Timeline for Levels of Treatment Care

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It’s only relatively recently that we’ve really begun to understand the disease of addiction. Previously, most people saw addiction as an issue of behavior and morality with individuals suffering from substance abuse disorders merely considered bad people. Over the course of decades of research, we’ve come to realize that addiction is a chronic relapsing brain disease that’s more comparable to diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease than it is an issue of morality. Similarly, there have been many misconceptions about addiction recovery and the rehabilitation process. Many people tend to see addiction as requiring little more than a month of treatment. Fortunately, we now know that’s not the case.

Every individual who suffers from addiction has his or her own unique recovery needs. Whether it’s a twelve-step support group or our Utah outpatient program for addiction, there’s a recovery resource that’s right for each individual’s needs. In fact, there are actually many instances where an individual will utilize multiple levels of care in order to achieve lasting recovery. As such, it’s important to be knowledgeable about each of the levels of care since they exist on a continuum. The following are the four levels of treatment and care as they have been defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Level 1: Outpatient Services

As mentioned above, addiction treatment services exist on a continuum or spectrum. On one end of the spectrum, there’s outpatient care; inpatient care exists on the other end of the spectrum and there are intermediary forms of treatment in-between. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of outpatient care, it’s characterized as a form of treatment wherein the patient will continue to live at his or her home — or perhaps some type of transitional or assisted-living facility — while commuting to a treatment facility on the predetermined days.

Beyond the fact that outpatient care doesn’t provide residential accommodations for patients receiving treatment, there are actually several different types of outpatient care. Of course, there’s the standard outpatient addiction treatment program such as our Utah outpatient program for addiction. A standard outpatient program tends to offer only the essentials for recovery, including psychotherapy, group therapy, and a limited amount of complementary and supplemental treatments. Compared to more intensive forms of care, patients in standard outpatient treatment tend to spend less time actually receiving treatment; typically, it’s estimated that patients in outpatient care receive ten or fewer hours of treatment each week.

Level 2: Intensive Outpatient/Partial Hospitalization Services

After outpatient services, the next level of treatment and care should be seen as a more substantial and intensive form of outpatient care. At this level, a more rigorous outpatient program would likely be referred to as an intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization program.

There are several reasons why a person might choose an intensive outpatient program over a standard outpatient program. For one thing, this type of care offers a more intensive curriculum with more time spent in active treatment without losing the flexibility of an outpatient-style program. Patients in an intensive form of our Utah outpatient program for addiction may participate in more than ten hours of treatment per week, or perhaps substantially more. With the amount of time spent in treatment increased, there’s more opportunity to incorporate complementary and supplemental treatments into the curriculum. Patients in an intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization program will have more opportunities to learn valuable relapse-prevention skills as well as having opportunities to participate in the various interpersonal process and psychoeducational group therapies. As well, this level of care affords a greater level of monitoring, involvement, and support from members of the staff.

Level 3: Residential/Inpatient Services

Having covered all forms of outpatient care, the third level on the continuum of addiction treatment and care is residential and inpatient services. Arguably the most obvious difference between inpatient services and the first two levels of care is that inpatient programs provide patients with temporary housing. In other words, patients in inpatient care are residing at the treatment facility for the duration of the program.

There are quite a few different benefits to inpatient care. For one thing, inpatient care is widely viewed as being the most effective form of treatment for most individuals. As individuals don’t have to spend time commuting to/from the treatment facility, there’s potential for a much more significant amount of time spent in treatment. In fact, individuals in inpatient programs typically receive at least five hours of clinical care each week, meaning that they spend at least five hours in psychotherapy and one-on-one counseling. It’s important to note that those five hours don’t account for the several types of complementary and supplemental treatment that can be incorporated into an inpatient curriculum.

Besides offering a more intensive curriculum, an added benefit of inpatient care is that patients can focus on their recoveries in an environment that’s safe, alcohol- and drug-free, and monitored around the clock. In the event that a patient would experience some type of medical emergency, inpatient care ensures that there’s always a staff member available to provide care and support.

Level 4: Medically-Managed Intensive Inpatient Services

For most patients, one of the first three levels of addiction treatment and care is sufficient for recovery. However, there are some who require an even greater level of medical and rehabilitative care. For such individuals, the fourth level of care may be necessary.

At this fourth level on the continuum of addiction treatment and care, the patient is receiving intensive and medically-managed inpatient treatment. Much like a standard inpatient or residential program, this level of care provides temporary housing to the patient so that he or she can reside within the facility during treatment; however, a key feature of a medically-managed intensive inpatient program is that patients are afforded 24-hour medical supervision in the form of a staff of nurses and medical technicians who oversee patients’ progress.

When a patient suffers from a particularly severe addiction or is addicted to an especially dangerous substance — i.e., alcohol or benzodiazepines — it’s possible that he or she would require a medically-managed intensive inpatient program. Since detoxification for substances like those mentioned above is a particularly delicate process, this level of medical care and supervision ensures patient safety during the recovery process. Although an elevated level of overall care and treatment may also be a feature at this level of care, the most significant feature is the continuous medical care.

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