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Learn About Treatment

Treatment Works!
What Can I Expect?
Types of Treatment


Treatment Works! Millions of people are enjoying a full and healthy life in recovery. Learn about the types of treatment that are available, what treatment is like, and how it can help you re-establish a healthy and fulfilling life. Treatment varies depending on the type of drug and the characteristics of the patient. Matching treatment settings, interventions, and services to an individual’s particular problems and needs is critical to his or her ultimate success in returning to productive functioning in the family, workplace, and society.


What Can I Expect From Treatment? Most people begin treatment in traditional outpatient counseling. When you call to make an appointment you will be asked basic information like your name, date of birth, address, phone number, etc. Many providers treat a variety of problems, so you will probably be asked what kind of problem you want help with. In addition to your substance use problem, you will probably want to let them know about any emotional problems you may be dealing with. You will probably be asked how severe your problem is right now – they will want to know if this is a crisis and need to be seen right away or if you can wait for a routine appointment. Typically your first appointment will consist of a comprehensive assessment to learn as much as possible about your problems so that appropriate treatment services can be arranged. In addition to an appointment with a counselor you may be offered an appointment with a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of substance use and emotional disorders.

After your comprehensive assessment, appointments will be arranged for treatment services. Your counselor may or may not be the same person you saw for your assessment. You can be assured that he or she will have the results of this assessment and will be ready to begin counseling to help you manage your problems. You can expect that your counselor will have had years of education and training and are ready to provide you with support and guidance. Outpatient counseling can be done individually or in a group.

GroupRemaining in treatment for an adequate period of time is critical. The appropriate duration for an individual depends on the type and degree of the patient’s problems and needs. Research indicates that most addicted individuals need at least 3 months in treatment to significantly reduce or stop their drug use and that the best outcomes occur with longer durations of treatment. Recovery from drug addiction is a long-term process and frequently requires multiple episodes of treatment. As with other chronic illnesses, relapses to drug abuse can occur and should signal a need for treatment to be reinstated or adjusted. Because individuals often leave treatment prematurely, programs should include strategies to engage and keep patients in treatment.


Confidentiality. All licensed and/or certified counselors and healthcare workers are required by law and ethical principles to maintain confidentiality. Your counselor will not discuss your personal or treatment related information with anyone without your written consent. (There are some exceptions to confidentiality, for instance to arrange for emergency medical treatment for you or to make a report to authorities that a child is being abused.)


Payment. What if I Cannot Afford to Pay for Treatment? There are providers in your area that are required to provide services regardless of your ability to pay. When calling to make an appointment, the provider will let you know about the cost of the service and whether you can qualify for free services. If the provider does not provide free services, they can refer you to a provider who does.



Types of Treatment

Your service provider will attempt to match you to a level of care based on your needs. The following is a list of types or levels of service that are available to address substance use problems. Each type of treatment is described below.

Outpatient Counseling
Medication Assisted Treatment
Intensive Outpatient Treatment
Crisis Stabilization Services
Long Term Residential Treatment
Transitional Living Arrangements


Outpatient Counseling
Individual or group therapy is usually recommended for those in the earlier stages of substance abuse with the goal of establishing abstinence and preventing relapse. Participants receive education about the risk factors of addiction and identify their own personal triggers, build coping tools and mechanisms, and create social support plans for preventing relapse upon the completion of treatment.


Medication Assisted Treatment
Medications are an important element of treatment for many patients, especially when combined with counseling and other behavioral therapies. For example, methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone (including a new long-acting formulation) are effective in helping individuals addicted to heroin or other opioids stabilize their lives and reduce their illicit drug use.


Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP)
IOP consists of group therapy and is recommended for those who have been living with their addiction for a longer period and for whom daily life has been significantly disrupted. The services is similar to that of Outpatient Treatment but is provided three or more days per week to provide more intensive and more frequent professional support. The goal of Intensive Outpatient Treatment is to obtain and maintain long-term sobriety.


Crisis Stabilization Services (CSU)

A Crisis Stabilization Unit is an unlocked facility that provides 24/7 supervision to an individual as a less restrictive, less costly alternative to hospitalization. A multi-disciplinary team of nurses, psychiatrists, and other behavioral health professionals provide assessment to determine appropriate level of care. Team members provide support, including psychiatric care, medication, and counseling, for stabilization of the crisis. CSU clients have immediate access to clinicians and referral assistance for a broad range of other community services as needed. Length of stay varies based on individual needs but is generally a four to ten days.


Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug abuse. Although medically assisted detoxification can safely manage the acute physical symptoms of withdrawal and can, for some, pave the way for effective long-term addiction treatment, detoxification alone is rarely sufficient to help addicted individuals achieve long-term abstinence. Thus, patients should be encouraged to continue drug treatment following detoxification.


Long Term Residential Treatment
Long-term residential treatment provides care 24 hours a day, generally in non-hospital settings. The best-known residential treatment model is the therapeutic community (TC), with one month or longer length of stay. TCs focus on the “resocialization” of the individual and use the program’s entire community—including other residents, staff, and the social context—as active components of treatment.


Transitional Living Arrangements
Transitional living that caters to people recovering from addiction are often referred to as sober living, 3/4 houses or recovery residences. Transitional living refers to any type of living situation that is transitional. The primary purpose or mission of transitional living environments is to help the resident become a productive member of society. Transitional living facilities often offer low cost housing. Transitional living residents that cater to those recovering from economic hardship often graduate from a shelter to lesser crowded living situation. Transitional Living may or may not have other common threads among residents. Transitional living provides professional support, education, and a stable living environment. Common types of transitional living include transitioning from jail or prison, an addiction treatment center or a mental health facility. Transitional living is provided by many well-known private and nonprofit organizations, by government, churches and other charitable organizations.

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