What to expect from substance abuse treatment

The point at which someone decides they are ready for substance abuse treatment varies from person to person. Some enter treatment after reflecting on the ways in which alcohol or substance use is reducing their quality of life. They may find that drinking or using drugs is an obstacle to achieving their goals. Some people, however, seek treatment in response to the negative consequences of substance use. These may include medical problems, legal or financial issues, problems with work or school performance, or difficulty in their relationships with family and friends.

Substance abuse treatment refers to the range of services available to help people living with a substance use disorder. The goal is to restore their health and well-being. Therefore, there are two main goals for entering an outpatient substance abuse treatment program. The first goal is to help you stop using. The second is to develop the skills necessary to live your life without relying on alcohol or substance use.

How is substance use disorder assessed and diagnosed?

A medical or mental health professional can diagnose a substance use disorder. The diagnostic process involves a thorough evaluation of many factors. Therefore, to make a diagnosis of substance use disorder, a clinician will assess past and current substance use behavior and patterns. They will assess your medical, psychological and social history. They will also assess your current situation. If you meet the diagnostic criteria your provider will then recommend substance abuse treatment.

What happens in substance abuse treatment?

Most substance abuse treatment programs include specific components. These include detoxification, assessment, treatment planning, medical and psychiatric services, individual and group psychotherapy, recreation and other support services, and aftercare planning.


If you start treatment during or after a period of active alcohol or drug use, you will receive supportive treatment to help you stop using. Detoxification , also known as “detoxification,” refers to the process of removing alcohol or drugs from your body’s systems. Treatment programs facilitate this process through a combination of medical support and counseling. These treatments are meant to stabilize you physically and emotionally.


The treatment process then begins with a thorough assessment of your individual alcohol and substance use history. Assessment involves exploring all aspects of your life and any related problems. This helps you receive the most comprehensive and personalized treatment support.

Treatment planning

Treatment planning is the partnership and collaboration you will engage in when you meet with your treatment team. Together you will begin to structure your services and define your specific recovery goals. Once you determine your goals, you will determine the goals you will pursue in order to achieve your goals. An effective treatment plan is clearly structured and the steps you take to achieve the goals will be measurable. This will allow you and your treatment team to know how you are doing at any given point in the process. Once you meet your goals and achieve your goals, you and your service providers will know that you can consider completing your treatment program.

Individual, family and group therapy

You may participate in individual, family and/or group psychotherapy during your treatment. Individual psychotherapy gives you the opportunity to explore the root causes of substance abuse. Family therapy, on the other hand, offers you the opportunity to explore how your family can understand and actively support you in your recovery. Group therapy supports you in feeling less alone by identifying and interacting with others who also struggle with substance use. Group therapy also helps resolve relationship problems with other people that may have contributed to alcohol and drug abuse.

What is relapse prevention aftercare?

While in treatment, you’ll also work to develop a long-term plan. This plan will help you stay abstinent from alcohol and drugs. Hence, this is referred to as an aftercare plan or a relapse prevention plan . It includes determining what steps you will take after treatment. An integral part of this is building a support system of relationships with others in your community who support your recovery. With this in mind, it would ideally include family, friends, peers in recovery and a psychotherapist.

Support groups

Joining peer support groups such as AA or NA (also known as twelve-step programs) or SMART Recovery will allow you to build and maintain relationships with others in recovery. People in these groups can support you and share your progress. They can also have a positive influence on you and help you stay motivated to maintain your substance abuse recovery. Starting long-term psychotherapy will also help you deal with other mental health conditions. Other issues often coexist and play a role in substance use disorder.

Read more about how psychotherapy can help in addiction recovery

Recognizing that you are dealing with a problematic and disturbing pattern of alcohol or other substance use is certainly one of the most difficult steps to take. Substance addiction is highly treatable once diagnosed and you are ready to start rebuilding your life. As a result, our substance abuse treatment programs are designed to provide you with the consistent support and expertise you need to ensure your successful recovery. Finding the right treatment provider doesn’t have to be overwhelming.