Step 2 - Ask 10 Recommended Questions

After you’ve found some options, set aside time to contact the providers on your list. Below we offer both what to ask providers and what to listen for in the answers. This will help you find higher-quality care that is a good fit for your situation.

Gather information before you call

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You might be asked to share the following kinds of information about the person in need of treatment:

  • Basics: Age, gender, marital and family status, job status?
  • Payment options: Health insurance or other ways to pay for treatment?
  • Alcohol and other drug use: Drinking pattern and consequences? Other drug use? Any previous counseling or treatment received?
  • Other health issues: Any other medical or mental health issues?
  • Living and social situation: Stable living situation? Access to transportation? Social support network?
  • Legal system involvement: Any DUIs, probation, other issues?
  • Specialized needs and preferences: Non-English-speaking? Pregnant? Safety-sensitive job?

It’s okay if you are not sure about some of the answers. The Notes Page in the Navigator Toolkit can help you organize what you do know.

Contact someone who can provide details about services

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Learn what you can from a provider’s website first. Then aim to reach someone in the practice who can provide details about the services offered.  Here are tips for contacting:  

  • Alcohol treatment programs: Call the ʺintakeʺ number. This unit interviews new patients and can help answer questions about the program. The intake person may also ask questions to get a better idea of the kind of treatment services may be needed.      

  • Therapists with addiction specialties: Call or email to ask to speak to the therapist directly if possible. Leave a message such as: ʺI am trying to find treatment for someone with a drinking problem. I would like to learn more about your practice.ʺ  

  • Doctors with addiction specialties: Speak with an office staff member. Board-certified addiction physicians are highly trained in evidence-based treatment for alcohol problems. So you will not need long answers to questions about quality of care. Instead you can focus largely on availability, costs, and insurance.  

If you don’t hear back within 2 days, reach out again. If you don’t hear back at all within a week, cross them off your list. 

Ask 10 recommended questions

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These questions will help you learn whether a provider offers higher-quality treatment and is a good fit for your situation.  Be sure to see the answers to listen for in the next section.  

  1. Availability:  We’re exploring several options. If we choose you, how soon could treatment begin? 
  2. Costs and insurance: Can you help me estimate the cost of treatment? Will insurance cover these costs?  
  3. Credentials: For programs: Are you licensed and accredited? Can you tell me about the qualifications of your counseling staff? For therapists: Can you tell me briefly your background and your credentials? For addiction doctors: Is the doctor board certified in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry? 
  4. Full assessment and personalized plan: How do you establish a treatment plan? Do you start with a complete assessment and diagnosis? What does that involve? 
  5. Treatment approach: Can you tell me about your treatment approach for people with alcohol problems?  
  6. Medication assisted treatment: For therapists and programs:  Can you arrange for someone to prescribe a medication to treat alcohol use disorder if appropriate? For addiction doctors: Can you confirm that the doctor prescribes medications to treat alcohol use disorder if appropriate? 
  7. Support for other mental health and medical issues: How do you help people address other mental health or medical issues if needed?  
  8. Expectations: What do you expect of your patients and their families during treatment? 
  9. Managing relapse: What do you do if a patient has a relapse while in treatment? 
  10. Recovery support: What about after treatment? is ongoing recovery support available? 

Listen for signs of quality in the answers

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The Navigator offers expert guidance to help you spot signs of quality care for alcohol problems.  We will help you:  

  1. Get a feel for signs of quality in “best case” answers. See both “Why you should ask” each question and “What to listen for” when talking with each type of provider:  
  2. Recognize five key signs of higher-quality alcohol treatment. There are no guarantees, but providers with all five signs are more likely to offer treatment based on the latest scientific research. This can increase your odds of success.   

The 10 Questions worksheet from the Navigator Toolkit can help you capture what you learn from providers.   

Treat this process just like you would approach any other health care decision. Do your research, ask questions, and use your best judgment. See Step 3—Choose quality care for suggestions on putting all the pieces together.