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A Veteran’s Guide to Choosing a Recovery Center

Last Updated: February 19, 2020

Military veterans face unique challenges when it comes to dealing with addiction and substance abuse1. For many, co-occurring disorders like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) complicate the recovery process2. Reintegrating back into civilian life and the family unit is often difficult, and it may feel like those around you just don’t “get it.”

These are all reasons why military veterans require a specialized approach to substance abuse treatment. While seeking help is a major step, choosing the right treatment facility is also critical. Below are some of the most important things to look for when choosing a recovery center for veterans.

Specialized Services for Veterans

Since it’s clear that veterans have unique needs, you’ll want to ensure that the treatment center you’re considering is equipped to provide the right type of long-term care. Look for rehab centers that specialize in co-occurring disorders and have programs specifically geared towards veterans. These programs often take a more holistic approach and may include:3 
  • Exploring and strengthening a veteran’s motivation for change.
  • Teaching coping skills for dealing with life’s stressors. 
  • Explaining the correlation between substance abuse and PTSD.
  • Learning how to recognize and handle relapse triggers
  • Providing family and couples counseling to help repair damaged relationships.
  • Recommending ongoing outside support options (such as Alcoholics Anonymous) 
Veterans battling addiction to a certain substance, such as alcohol or narcotics, may also want to seek out a treatment center that specializes in that specific type of addiction rehabilitation. 

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Programs

There are benefits and drawbacks to both inpatient and outpatient recovery programs. Deciding which is right for you will depend on a variety of factors. These include, but aren’t limited to, the severity of your addiction, the amount of support you have at home, cost considerations, and personal preferences. Veterans guide to choosing rehab Some common treatment options to consider include:
  • Outpatient counseling
  • Intensive outpatient treatment
  • Residential inpatient treatment
  • Evening and weekend programs
  • Self-help groups. 

Treatments and Therapies for Veterans

Depending on your needs, you may want to seek out a facility that provides programs and treatment therapies such as medically assisted detox, drug substitution therapies, and continuing care with a focus on relapse prevention.  There are many different therapy options available to help you with your recovery. It is therefore a good idea to do your research and ensure that the facility you’re considering offers the specific treatment that best suits your needs. 


If you’re considering an inpatient program, you may want to explore the amenities available before choosing a treatment center. While some rehab facilities provide only the basics, others offer luxurious amenities that can rival a five-star hotel. 

VA vs. Other Options

Military veterans enrolled in the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) health care system who have not been dishonorably discharged are eligible for free substance abuse treatment through the Veterans Alcohol and Drug Dependence Rehabilitation Program.4 In addition to the financial incentive, many veterans benefit from seeking treatment through programs created specifically for their needs and provided by professionals who are uniquely qualified to help them.   However, there are a variety of reasons why some veterans don’t feel comfortable using these benefits. The need for anonymity and a “fresh start” are often cited, as are the VA’s long wait times and concerns over the quality of care.  For veterans who don’t feel comfortable seeking treatment through the VA, there are many other non-profit and private facilities to choose from. 

Research Sources: 

  1. National Institute on Drug Addiction. (2013). Substance Abuse in the Military.
  2. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (2019). PTSD and Substance Abuse in Veterans.
  3. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (2019). Understanding PTSD and PTSD Treatment.
  4. The U.S. Department of Labor, Website. (2019). Veterans Alcohol and Drug Dependence Rehabilitation Program.
Last Updated on February 19, 2020
About the reviewer:
Priscilla Henson, MD
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Dr. Priscilla Henson is a Resident Physician specializing in Emergency Medicine at a community hospital in central California. She also serves as a member of the Pain Management Quality Improvement Committee through the same hospital. Part of the committee’s mandate is to work toward non-narcotic pain management alternatives.

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