CARF Accreditation: Why This Matters to Rehab Centers

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Since there is no one size that fits all in the case of addiction treatment, not every treatment facility will be the right fit for all individuals in need of such services. In the search for an addiction rehab program, appropriate accreditation of an institute can make this tedious process a little easier.

That’s a big reason why treatment facility accreditation matters. There are, however, many other aspects of treatment facility accreditation and its importance. CARF offers a deeper perspective as explained below.

What is CARF?

Established in 1966, The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) is an independent, non-profit accreditor of health and human services. CARF aims to ensure safety, satisfaction and ethical treatment of every individual seeking treatment from an accredited provider.

This is accomplished through a consultative accreditation process and ongoing improvement services that focus largely on the lives of the patients being served.

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CARF includes the accreditation of health and human services in the following areas:

  • Aging Services
  • Behavioral Health
  • Child and Youth Services
  • Employment and Community Services
  • One-Stop Career Centers
  • Vision Rehabilitation Services
  • Medical Rehabilitation
  • DMEPOS (Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies)
  • Opioid Treatment Program

Friends talking in rehab

The CARF International group of companies currently accredits more than 50,000 programs and services at 25,000 locations, including countries in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. More than 10 million individuals enlist the help and services from 7,000 CARF-accredited service providers. [1]

The standards for CARF accreditation have been established through 40 years of work by global teams of policymakers, service providers, clients, payers, and families.

In order to validate relevance and to ensure input from all interested stakeholders, the standards are also submitted to the public for review.

A CARF Accredited Facility

As the scope of rehabilitation for substance abuse treatment is rapidly evolving, CARF’s behavioral health standards matter even more.

An accredited facility undergoes the following process:

  • A self-study is conducted to evaluate the facility’s conformity to the CARF standards.
  • An application outlining details regarding their leadership, the programs and services offered and the service delivery location is submitted.
  • A CARF survey team executes an on-site survey to determine the provider’s conformity to all applicable standards through assessments of services, interviews with patients, workers and other stakeholders and studying documentation.
  • The provider submits a Quality Improvement Plan within 90 days from notification of the accreditation outcome, outlining actions undertaken in response to the areas for improvement highlighted in the report.
  • The provider further submits a signed Annual Conformance to Quality Report (ACQR) on every annual accreditation anniversary date following the award.
  • Contact remains between CARF and the service provider during the accreditation tenure.
  • Providers are encouraged to contact CARF whenever required in order to uphold conformance to the standards.

CARF Accreditations

Various CARF accreditation outcomes include one-year accreditation, provisional accreditation, non-accreditation, preliminary accreditation, accreditation with stipulations and the three-year accreditation.

One-Year Accreditation – Even though the provider meets all the CARF accreditation conditions, there exist deficiencies in significant areas regarding the standards. However, the organization’s capability to correct these deficiencies and a commitment to their progress earns them this accreditation.

Provisional Accreditation – Post expiration of a one-year accreditation, a provisional accreditation is awarded to providers that have continued to function at the one-year accreditation level. Awarded for a year, the providers must aim for the highest three-year accreditation level at its next survey, or it will be defaulted by a non-accreditation status.

Non-accreditation – This status signifies major deficiencies in several areas of the standards. Serious questions are posed regarding the benefits of the services and the safety or welfare of the patients being served. Such a status may also signify the provider’s failure to conform to the standards over time, or to attain one or more of the CARF accreditation conditions.

Preliminary Accreditation – such a status is particularly helpful for new organizations, as it allows them to establish and implement standards prior to the direct provision of services to patients.

Preliminary accreditation is awarded based off of evidence of processes and systems for services particularly designed to benefit the patients. After the initial six months of the provision of services to clients, a full follow-up survey of the organization is conducted.

Accreditation with Stipulations – Stipulations highlighted in an organization’s accreditation status signifies that CARF may require further action from the provider regarding its progress in maintaining conformance to CARF accreditation standards. Consumers should contact the organization directly to inquire about the progress of the accreditation status.

Three-year Accreditation: Being the highest outcome, three-year accreditation means that the provider fulfilled each of the CARF accreditation conditions and displayed substantial conformity to standards. Additionally, the organization demonstrates quality improvement from prior CARF evaluations and increased benefits to its customers.[3]

CARF accreditations are, thus, important for addiction rehabilitation centers as it helps convey the message to its patients and future clients that they are fully equipped and competent to help them with overcoming addiction.

Woman reading in rehab centerSince struggling with addiction is essentially a period of high stress and uncertainty levels, such an accreditation can help put the client’s minds at ease regarding their decision to chose the best rehabilitation center for themselves or their loved ones.

When a facility is in the process of seeking accreditation or has earned it, this is an indicator of their dedication and commitment for continual improvement of services and their benefits for clients.

CARF allows a fair evaluation for a rehabilitation center independent of its marketing strategies to allow patients a clear insight into their competency and efficacy.

Sana Ahmed photoAbout the Author:

A journalist and social media savvy content writer with wide research, print and on-air interview skills, Sana Ahmed has previously worked as staff writer for a renowned rehabilitation institute focusing on mental health and addiction recovery, a content writer for a marketing agency, an editor for a business magazine and been an on-air news broadcaster.

Sana graduated with a Bachelors in Economics and Management from London School of Economics and began a career of research and writing right after. The art of using words to educate, stir emotions, create change and provoke action is at the core of her career, as she strives to develop content and deliver news that matters.



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 September 5, 2017
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on September 5, 2017.
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About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.