When Should You Transfer Rehab Programs?

Rehab is an incredibly challenging experience. Not does substance use disorder affect individuals in different ways but addiction treatment remains one of the most challenging healthcare disciplines. This often means that many patients do not achieve a full recovery after their first time in rehab.

This doesn’t mean that substance use disorder is untreatable. Far from it. However, it does mean that most patients need to try out a variety of approaches to achieve a positive outcome. Oftentimes, this means transferring to a different program or facility.

Below are some of the scenarios where transferring to a different program might be justified.

1.) If you’re not comfortable with the approach

A lot of mainstream rehab programs in the United States employ a faith-based approach, with Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous being the most prominent of these kinds of programs. However, a growing number of Americans are starting to look for programs that employ purely evidence-based approaches in treatments. 

Evidence-based approaches like SMART Recovery are starting to be employed in more rehab programs. According to the rehab directory service Boston Drug Treatment Centers, inquiries for SMART recovery in Boston have consistently increased yearly since the 2000s.

Neither traditional nor evidence-based treatment is necessarily better. According to a recent study, either is more likely to be successful if the patient accepts the main premise of the approach. But given America’s growing number of non-religious, many are likely to be put off by a purely faith-based program. In this case, their recovery may be better facilitated at a non-religious program.

2.) If you have co-morbidities that could be treated elsewhere

If the facility is not able to adequately treat a patient’s co-occurring conditions, transferring to a program or facility that does cover these conditions may be the right move.

Physical and psychiatric conditions are extremely commonplace among people with substance use disorder. People with drug and alcohol problems are not only more likely to have trauma, anxiety, and depression compared to the rest of the general population, many also suffer from malnutrition, liver and kidney ailments, and other conditions related to their habitual substance misuse.

Unfortunately, not all rehab facilities are equipped to handle and treat these comorbidities, even they have been identified. Treating co-morbidities is especially important for stabilizing patients and ensuring that the conditions do not exacerbate the drug or alcohol use disorder. 

This is especially true of conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, as these are often identified to directly cause substance misuse. If these and other co-morbidities are left untreated, the patient is less likely to have good long-term outcomes.

3.) If you want to try a different set of therapies

If the current sets of therapeutic interventions being offered in the facility are ineffective, then the patient and their loved ones should consider a move to a different program that offers a different or wider set of therapeutic interventions.

Today, it’s understood that different individuals with substance use disorder can have varying results given the same treatments. A lot of the time, achieving full recovery is a matter of trying out different combinations of therapy approaches until one is found that works for the patient.

Sometimes though, it may be important to give treatments some time to work. Make sure to work with the therapists to find out more about your options. 

4.) You need a different mode of treatment

Transferring from an outpatient program to a residential one and vice versa should be periodically considered when a patient makes progress or their condition changes significantly. 

Residential programs are often the best for the first few months of recovery as these can effectively separate affected individuals from their triggers and significant relapse risks. However, these programs can be very expensive, as residential facilities provide room and board and require round-the-clock staffing, security, and maintenance.

Outpatient programs tend to be much more affordable than residential equivalents because patients only need to be in the facility for treatment sessions, after which they can leave. This means patients could also continue to work or attend school as their schedule allows. However, they are less effective than residential programs at separating patients from triggers.


These two modes of treatment have their benefits and downsides and there’s no real reason to stick with one if another starts to make more sense. For instance, a patient can try transferring to a residential program if they continue to have issues with triggers and cravings. Patients who are currently in a residential program may also consider a transfer outpatient program if they have made significant progress in their treatment.

It is well within a patient’s rights to have access to appropriate healthcare, and this right doesn’t diminish simply because one has a drug or alcohol problem. Always work with qualified healthcare professionals if you’re interested in switching programs. For the smoothest experience, it would be best to contact the new program or facility before leaving the old one. Good luck, and be well!



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