering addict or alcoholic. If there is temptation (in the form of drugs or alcohol) then it will jeopardize everything for the newcomer. Having a safe, stable environment is critical.
2) Peer support – Another critical concept for recovery. No man is an island. You can’t do it alone. Having peer support is essential in early recovery.
3) Aftercare – Addiction treatment centers know the importance of aftercare. What they are really doing is advocating solutions that help addicts transition to the real world. I can personally vouch for the effectiveness of long term treatment, as it literally saved my life whereas short term residential stays had continuously failed me.
4) Balance – Most addiction treatment centers try to offer a balanced program, offering some group therapy, some 12 step support, some informative lectures, some recreation, and some meditation/spiritual practices. Kudos to them for picking up on the idea of holistic recovery. Some of them even advocate for good nutrition and regular exercise!
5) Zero tolerance policy – treatment centers always have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to people sneaking in drugs or alcohol. The idea of the zero tolerance policy is critical for recovery in general, and applies to more than mere abstinence from chemicals. Those in early recovery should learn to use this level of discipline in other areas of their lives as well.
I know it is easy to be critical of a recovery program, and unfortunately it seems like a lot of the problems with traditional treatment centers can be solved by simply throwing more money at them.
For example, longer stays in rehab = more chances to offer a more diversified approach to recovery that is holistic rather than a concentrated solution that only focuses on the 12 steps, etc. As usual, there are no easy answers.
It is disturbing how low the success rates are in long term treatment centers, for example. You would think that actually living in rehab would give people the support that they need to succeed, but many times it does not seem to change anything. People still end up relapsing quite a bit.