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Avoiding Google to find mental health treatment programs

How to rationally navigate the behavioral healthcare system while simultaneously in crisis management with your struggling college student.

If you’ve leaned on Google to find a treatment program for your young adult, this article will resonate.  If you haven’t, I highly discourage you from even the thought.  I’ll save you the agony and share with you that what you’d find would be a search result with over nine million hits.  Overwhelmed would be the only way to describe the emotion in receiving those numbers.  How do you narrow down from nine million to just one?

At this time, I imagine parents to be working full-time jobs.  A justifiable assumption.  They’re also possibly managing more children in the household and any other life responsibility that doesn’t stop because your child went off to college.  The last thing you have time for is to casually sit down and start doing research to find a treatment program.  Its all starts with the thought: “where do I even begin?” 

What Google will produce for you on page one is programs that have outrageous marketing budgets and sometimes unethical approaches in just getting “heads on beds.”  Yep, I said. Finding the most appropriate program for the needs of your young adult is a full time job in itself. I know, because that’s the work I do.

How do you know if the program is ethical?  How do you know that the facility is clean and safe?  How do you know that insurance can be applied and that you can afford treatment?  And do they even have a space available currently?  Is the program family-owned or investment-owned? How long have they been in business?  What are the credentials of the program and the clinical team?  These are just the tip of the iceberg in questions parents need to be asking.  Again, how it is possible to be rational in thinking about these things when you’re in the throes of the crisis with your young adult, working your job, and following through with all the other responsibilities that occupy your time each day?  The bottom line; it’s excruciatingly hard.

Ok, so let’s say you call any program.  They don’t the have space or after hearing about your child they don’t think it’s a good fit for placement.  What do they recommend?  They might give you the names of another program, or three others programs.  How do you know those programs aren’t owned by the same company?  Or, if that referent gets a kick-back for sending a family to the other program?  [Yes, that’s a thing.  Don’t worry though, the government is working hard to shut that down.]  Maybe you have time to call those other programs and they give you more names.  All the while, the clock is ticking.  We are amid the crisis.  How do you find someone who’s not affiliated with a program who can help you with an unbiased opinion.  It’s not for free, and it’s certainly not Google.

I’ve met with families who have been lucky.  The program staff they connected with had integrity and recommended they connect with another program which happened to be a good match.  Or a family friend had a relative that went to XX program and it just so happened to save someone’s life, and you wonder: “can it also do that for my young adult?”  A big sigh of relief for those stories!  Sadly, I feel like this is underpublicized.  I’ve also heard stories of families being cycled through companies, or treatment programs that aren’t effective (or honest) with the work they’re doing.  Then don’t even get me started on insurance companies’ dictating the clinical work being done (or not) for young adults in treatment. 

Again, this is a lot to take in.  Google can’t be to blame either because at the end of the day, they are a business too.  They are working hard with their algorithms to mitigate unethical marketing practices. In my personal opinion, when it comes to finding the best care for your young adult’s mental health Google is not a good resource.  You want a good resource?  Go to the Therapeutic Consulting Association, All Kinds of Therapy, or Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council.  These are people and programs doing evidence-based research, unbiased quality of care for families, and resources for those who have the time to do the research in finding treatment programs themselves.  Know that you can find an appropriate program to help your young adult.  Know also that you don’t have to be in this crisis alone.  There is an army of ethical behavioral healthcare humans out there and we are ready to step in when you call on us.

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