Dr. Edward A. Selby, Ph.D.
Many patients struggling with addiction to alcohol or other drugs want to get help and treatment to overcome their addiction, but they are often reluctant because they aren’t sure what the best treatment options might be. One challenge many often face is “where” is the best place to go for treatment? Should I find a rehab near me? Is a close-by option the most effective option for me? Although there are certainly advantages to seeking a nearby rehabilitation center, the best answer to this question is – not necessarily!
Although the benefits of seeking treatment nearby are clear – proximity to home, easy transportation, potential assistance in the treatment process from family and friends – it turns out that there are also several benefits to seeking treatment outside your local area. Even if a nearby treatment center offers a sense of convenience and eases the difficulty of enrolling in an addictions treatment program, there are many good reasons to consider looking broadly for the right treatment center, rather than simply the nearest one!
What many patients do not realize is that seeking treatment nearby can present multiple barriers or challenges to successful treatment. Likewise, the quality and types of treatment provided differ widely across many treatment sites. Not all treatment centers are the same. Indeed, there are many treatment hubs around the country, and the best treatments may not be in your area. This is why if you watch popular shows like Intervention, you’ll notice that they almost always fly a patient to treatment away from their local area. There are multiple, very good reasons for this!
Benefits of Treatment Outside Your Local Area
Prevents Patients from Leaving Treatment Prematurely
One of the most important benefits of seeking a treatment center outside your local area is that being away from home prevents many patients from leaving treatment prematurely. Recovery from addiction can be a difficult process, and many patients have ambivalence about stopping substance use. By seeking treatment further away, patients can put a soft barrier of sorts, where there is no easy way out of treatment because options, like driving home or having a friend come by for pickup, are not possible. This soft barrier impedes impulsive decisions to quit therapy, which are common in addictions recovery (Paasche et al., 2019), giving patients a better chance to make the healthy decision and stay in treatment. However, treatment is still voluntary, so patients still have the freedom to leave if they wish. But all the better to prevent departure from being too easy!
Anonymity is another, potentially major benefit to seeking a rehabilitation center outside your local area
Protections of Anonymous Treatment
Anonymity is another, potentially major benefit to seeking a rehabilitation center outside your local area. Addiction causes people numerous problems across many areas of their life, including problems at work, with family, or perceptions in the surrounding community. Unfortunately, patients seeking treatment for addiction in a local area may face threats to anonymity in the treatment process such as knowing medical staff or being seen dropped off at the treatment center (Brooks et al., 2011). Many patients are afraid or ashamed to share sensitive details about their life, especially in group settings in a hometown treatment program. On the other hand, treatment outside your local area means that anonymity will be fully protected, and patients can openly discuss problem behaviors and consequences in a safe setting without any risk of confidential information being exposed to the local community.
Safety from Environmental Triggers
Another major benefit to treatment outside a patient’s local area is that they can be free from potential environmental triggers that create alcohol or drug use cravings. These powerful, biologically driven cravings for alcohol or drugs can be caused by seeing familiar locations, running into familiar people, or even just knowing that access to a desired substance is nearby (Volkow et al., 2019b). Likewise, substance use behavior is often connected to people. While some families and friends can be very supportive and helpful in the treatment process, sometimes families or friends have a variety of problems and are not supportive of patients. In some cases, it may be preferable to have substantial distance from friends or family members who may complicate the treatment process (Treichler, Evans, & Spaulding, 2021). Ultimately, by seeking treatment in another area, a patient can successfully recover and build up coping skills that will help them endure environmental triggers and cravings when they return home.
Family Can Still Participate in Recovery, Even From a Distance!
Involving family members in the treatment process is considered by many mental health professionals to be essential to recovery from addiction. This is because family members provide alternative viewpoints about an individual’s behavior and the potentially harmful effects addiction can have on others (Tambling et al., 2021). Some potential patients may be afraid to seek treatment in a distant area precisely because they want their family included in the treatment process. Fortunately, there have been many modern advances with integrating family into distance treatment. In cases where family may be helpful, they can interface now with patients in rehab even if the facility is a long distance away by using virtual meeting platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or WebEx. Incorporating family into treatment in this way gives patients the benefits of anonymity and freedom from triggers while making family support readily accessible!