New online tool helps navigate universe of alcoholism treatment providers

Feb 07 2018

New online tool helps navigate universe of alcoholism treatment providers

People who need to find a quality alcoholism treatment provider have a new, online resource. It’s an Alcohol Treatment Navigator, designed by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

“A lot of people struggling with alcohol problems do not know where to turn,” said NIAAA Director George Koob. “Ninety percent of adults in the U.S. with an alcohol use disorder don’t get any treatment whatsoever.”

He said the navigator was designed to be a comprehensive, easy-to-use tool to help individuals and their loved ones sort through a growing universe of treatment options, to find the right provider.

“We developed this tool to help address the alcohol ‘treatment gap,’” Koob said. “In any given year, less than 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with alcohol use disorder receive treatment, and many of them do not receive the type of care that best fits their needs. A big reason for that, we believe, is that people with alcohol use disorder often don’t know where to turn for help. The Alcohol Treatment Navigator offers a comprehensive strategy to help people search for professionally-led, evidence-based alcohol treatment, which should improve their chances for success.”

Koob said the navigator is the product of a two-year development effort which included a review of several decades worth of scientific research on clinical interventions and health services, along with input from researchers, treatsment providers and people who have used treatment services.

“Good alcohol treatment can be very hard to find,” said Lori Ducharme, NIAAA’s program director for Health Services Research and lead developer of the navigator. “Knowing where to look for treatment is difficult, mainly because treatment takes many forms which often are not well integrated into general health care. That makes it hard for people to find the kind of care that they need, when they need it.”

Ducharme said one common misconception about alcoholism treatment is that the only options are a mutual help group – like Alcoholics Anonymous, Rational Recovery or others – or long term, residential care. Providers have developed a wider range of treatment options in recent years, and finding the right type of treatment for each individual is not a matter of “one size fits all,” Ducharme said.

One of the themes of the navigator is that “different people need different options,” Ducharme said. “We need to help people understand the whole range of treatment options that are available, how to find one that meets their unique needs and preferences, and that treatments with the strongest chances for success are those that are informed by the results of rigorous scientific research on alcohol use disorder.”

One of the navigator’s features is a brief survey users can complete to helps determine the range or severity of their alcohol problem. “We now know that there’s a full spectrum in alcohol use disorder,” Koob said. “You can have a mild, moderate or severe problem.”

It also provides a link to a directory of licensed professional counselors, licensed clinical social workers, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and other therapists maintained by Psychology Today. There’s also a directory of treatment programs, including residential rehab and outpatient options, which is maintained by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a federal agency. The navigator site also has information about costs and insurance.

The Alcohol Treatment Navigator includes:

* An overview of alcohol use disorder;
* A description of different kinds of professionally-led treatment options;
* Step-by-step instructions for searching several existing online directories of treatment providers, including information from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Behavioral Health Treatment Locator;
* Ten questions to ask a provider, and five signs of quality to look for;
* A downloadable Toolkit to help organize and simplify the search process.