Accreditation & Addiction Treatment – Why Does It Matter?

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Accreditation & Addiction Treatment

Addiction treatment facilities vary in what they offer for treatment. Therapy modalities, types of activities, variation in services, and level of care are all different and all are components of a treatment program.

When an addiction treatment program is accredited, it means that they have applied to be reviewed on practices, procedures, and standards of excellence in patient care. [1]

The accreditation process is lengthy, and treatment programs, facilities, therapy practices, and documentation are evaluated by a separate organization from either The Joint Commission or CARF.

The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organization, which accredits and certifies nearly 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. Joint Commission accreditation and certification is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to meeting certain performance standards. [2]

CARF International (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) is an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human services. CARF accreditation extends to countries in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Oceania. [3]

When a facility is accredited, it means that the center adheres to [1]:

  • A person-centered approach when treating patients
  • Provides safe rehabilitation practices for patients
  • Adheres to policy and procedure standards according to Joint Commission Standards or CARF standards
  • Follows cultural competencies with special populations
  • Provides integrated services and follows a coordinated plan of care
  • Provides treatment of care within a safe and protected environment
  • Is able to provide medical stabilization, psychiatric treatment, and support to all patients
  • Is accredited as having best practices of programs and therapies

Accreditation is a Process

The accreditation process of a facility is voluntary and intense. It can take several months of in-depth scrutiny into the program’s facilities, treatment plans, procedures, etc. The approval process also includes a site visit, an audit of management, staff, program practices, and treatment outcomes.

Woman sitting in window sill of her addiction treatment centerOnce a treatment program becomes accredited, it will be reviewed on an annual basis to confirm that the program is still meeting the high standards of the accreditation entity.

Being accredited means that a treatment facility has been nationally recognized as a facility that operates according to a standard set of procedures and policies that are recognized as best practices in running and managing an addiction treatment facility and comply with HIPAA.

These programs that meet or exceed the standard of care as determined by the accrediting agency helps provide a level of confidence for clients, family, and loved ones that are seeking addiction treatment.


The two most common accrediting organizations are the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), and the Joint Commission, (used to be known as JCAHO) [1].

Accreditation is an ongoing process for addiction facilities. Treatment facilities renew their certifications every 1-3 years based on their accreditations status [1].

CARF has various levels of accreditation: Three-year, One-year, provisional, Non-accreditation, Preliminary accreditation, and Accreditation with stipulations. These levels are given depending on the findings at each review.

For The Joint Commission, the status levels are Preliminary accreditation, Accreditation, Accreditation with Follow-up Survey, Contingent Accreditation, Preliminary Denial of Accreditation, and Denial of Accreditation.

These levels are significant for both accreditation organizations as they inform the facility if they ‘passed’ or ‘failed’ or need to work on certain areas to reach accreditation. Typically both CARF and The Joint Commission will work with the facility to provide feedback and revisit to review when and if corrections have been made.


Addiction Treatment Center

When looking into an addiction program, it is essential to look at their accreditation status. This is important because sometimes a treatment facility can lose their accreditation which means some or all areas of their policies and/or practices have fallen below the basic standards.

A person seeking treatment can visit The Joint Commission or CARF websites to find an accredited program. This will provide facilities that have been accredited and their current accreditation status [2] [3].

Tips on Seeking Treatment

One of the most important things that you can do when looking into an addiction program is to research your options. First research where you would like to complete your treatment. There are multiple options for accredited programs locally, within your state, or nationally.

Next, investigate the types of treatment offered and what would best fit your needs.

Contact your insurance provider to determine what is covered in your mental health and addiction benefits coverage.

Call two or three facilities that appear to fit your needs and schedule a free assessment. Each facility will give recommendations as to what type of treatment approach is best for you. You can then talk with your loved ones about the best option for treatment.

Taking the steps to address your addiction and receive treatment can be frightening, but knowing that you are entering an accredited program can help reduce some of the angst.

Image of Libby Lyons and familyAbout the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.
Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is an Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.


[1] Accreditation and Addiction Treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2018, from

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on June 21, 2018
Reviewed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 21, 2018

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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.