Levels Of Care In The Addiction Treatment Process

When it comes to seeking help for addiction, it can be helpful to understand the different components that make up a continuum of care for addiction treatment. Many different addiction treatment options exist. Choosing the right treatment program for you or a loved one may improve chances for long-term recovery.

Levels Of Care

Over 20 million individuals across the United States struggle with some form of substance abuse or addiction. With the rise of the opioid crisis, public health officials nationwide have made it a priority to expand access to quality, affordable, and effective addiction treatment services.

When it comes to seeking addiction treatment, it’s important to know that there are many options that exist. Addiction treatment can take place in a variety of settings and may involve varying components according to the type of treatment program and rehab center.

Types of treatment programs for drug and alcohol abuse include:

These treatment programs are offered at various levels of care. People who are recovering from addiction may require treatment through multiple levels of care.

Continuing care from an inpatient treatment setting through step-down treatment services can help individuals maintain their commitment to recovery and bridge any gaps that could leave a person vulnerable to relapse.

Many drug and alcohol rehab centers highlight this approach, known as a continuum of care. Access to a continuum of care ensures that people seeking treatment for drug or alcohol use are supported through each step of the treatment process, from inpatient care to outpatient and aftercare support services.

Seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addiction can be life-saving. It can also be an intimidating process. Here, you’ll find information about different types of treatment programs and how to choose the best level of care for yourself or a loved one.

Types Of Alcohol And Drug Treatment Programs

Substance abuse treatment exists at multiple levels of care for people at various stages of their recovery journey. Not every person may require the same level of care as the next.

Treatment programs can vary in their length, their intensiveness, and the setting in which they are offered. Many addiction treatment centers offer a continuum of care onsite, or partner with nearby addiction support services to look after the needs of residents through each stage of the treatment process.

Understanding the different treatment options that exist for drug and alcohol abuse can help you make an informed decision about the type of treatment to seek for yourself or a loved one.

Detox Programs

Detoxification is the natural starting point in treatment for people who have developed a chemical dependency on drugs or alcohol.

Detoxification, or detox, is the process of allowing drugs or alcohol to leave the body. For people who have been abusing substances regularly and heavily, this can result in withdrawal. Drug withdrawal can be mild to severe in nature, depending on the type of drug you’re withdrawing from, the severity of your dependence, and other personal factors.

While it’s possible to detox alone or at home, this is not recommended. Severe cases of drug and alcohol withdrawal can become life-threatening without medical care and supervision.

Detox programs, which may be offered through rehab centers or in a hospital setting, can help to alleviate pain and discomfort during the withdrawal process, as well as drug cravings. These are short-term programs that may last anywhere from three to 10 days.

Types of detox programs include:

  • medical detox
  • social detox

Medical Detox Programs

Medical detox programs, or medically assisted detox programs, are staffed with doctors, nurses, and other support professionals who are trained to appropriately care for individuals undergoing withdrawal from drugs and alcohol.

During the course of a medical detox program, medical professionals may ensure patients are hydrated, assist with nourishment, and administer medications to ease withdrawal symptoms or treat life-threatening conditions.

Which medications a person could receive will vary by the rehab center, but could include such medications as buprenorphine (Suboxone), methadone, or naltrexone (Vivitrol, to name a few. Medical detox offers 24-hour supervised care within a quiet, sterile, and supervised setting.

Social Detox Programs

Social detox is a less common detox option that may not be suitable for everyone. Unlike medical detox, a social detox model does not involve the use of medication to treat withdrawal symptoms.

Instead, individuals receive care through therapy and counseling. People undergoing detox through a social model may still be monitored regularly by a doctor.

The social model is not recommended for people who are at risk for serious or life-threatening withdrawal, such as those in withdrawal from alcohol abuse.

Social detox may be cost-effective and flexible for individuals who are not at risk for serious withdrawal. It’s best to consult a doctor about which type of detox program may be most suitable for your situation.

Inpatient And Residential Rehab Programs

Inpatient treatment, or residential rehabilitation, is the gold standard for addiction treatment. This is the highest level of care for people overcoming an addiction to drugs and alcohol. It is also the most comprehensive. These treatment programs often feature a wide array of treatment services for treating mental and physical health in early sobriety.

Inpatient addiction rehab programs offer around-the-clock medical and behavioral support for individuals in a structured and supervised setting. This type of 24-hour care may be necessary for people who are not yet sober or are in the early stages of sobriety to prevent relapse.

Inpatient rehab programs for addiction involve residing within a drug rehab center for a predetermined amount of time—generally 30 to 90 days. During this time, patients will attend treatment as determined by a team of treatment professionals. The best rehab centers will develop a treatment plan that is personalized to meet each patient’s needs.

Types of treatment services that may be offered in residential drug rehab programs include:

  • behavioral therapy
  • medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • medical care
  • individual and group therapy
  • 12-step drug rehab
  • psychiatric services
  • case management
  • mental health treatment (dual diagnosis)
  • alternative therapies (e.g. yoga, mindfulness therapy, art therapy)
  • recreational therapy
  • relapse prevention planning
  • aftercare support

Entering an inpatient or residential rehab program can be beneficial for treating a variety of substance abuse, addiction, and mental health issues.

For people with severe or chronic addiction issues, this type of treatment can be crucial in order to address the underlying causes of addiction and develop a comprehensive strategy for maintaining recovery outside of a formal treatment program.

Are Inpatient And Residential Treatment The Same?

The terms “inpatient” and “residential” are often used interchangeably in discussions about addiction treatment options. However, they do not always refer to the same type of care.

Inpatient rehab programs are the most intensive type of treatment, typically offered within a secure unit of a treatment facility or hospital. Residential rehab programs provide a similarly structured and supervised treatment experience within a comfortable, home-like environment.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)

Partial hospitalization, or day treatment, is a transitional level of care suitable for people who have just completed an inpatient program. This may also be suitable for people who do not require 24-hour care in a treatment center.

Partial hospitalization is not a live-in treatment program. Instead, people within a partial hospitalization program attend treatment at an inpatient center—such as a hospital or treatment facility—for four to six hours a day, up to five days a week.

During this time, patients may attend individual and group counseling sessions, and meet with a medical doctor or psychiatrist as needed. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may also be offered in PHP settings.

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)

Similar to partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient treatment is a transitional form of care that is less intensive than inpatient and partial hospitalization programs.

Intensive outpatient rehab programs involve attending treatment at a substance abuse treatment center for up to three hours a day, a couple days a week. The types of treatment services offered, and the amount of time IOP patients spend attending treatment, may vary among different rehab facilities.

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) may be most suitable for:

  • people who have recently completed a residential treatment program
  • working professionals in early recovery who do not require a higher level of care
  • people who require greater support and structure than is offered in standard outpatient treatment

Intensive outpatient programs are not suitable for people who are still actively struggling with addiction to substances. This generally requires a higher level of care.

Standard Outpatient Treatment

For most people, overcoming drug and alcohol addiction is a long-term process that may require months or even years of continuing care on an outpatient basis.

Standard outpatient treatment services—such as counseling, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), support groups, and mental health treatment—can serve to continue providing support for people in early recovery and bolster their commitment to maintaining recovery.

Outpatient programs for substance abuse and addiction can last as long as is necessary, based on individual needs. Outpatient treatment is less intensive than inpatient, PHP, and IOP, and is more flexible.

The types of treatment approaches, and length of outpatient programs, may vary according to the treatment provider or rehab center through which you’re receiving outpatient services.

Sober Living

Sober living homes and other transitional care facilities (e.g. recovery housing) provide a safe, sober, and supportive environment for people in early recovery from addiction.

Sober living options may be most suitable for people who have just completed an inpatient program who lack a supportive home environment. It can also be suitable for people who have traveled for treatment in an inpatient rehab center and wish to continue their treatment at the facility on an outpatient basis.

Many rehab centers, including Spring Hill Recovery, coordinate with nearby sober living homes to provide convenient transportation from sober living to the treatment center. Recovery housing may also offer additional support services to help residents reintegrate back into the community.


Near the end of an intensive treatment program, individuals will begin planning for aftercare services to continue their healing on an outpatient basis. Aftercare is an important aspect of the continuum of care approach.

This element of treatment serves to ensure that people continue to receive the treatment and support they might need in order to enhance their commitment to a sober, supportive life in addiction recovery. Aftercare services may connect people to alumni support networks, PHP or IOP, and other community-based treatment resources.

Substance Use Disorder Treatment Approaches

Not every drug rehab center approaches treatment the same way. The best addiction treatment centers offer a combination of evidence-based and alternative therapies to address the effects of addiction on the mind and body. This is known as a whole-person or holistic approach.

Evidence-based treatments are treatments that are proven to be effective for helping people maintain their recovery long-term. This is an important component of a treatment program. Alternative therapies can be a helpful supplement to an evidence-based treatment program.

Evidence-Based Treatment

Evidence-based treatments vary according to the specific type of drug addiction or mental health condition.

The primary evidence-based treatments offered in inpatient and outpatient settings are medication-based therapies and behavioral therapies such as:

  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (e.g. Suboxone Therapy, Methadone Maintenance Therapy)
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • The Matrix Model (for stimulant addiction)

These therapies integrate a variety of strategies to treat the physical, mental, and psychological effects of addiction. Evidence-based therapies promote useful life skills, supportive coping strategies, and can help alter a person’s attitudes and beliefs about drug use and recovery.

Holistic Approach

Many drug and alcohol rehab centers take a whole-person, holistic approach to substance use disorder treatment. Holistic treatments serve to treat not only the physical effects of addiction, but also the effects of addiction on mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

Holistic treatment programs may integrate a variety of clinical and alternative therapies into patient treatment schedules.

Common types of holistic therapies offered in substance abuse treatment programs include:

  • art and music therapy
  • yoga
  • mindfulness training
  • nutritional counseling
  • adventure-based therapy
  • equine therapy

Holistic treatment services for addiction may be offered in residential rehab programs or sought on an outpatient basis. The types of holistic treatment services that are included in a residential rehab program may vary depending on where you seek treatment.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an evidence-based, whole-person approach to treatment that combines the use of medications and behavioral therapy to ease withdrawal symptoms and curb drug cravings.

Medication-assisted therapy is primarily used to treat opioid addiction and heroin addiction, as it has been identified as one of the most effective strategies to overcome addiction to opioids.

It may also be beneficial for people overcoming an addiction to:

Combining the use of behavioral therapy with medications in early sobriety can serve to provide individuals with the support and coping skills to maintain long-term recovery from addiction.

Medication-assisted treatments—such as Suboxone therapy and methadone maintenance therapy—may be available on an inpatient and outpatient basis.

Mental Health Treatment

Many people who struggle with substance abuse also live with a mental health disorder. This is known as having co-occurring disorders. The most effective type of treatment for people with co-occurring disorders is dual diagnosis treatment.

Dual-diagnosis rehab programs integrate mental health and substance abuse treatment into a program capable of addressing all of a person’s existing mental health conditions.

Common mental health disorders that co-occur with drug and alcohol abuse include:

  • depression
  • anxiety disorders
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • eating disorders
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • schizophrenia
  • bipolar disorder

Overcoming drug addiction can be more difficult for people who have co-occurring disorders. Many people with mental illness can turn to drugs like opioids and alcohol to self-medicate and escape symptoms of their mental illness.

Dual-diagnosis rehab can help treat these co-occurring disorders and help individuals discover more supportive coping strategies for symptom management that are separate from the misuse of addictive substances.

Faith-Based Treatment

Faith-based treatment, or religious rehab, is a type of treatment approach that may be offered in select drug treatment centers. The integration of faith-based treatment may be helpful for some, as a way to rebuild one’s relationship with a higher power during the early stages of sobriety.

In fact, one type of treatment that has helped countless individuals to date is 12-step treatment programs, based on the 12-step approach developed by Alcoholics Anonymous. This type of substance abuse treatment asks individuals to surrender to a higher power as they know it in order to conquer addiction issues.

Faith-based rehab programs may emphasize practices of Christian faith, Jewish faith, Islamic faith, or principles of Buddhism. The types of faith-based programs a rehab center offers for people who are spiritual, or wish to hone their spirituality in recovery, may vary according to the treatment center.

Additional Specialty Services In Addiction Treatment

Drug and alcohol rehab centers may offer additional specialty services for certain populations of people in order to better meet their individual needs.

Specialty services and programs for drug and alcohol addiction include:

  • veteran-friendly
  • LGBTQ-friendly
  • pet-friendly
  • adolescent and young adult programs
  • elderly programs
  • programs for pregnant individuals

If you believe you or a loved one would benefit from a specialized treatment program, consider searching for a treatment facility that offers specialized treatment services.

How Providers Determine The Level Of Care

Before entering a drug or alcohol rehab program, the best way to determine an appropriate level of behavioral health care is through a needs assessment, or drug rehab evaluation. You may be able to seek a drug rehab assessment through your primary care doctor, or through an addiction treatment facility.

Through an initial assessment, a medical professional can determine which level of care is most suitable for a person.

This determination may be influenced by a variety of factors, including:

  • frequency of drug use
  • how much of the drug is taken
  • chemical dependency
  • co-occurring mental health diagnoses
  • effects of drug misuse on physical and mental health
  • presence of suicidal thoughts
  • supportiveness of the home environment
  • past treatment history

Individuals and their families may then search for a drug rehab program based on the recommendation provided by a general physician or treatment specialist. Drug treatment centers vary in the types of rehab programs they offer and their recovery services.

Find Treatment For Substance Abuse And Addiction

Deciding to seek treatment for yourself or a loved one struggling with addiction can be one of the most difficult and rewarding decisions you ever make. If you or a family member needs help to overcome substance abuse, you’re not alone. Help is available.

Spring Hill Recovery Center in Ashby, Massachusetts offers an array of treatment programs suitable to treat various types of addiction through a holistic, personalized approach.

Spring Hill offers residential rehab and intensive outpatient programs. In addition, we also coordinate with nearby detox centers to ensure a smooth transition from detoxification into our residential program.

Spring Hill Recovery belongs to a network of treatment centers located across the state of Massachusetts. While we don’t offer every level of care at our Ashby rehab center, those who enter one of our programs may continue their care through treatment services offered through our sister rehab centers.

Spring Hill offers a number of recovery support services to help ease the process of entering treatment at our rehab center and accessing continuing care.

These services include:

  • assistance in travel arrangements
  • verifying insurance coverage
  • performing an initial drug and alcohol rehab assessment
  • coordinating continuing care with partnered substance abuse rehab centers

Don’t wait to learn what Spring Hill Recovery may be able to do for you. Early intervention is key to getting your loved one the help they need. Contact us today to learn more about our leading accredited rehab center and our addiction recovery programs.

Written by Spring Hill Editorial Team

Published on: August 25, 2020 | Edited on: March 22, 2023

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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