by Elena Bagourdi, PhD
If you or a loved one are struggling with a substance abuse problem, you might not know where to turn even if you know that you need help. Deciding to seek substance abuse counseling is an important first step on the path to recovery, but knowing exactly what type of addiction treatment program will best suit your needs and personality can feel monumentally overwhelming.
The important thing to understand is that, at their core, all addiction treatment programs provide a safe space where healing can occur through support, education, guidance and exploration. These practices will help you uncover the reasons you may have developed an addiction in the first place so you can build a strong foundation for lasting recovery. The goal is not only to help you develop the skills you need to prevent relapse, but also to teach you to lead a clean and sober life that is meaningful, deeply satisfying and free of imbalances.
Beyond that, centers will differ in both their overall approach to substance abuse counseling and the intensity of treatment they provide. If you or your loved one are struggling with substance abuse, mental health issues, or both —commonly referred to as dual diagnosis issues — know that professional dual-diagnosis treatment can be one of the most effective ways to overcome addiction and treat any co-occurring (meaning mental health and addiction) symptoms. The benefits of type of treatment, along with outpatient, inpatient and other therapies, will be explored in the rest of this article.
Keep reading to discover how to tell which one might be most suitable to put you or your loved one on the path towards lasting sobriety.
For many people, detoxification is the first step on the road to recovery. What many don’t know, however, is that detox is not actually a form of treatment. Rather, it consists of a set of interventions designed to help gradually wean you off the substance(s) as safely and comfortably as possible, helping you achieve a medically stable state in order to continue on to an addiction treatment program.
Medical detox programs rely on medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, while social detox is based on peer support and does not use medication. Both of these types of detox can take place in various settings, including your physician’s office, a freestanding outpatient or inpatient detox center or a hospital.
The best setting and program for your needs depends on a number of factors, such as the severity of your addiction, the substance(s) you used, whether you have a co-occurring mental health disorder and whether you are in danger of suffering severe or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms (such as seizures or delirium tremens).
Types of Treatment Programs
Partial Hospitalization Programs and Intensive Outpatient Programs
Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) and intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are excellent choices if you are unable to commit to an inpatient/residential treatment or detox stay due to career or family obligations, but need a high level of care and attention.
PHP and IOP are less intense than inpatient treatment but offer more structure and supervised care than regular outpatient treatment, which you might attend just once a week (more details about this type of treatment will be provided below). Intensive outpatient programs allow you to live at home while traveling to a treatment center most days of the week, making them a great option if you are a professional who needs to attend to career responsibilities but is emotionally caught up in your addiction. IOP is a great option if you are able to resist triggers and cravings with assistance from therapists, support groups, AA meetings and individual self-discipline. An intensive outpatient program is also a good option if you have a severe addiction or if you do not have a strong support system you can rely on if you are afraid you might be at risk of relapsing.
PHP is a step up from IOP, and therefore ideal if you feel you need as much care as possible but cannot completely disengage from your daily life. You may attend sessions for up to 30 hours per week, 5 days per week if you take part in a partial hospitalization program, while IOP is usually on a 3 hours per day, 3 days per week schedule. Sometimes you may immediately enter PHP or IOP after completing detox, but you may also transition to these programs after an inpatient treatment stay. Some people enter PHP or IOP directly, without entering detox.
Standard Outpatient Programs
After completing a PHP or IOP (or in some cases directly after completing detox or a residential program), you may benefit from transitioning to a standard (or simple) outpatient program. These programs are designed to offer ongoing support as you continue your recovery journey. You may attend outpatient treatment a few times per week, and a gradual decrease in session intensity is typical. Many people continue outpatient therapy sessions as a part of aftercare to help them stay sober once they have completed formal addiction treatment.
If you know you’ll benefit from this kind of continued treatment from the word go, it is important to choose a treatment center that offers both IOP and standard outpatient treatment like Exis Recovery. That way, you will be able to continue working with the same therapists and coaches who have supported you throughout your journey to recovery instead of having to feel like you are starting from scratch with someone new.
Residential/Inpatient Treatment Programs
If you are struggling with severe substance abuse or think you will benefit from round-the-clock care, starting your recovery journey at an inpatient or residential treatment center may be the best option. If you go this route, you will live at a residential facility for a specific period of time (usually between 28 and 90 days), receive care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and participate in different types of treatments as part of a comprehensive program that addresses your specific needs.
Types of Therapies and Services
In addition to choosing the type of substance abuse counseling program that will best support your recovery, those who are seeking treatment for substance abuse also need to consider the types of services they are looking to receive. Typical services offered by nearly all addiction treatment programs include individual and group substance abuse counseling, family therapy and support groups. You may also participate in a variety of evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or dialectical behavior therapy, which are designed to help identify and change negative or maladaptive thoughts and behaviors, as well as other treatment methods such as contingency management or motivational enhancement.
Beyond these widely accepted methods, most treatment centers also offer additional therapies designed to promote healing and a lasting change in destructive patterns of behavior. A few of the most common are outlined below.
Around 8 million people struggling with addiction also have a co-occurring mental health disorder. If you have a psychiatric illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression, as well as an addiction, a dual diagnosis treatment center (whether inpatient or outpatient), may be the right choice for you. Dual diagnosis treatment centers like Exis Recovery are specifically designed to treat both substance abuse and psychological problems and can offer a personalized treatment plan that focuses on your unique circumstances and needs.
The 12-Step Model
Some programs are based on the disease theory of addiction and the 12-step model of recovery as originally outlined by Alcoholics Anonymous. In this model, which often takes place outside of or in addition to an outpatient program, you submit to a higher power — and admit to being powerless over your addiction — and work through the 12 steps with the assistance of a sponsor and group members (as opposed to a trained and licensed counselor, physician or psychiatrist).
However, more innovative models have been developed that provide an alternative to the AA approach and do not require the idea of a higher power or the concept of powerlessness, such as Smart Recovery meetings or other non-AA models. These innovative methods encourage self-empowerment, help strengthen your individual motivation to change, and do not use stigmatizing labels such as “addict” or “alcoholic.”
More creative and holistic programs, like Exis Recovery’s, combine Western and Eastern philosophies and approaches to treat mind, body and spirit as one. Innovative treatment modalities such as hypnotherapy, acupuncture, life purpose/life coaching work, yoga, meditation and mindfulness, are incorporated alongside practices like trauma work, nutritional guidance and process groups. Centers that take this approach may also offer regular activities designed to build new sources of passion and worth, such as life story narrative workshops, movement therapy, drama therapy, arts and creative expression, and experiential group outings. Unlike many standard programs, this comprehensive approach treats you as an integrated, whole person, which is crucial for addiction recovery.
Finally, aftercare services are designed to help prevent relapse once treatment is completed.
The Bottom Line
In addition to the severity of your addiction, choosing the right treatment center depends on your individual circumstances, such as whether you have a dual diagnosis, your financial situation, insurance coverage, work situation and family obligations. Regardless of the treatment program you select, know that you are beginning the process of taking back control over your life and starting a new, healthier and happier way of living.