Learn / Choosing a Rehab Facility: How Qualified Is Their Staff? 

Choosing a Rehab Facility: How Qualified Is Their Staff? 

Kayla Gill
 August 30th, 2021|   Clinically Reviewed by 
Lisa Misquith

In any organization that provides essential services, the experience and expertise of the staff is paramount. This is perhaps even truer for addiction treatment facilities. Clients at rehab are trusting treatment professionals to help them navigate the challenging, and often vulnerable, journey to recovery.

Rehabs staff executives who run day-to-day operations, treatment professionals (both medically licensed and not) who provide rehab services like detox and counseling, and support staff who guide clients through their day-to-day experience. 

When you’re looking for an addiction treatment program that’s a good fit for you, it’s important to consider the qualifications of their team. Here, we take a closer look at who works at rehabs and what job titles, roles, licensing, and certifications they may have. 

Who Works at Rehabs?

In the U.S., drug treatment facilities are state-regulated. This means that treatment professionals at rehabs must meet various licensing and credential requirements as determined by the state.

If you’re in the U.S., to see licensing requirements by state please consult the state regulations for substance use disorder programs and counselors1 overview by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) or the credentials and licensing of substance use disorder workers2 listed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Following, you’ll find more information about the various employees at addiction and mental health rehabs, by area of expertise.

Medical Professionals

Medical and mental health professionals have medical training and licensing. Not all rehab facilities house medical team members, but many luxury programs do. These highly qualified professionals oversee aspects of treatment like detox, health screening at intake, and managing medication. Depending on the program, they might also help clients address co-occurring physical health problems while in residential care. They may or may not have specializations specifically related to addiction treatment.

Medical Doctors

Luxury rehabs with on-site detox facilities often staff doctors who oversee detox programming and safely guide patients through withdrawal.3 They may also review and administer clients’ regular medications, as well as oversee their general physical health and wellbeing. Some rehabs also have an addiction medicine physician,4 which is a doctor with an advanced education in addiction, on-site. 


There are actually several different rankings and certification requirements for each rank of nurse. The highest ranking, advanced practice registered nurses (APRN), must have a master of science in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice. In descending order or rank, registered nurses (RN) have either an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor of science in nursing; a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed nurse practitioner (LNP) must complete a one-year program pass a state licensing exam; and lastly, certified nursing assistants (CNA) obtain a certification after passing a 4-12 week program and earning their state license.

Another clinical role you may see is a behavioral health technician,5 which are also called paraprofessionals, psychiatric technicians, and mental health technicians. These professionals support doctors and nurses by assisting clients with daily tasks, implementing treatment plans, and recording client behavior. Behavioral health technicians are required to have a bachelor’s degree, but most states do not require specific licensing. 

Note on Detox Programs: When evaluating a detox program, a strong qualification to look for is if the doctors and nurses staffing the facility are specialized and/or experienced in addiction. 

Mental Health Professionals

At rehabs, various types of mental health professionals guide clients through psychotherapy sessions. They may draw on a wide range of treatment methods including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and experiential therapies, in both group and individual therapy settings. 

These formally educated therapists can have a range of certifications and job titles: 

  • Counselor or Therapist. The difference between counselors and therapists6 is their respective training and degree requirements. Therapists receive training on connecting with clients and generally require a master’s degree, while counselors draw from their own experiences to connect with clients and require a bachelor’s degree. Neither of these professionals can recommend or prescribe medications, but they can refer you to other professionals for medical evaluation or treatment. 
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). These therapists are qualified to work with people to help improve their family relationships, which can be important in rehab since family dynamics can often trigger or enable disordered behavior. In most states in the U.S. a master’s degree or doctorate degree is required to become a LMFT. You can check your state’s licensure requirements on the Association of Marital & Family Therapy Regulatory Boards7 website. 
  • Psychologist (PhD, PsyD). Psychologists have doctoral-level training and state licensing. They assess, diagnose, and treat people who have mental health disorders and are highly trained to help people understand and change their thought patterns and behaviors. 
  • Psychiatrist (MD). Psychiatrists hold medical degrees. Similar to psychologists, psychiatrists provide mental health counseling but can also prescribe medications as they’re qualified to monitor clients for side effects. 
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Social workers act as case managers and liaisons for clients and their families and help them navigate the rehab system. In the U.S., clinical social workers8 have master’s degrees and passed licensing exams to be able to independently diagnose and treat mental disorders, as explained on the Social Work Licensure website. 
  • Certified Addiction Specialist (CAS). In this role, a person can choose to specialize in a specific field of addiction, like adolescent addiction. Again, certification requirements for addiction professionals9 vary per state, but the National Certification Commission for Addicted Professionals (NCC AP) provides different levels of national and international credentialing.  

Other Clinical Professionals

This group of rehab staff includes any non-medically qualified clinicians who still work with diagnosing and treating patients.

Dietitians, Nutritionists, and Similar Rehab Staff Members 

Nutrition is a key component of rehab. Throughout your treatment experience, your mind and body go through intensive changes, and proper nourishment helps restore your bodily systems to health. Because of this, many rehabs house dieticians and nutritionists, who may hold a range of job titles and certifications: 

  • Registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) 
  • Certified clinical nutritionist (CNN) 
  • Certified nutrition specialist10 (CNS)
  • And others like nutrition coach, health coach and fitness instructor

In the U.S., dietitians are certified to treat clinical conditions and specific health conditions, like eating disorders. In order to practice, a dietitian must be certified from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.11 On the other hand, nutritionists in the U.S. aren’t always certified, and if they are, certification requirements differ from state to state.  

Holistic and Complementary Medicine Practitioners

Holistic and complementary medicine are similar practices, with a few distinct differences. A broad term, holistic describes non-mainstream “treatments and practitioners12 who don’t work within the system of conventional medicine.” Conversely, complementary medicine means any treatments or therapies used in addition to and alongside other conventional medical and psychological therapies. 

Rehabs may staff a wide array of holistic and complementary medicine practitioners, depending on their program focus: 

  • Acupuncturists and massage therapists
  • Physical therapists (including yoga instructors, bodywork therapists)
  • Music and art therapists
  • Mindfulness and meditation teachers
  • Homeopathic and naturopathic doctors and herbalists
  • Energy medicine practitioners
  • Somatic therapists
  • Personal trainers

Important Information About Wellness Therapists

There are a lot of different ways to become a holistic or complementary professional, which vary greatly on location and position type. Some positions require certifications, but in general there are no license requirements regulated by governing bodies.  

In the U.S., the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health was formed within the National Institutes of Health to test the safety and effectiveness of complementary treatments.13 This center publishes guidelines to help people choose the best treatments for them. 


Admissions staff are the first point of contact for people inquiring about rehab programs. They are essentially the rehab’s sales team, though they can play a very hands-on role in helping clients and their loved ones get information, plan for treatment, and arrange logistics such as travel. 

For more on the admissions process, see our article on what to ask when calling a rehab.

Support Staff

Luxury rehabs also typically involve general workers in their clients’ treatment experience. These supportive peers may greet clients and help them get settled in when they arrive, transport clients to group outings, or be on hand to answer questions as clients make their way through the program. This position doesn’t require any special certification. In fact, many times these staff members are former clients or people in recovery who nonetheless play an important role because of their frequent interaction with clients.

In general, a lower staff-to-client ratio is a sign of rehab program quality, as this allows clients to receive more individual attention throughout their stay. “Luxury centers also allow, through their higher cost, the kind of extra staffing that is helpful in management of certain people’s cases,” explains McLean Hospital’s Medical Director, Dr. Frederick Goggans. 

Rehab Executive and Administrative Teams

A private rehab’s executive staff are the leaders who run the organization. This person or group of people is responsible for implementing the center’s business strategy as well as establishing the client’s journey through their particular program. Depending on the program size, you may or may not have much interaction with this part of the rehab’s team. However, the higher-level decisions they make have a direct impact on the center’s overall culture and, as a result, your treatment experience. 

Rehab executive teams can consist of one or several people including but limited to the following positions: 

  • Founder or CEO 
  • President
  • Chief operating officer
  • Program director
  • Clinical director

Small boutique or family-owned luxury rehabs may only have one person acting as an executive. An intimate team does not necessarily mean you’re getting lower quality care (just as the opposite is also true). But if there is only one executive staff member, make sure that person’s credentials are legitimate. 

Important Information About Rehab Executive Staff

In general, you’ll want to consider the answers to the following questions when reviewing the qualifications of a rehab center’s executive staff:

  • What Degrees Do They Hold? Formal education is a standard requirement for running a business, though some executives gain their positions through professional experience and connections. Either way, this information can usually be found on the team page of a center’s website.
  • What is Their Professional Experience? Direct work experience related to the rehab space can be just as valuable as an education. Consider this the same way you would look at someone’s resume: if they don’t have any previous experience in the field related to their current role, you might wonder how they got their position. 
  • Do They Have Executive Skills? The success of a company is often steered by the leadership of its executives. In general, a rehab executive should have strong management and leadership skills in addition to field-specific expertise, a strong stance on addiction treatment ethics, excellent communication and presentation skills, and proactivity when it comes to the rehab’s staff and client satisfaction.  

Making Sure You’re in Good Hands

A rehab facility is successful when the many different staff members cohesively work together to make the program run smoothly. Some of these people you’ll see and closely interact with every day on your recovery journey and others you might not. 

Having a general idea of what to look for in the qualifications of rehab staff is one factor that can help you feel more confident in your decision to go with a particular program. 

Discover a luxury rehab that fits your needs by exploring our list of facilities around the world. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Rehab Staff

Who works at rehab facilities?

Rehab facilities employ a diverse range of professionals to support the treatment and recovery process. These include medical professionals, mental health and clinical professionals, holistic and complementary medicine practitioners, admissions staff, support staff, and executive teams.

What qualifications do medical professionals at rehab facilities have?

Medical professionals at rehab facilities have medical training and licensing. Depending on the program, they may oversee aspects such as detox, health screening, medication management, and addressing co-occurring physical health problems. Medical doctors and nurses play essential roles in providing medical care and support.

What types of mental health professionals are found at rehab facilities?

Rehabs employ various types of mental health professionals, such as counselors, therapists, licensed marriage and family therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and licensed clinical social workers. These professionals guide clients through psychotherapy sessions using different treatment methods to address mental health disorders.

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