Choosing a treatment center in the age of Google

Sep 28 2017

Choosing a treatment center in the age of Google

It’s always been difficult to judge addiction treatment providers from outside the program, and the internet isn’t helping sort out the good from the bad as much as you might think.

Many treatment facilities offer the same kinds of programming, hold the same licenses, and given that some experts consider relapse to be part of recovery, it’s tough to measure a center’s effectiveness when success rates are low across the board.

If judging a treatment center is difficult for licensors and objective observers, it’s even more difficult for those in the throes of addiction or desperately seeking help for a loved one.

While it seems reasonable to think the internet could help in this dilemma, offering more easily-accessible information about treatment providers, that hasn’t exactly been the case. In fact, digital advertising has lead to an increase in shady business practices and contributed to a culture of fraud that is disrupting the industry.

Google, the worldwide leader in search, recently announced changes to its policies governing advertising from drug and alcohol treatment providers. It seems many less than reputable treatment providers were using Google’s advertising arm, Google AdWords, to purchase ad space at the top of search results. They were using these ads to lure clients to treatment facilities that did not provide adequate care or proper treatment programming.

In response, Google said it will start limiting ad sales on certain search terms related to addiction treatment. By choosing to limit the ads sold to treatment centers, Google hopes to cut down on fraudulent activity in the treatment industry and potentially save lives in the process. Though the move will hurt Google’s profits and may hurt small, reputable treatment providers looking to carve out a space in a crowded market, reducing fraud will be better for the treatment industry as a whole.

Picking a treatment center

But the bigger questions remains, how can a person decipher whether the treatment center they’re considering is reputable or not? In the age of Google, sometimes it takes getting back to basics.

For starters, get on the phone and ask some questions. A lot of them. If you’re given vague or general statements that sound great but don’t offer many specifics, press for details. Most reputable treatment centers are happy to talk about their programming methodology and won’t be looking to hide anything from someone in need of help. Also, if the center keeps bringing the conversation back to insurance coverage, they may only be after the money.

When you have them on the phone, ask who their community partners are, and if you feel like something is off, check their references and see what those organizations have to say. Established treatment facilities generally have strong partnerships with both the justice system and other community organizations. For their own sakes, reputable nonprofits won’t want to be affiliated with a treatment center that’s not credible, so they’re more likely to give you a straight answer.

Though not always possible for some, the best way to judge a treatment center is to visit it in person and check the facility out for yourself. Ask to take a full tour and maybe chat with some clients on your way in or out. Your own eyes and ears can be the best judges.

While fraud in the industry is a real concern, it’s important to remember that reputable providers are out there, and in great numbers. The vast majority of treatment facilities are staffed by those who truly want to help, many who have been through addiction themselves. Addiction treatment is a multi-billion dollar industry, and there will always be people looking to make a quick buck. But by doing your homework, perhaps even more than you’d think you’d have to, you can find the facility that’s right for you or your loved one.