Quick Facts: What To Expect From Each Level of Addiction Treatment

There are a few basic types of care for substance use disorder. Understand what's best for yourself or a loved one

August 2, 2022
Person in addiction treatment intake with therapist

Contrary to the popular imagination, addiction treatment is not some monolithic experience of “going to rehab” — it offers several levels of care to meet each individual’s nuanced needs. There is a continuum of care that includes intervention, outpatient treatment, intensive outpatient/partial hospitalization, residential and inpatient treatment.

The most effective level of care for each individual can be best assessed by a professional provider credentialed in addiction care. They make this determination by gathering information about the person’s previous care and treatment, current status of substance use, and any co-occurring mental health or medical needs.

Once a person engages in any level of care they may participate in all levels along the continuum — for example, moving from a more intensive to less intensive treatment over time — or may just need a specific level of care. Different levels may provide different treatment needs: From counseling and group therapy to detoxificationmedication-assisted recovery, psychiatric care and more. There are multiple ways to approach the levels of care. The most important thing is to get a level of care best suited for your needs to ensure recovery.

Intervention focuses on the identification of a potential substance use disorder, assessing the person at risk to determine if they meet diagnostic criteria for further counseling or treatment. Families and loved ones often initiate an intervention after seeing concerning behavior related to substance use.

Outpatient care takes place in community settings so individuals can remain at home, in school or at work while they participate in care. A recommendation for outpatient care depends on the severity and current status of substance use — or recovery progress — so outpatient care can last for several weeks to several months. Some factors to consider are safety (such as a supportive home environment), risk of withdrawal or relapse, and job or school needs, as well as other social factors. Outpatient care is structured in a few different ways.

Intensive outpatient (IOP) or partial hospitalization program (PHP): A PHP is usually five hours per day, five days per week, while IOP typically requires three hours per day for three to five days per week. “Regular” outpatient, for continued care following higher levels of treatment, usually occurs once- or twice-weekly for about an hour.

Residential care takes place in a fully supervised setting to meet the needs of individuals who require a more intensive program than outpatient care. Time in residential care can vary from a few weeks to several months.

Inpatient care is usually a more structured level in a clinical setting, for those needing detoxification or management of more acute medical or mental health conditions. This level care is usually shorter in duration, with stays of seven to 10 days on average.

All levels of care along the continuum are important to ensure each individual’s needs can be met. All Sober’s Treatment Finder tool can help you locate programs across the United States.

Success rates for all levels of care vary based on many factors, but overall, those who seek outpatient care can be as successful as those seeking inpatient care. If a person receiving outpatient care struggles to maintain sobriety, they can be referred back to residential or inpatient care to better support their recovery. Any decision about which level of care is right should be made with the guidance of a professional assessment by a licensed clinician. The goal is always to support each person with love and compassion.

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