It has been shown that personalized addiction treatment yields positive results for people who receive it. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) underscores the importance of individualized care in its principles of effective treatment.

One principle addresses the need to match a person’s treatment, interventions, and services to their personal challenges. One way to do this is to ensure a substance rehabilitation facility has a good staff-to-client ratio. This is important because it can give you an idea of what kind of personalized treatment you will receive at that particular site.

A low staff-to-client ratio also satisfies another NIDA treatment principle, which is making treatment readily available to the people who need it. Having the right balance of treatment staff and patients makes it easier to see that a person can receive individualized treatment right away, which is critical to whether they get help or not.

“Because drug-addicted individuals may be uncertain about entering treatment, taking advantage of available services the moment people are ready for treatment is critical. Potential patients can be lost if treatment is not immediately available or readily accessible,” NIDA says.

Staff-To-Client Ratio: What Does that Mean?

A staff-to-client ratio means the number of staff that are available to help the clients in their care. Having this number can help you determine if you will receive the level of dedicated care you need during your recovery at a facility, no matter where you are on the continuum of care

A good staff-to-client ratio is one where the staff member is responsible for a small number of clients. So, think 10 clients or fewer per one clinician when looking for a ratio that could fit your needs. Ideally, the lower the number of clients to one staff member, the better for everyone. Also, consider what you require in your treatment program. Depending on your needs and situation, you may need a clinician who has no more than five people under their supervision.

If a facility has one clinician handling 20 clients at any given time, it is safe to assume that you will not receive the personalized attention you need that addresses your needs or meets your treatment expectations. If you don’t get either of these, you may find it difficult to stay in treatment and end up leaving early, which is not the goal.

A low staff-to-client ratio ensures that the level of care remains targeted and focused on a person’s needs. If this ratio is out of balance, you risk getting treatment that is too generalized to meet your needs or not receiving the treatment you are paying for.

Benefits of Personalized Addiction Care Treatment

client to staff ratio

Treating a substance use disorder requires attention to details from the start. One-size-fits-all treatment is not ideal for anyone and risks missing the mark when it comes to a person’s needs.

There are many benefits of personalized treatment, and you only increase your chances of receiving it with a low staff-to-client ratio.

Among them are:

Access to addiction care or health care personnel. You can get tailored advice specifically for your situation whenever you need it. You also get to work with someone who knows about your situation and answer your questions.

Supervision that keeps clients on track. When a clinician is responsible for a small number of people, it is easier for them to guide the people under their care and help them reach their desired outcomes. It also is easier to notice when a client is not progressing as expected. This gives the clinician time to make adjustments as necessary so that the client has a chance of a successful recovery and rehabilitation experience.

Engaging treatment programs. Treatment settings that feel warm, inviting, and private can attract people who are looking for these features in their program. Clients who feel like they are more than just a number and that facility staff actually care about them can encourage them to stay and move forward in the program. Having that foundation of support can give stability people in recovery are looking for, especially when they are in the beginning stages of their recovery.

Therapy and Counseling: How One-On-One Sessions Can Help

Good staff-to-client ratios can also benefit people who are receiving therapy and counseling as part of their addiction treatment program.

One-on-one sessions with a mental health professional can provide numerous benefits to a client. These sessions can:

  • Offer clients a setting in which they can focus on their emotional and psychological challenges and identify solutions, which is not always possible in a group setting.
  • Extend the time clients need to address their personal hurdles that get in the way of achieving the sobriety they need and want.
  • Help clients move forward in developing their network of support that keeps them focused on treatment.
  • Give clients a road map of how they can continue working on their physical, mental, and emotional health after their addiction treatment program has ended.

Other Key Things to Look for in an Addiction Treatment Program

There are other things to take into consideration when looking for an addiction recovery program, and NIDA offers guidance on this.

You will want to look for a facility that is accredited and has licensed and trained professionals on staff. You also will want to look at a program that

includes you in the planning of your treatment program. This will ensure your voice is heard as you recover from substance use. It also will ensure that your needs are being met as you cycle through your program.

Look for a treatment program that addresses your substance use disorder and any issues and challenges related to it, as NIDA advises. That includes medical, social, psychological, vocational, and legal problems, it says. Also, look for a program that tailors its treatment programs to a person’s age, gender, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, religion, or other factors that are important to you. 

Programs that can accommodate the time you will need to receive treatment are ideal. How far along you are in your substance use disorder will shape your treatment experience, so joining a program that can accommodate your needs is important.

Many addiction care and medical professionals view addiction as a disease that is complex but still treatable despite its complexity. The disease can change how the brain functions permanently, which is why ongoing care is needed to help a person avoid relapse, overdose, and other unfavorable outcomes.

If your disorder is severe, you likely will need a facility that offers residential treatment, which requires an on-site stay that lasts 30 days or more. This setting offers structure and around-the-clock care, so having attentive staff is especially important. 

If you need a less restrictive level of care, such as a partial hospitalization program or intensive outpatient treatment, you want to make sure the facility you choose can offer that or connect you with another facility that does.

The rehab center you choose should also offer standard evidence-based practices as well as behavioral therapies that are used across the field. According to NIDA, this includes those therapies that address people’s desire and motivation to change their habits and behavior.

The treatment facility you consider should offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for substance use disorders if you require such treatment. 

This may be the case if you are recovering from opioid use disorder (OUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD). MAT programs incorporate government-approved prescription medications with behavioral therapies to help people manage withdrawal symptoms and other challenges as they work toward abstinence. Buprenorphine and naloxone and other medications are used in MAT programs.

Having a low staff-to-client ratio can also ensure you take your medications properly and receive the guidance and care you need while taking them. People in recovery programs have a right to be medically safe while undergoing a treatment program, so again, attentive addiction care and medical professionals are important.

Another feature to consider is if a facility encourages the family of the person in recovery to participate in their treatment program. The role of the family is very important to a person’s recovery from substance use, as NIDA explains.

Relatives’ involvement can encourage a person to stick with their treatment plan and keep them focused on the future they want to create for themselves. Family therapy offered at a facility can also help families find the healing they need as addiction affects everyone related to the individual in recovery.

If you have questions about any facility you are considering for addiction treatment, definitely ask. Find out as much as you can about the site, including the staff-to-client ratio. This number can be an indicator if a rehab facility’s program is right for you.

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