Getting treatment for addiction can be difficult and overwhelming. Rehabs are often far away and expensive. Don’t panic. There’s help in every zip code if you know where to look and what to ask for.  Here’s a good place to start.

1. Get A Diagnosis

It’s time to rip the band-aid off and see what you are dealing with. Denial helps no one. The first step in getting better is evaluating the illness. An addiction physician, psychiatrist, psychologist or specialist in addiction can do a medical assessment to define the nature and severity of the addiction. If you live in a rural area, you might have to start with a general family practice physician. Look for physicians, counselors, and therapists who:

  • Are a licensed treatment provider
  • Can assess your needs AND help you follow through with a treatment plan

In all types of counseling and treatment programs, you should work with licensed treatment providers such as addiction physicians, and other medical personnel, as well as social workers, counselors, and other professionals to assess your treatment needs and help you follow through with a treatment plan.

You should also have mental health diagnosis to determine if there a co-occurring mental illness that compounds the addiction issue.

After your assessment, an addiction physician, psychiatrist or psychologist will be to examine your:

  • Use
  • Triggers for your use
  • Coping skills
  • Relapse prevention skills
  • Other recovery needs.

A therapist, also known as a counselor or psychologist, can help you address other problems such as:

  • Mental health concerns like depression or anxiety
  • Difficulty in completing your daily tasks,
  • Core issues such as family-of-origin problems
  • Grief
  • Abandonment and losses
  • History of abuse and trauma, etc.

2. Chose The Kind Of Care You Want, Need & Can Afford

You will be recommended to a level of treatment, but often your finances dictate what you can afford. The levels of treatment (going from the least intensive to the most intensive) include: support groups, outpatient, intensive outpatient, inpatient or residential treatment, and detox. Other help may include: support groups such as 12 step meetings, Medication Assisted treatment, and a longer term program for aftercare.

Support Groups And 12-Step Meetings

If you are able to cope with your SUD without needing a professional such as a counselor or you need ongoing help while in treatment and after treatment, you may find that various types of support groups may offer you the help you need. AA and NA are the most recognized 12-step groups, but there are numerous other groups such as Secular Sobriety, 16 Steps for Empowerment, and Dual Recovery Anonymous. Al-Anon is the 12 step group for family members, and can be useful for those in recovery as well.

Outpatient Counseling

This type of counseling is for someone who has a SUD, but also may be in the early stages of the illness, has a lot of support for recovery, or it may be used as follow-up counseling after a more intensive treatment.  With this therapy, you will probably be seen by a therapist only once a week or every-other-week for an hour, depending on your progress.

Intensive Outpatient (IOP)

IOP is where you attend a program 3-5 times per week for a few hours each day, for a few months, but you stay at home. Your will attend therapy groups, educational groups where you learn about addictions, recovery, and coping skills, and you should be seen by a physician, as well as therapists and counselors.

Residential/Inpatient Treatment

These two types of treatment are the most intensive as you live at a facility (residential) or a hospital-type setting (inpatient). Sometimes the length of stay is around two weeks, but more long-term facilities may have individuals stay up to 3-12 months. These treatments are for people who are late stage in their addictions, have little support, numerous problematic issues, and who may not have been able to stay clean and sober with less-intensive treatment.

3. Where To Get Help

There are numerous types of treatment. If your doctor is involved from the start, he or she can help you find other providers.  Hospitals in many cities have addiction and mental health departments, and patients in a variety of different inpatient and out patient programs. Community Mental Health Centers may not focus on addiction treatment but are often able to treat the behavioral issues that accompany substance use and the family. Residential treatment centers, of which there are about eight thousand in the US, have many different kinds of programs, and levels of care, and there are also sober living communities that help those in recovery step down from more intensive treatment.

Two things to remember:

  1. Be your own advocate. If the treatment prescribed doesn’t work for you, use your voice. Ask for help. Ask for a second opinion or other options. Take a friend along to doctor’s appointments. Your friend can help clarify what was said and be a voice of reason.
  2. There are many paths to recovery. If the first one doesn’t work, try another path.

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Carol Anderson
Carol Anderson, D.Min., ACSW, LMSW, is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience in the fields of mental health, addictions, and co-occurring disorders. Her other specialties include grief and trauma, women’s issues, chronic pain management, holistic healing, GLBTQ concerns, and spirituality and transpersonal psychology. Dr. Anderson has been educated and trained in the fields of education, social work, and spirituality, and she holds a Doctor of Ministry degree (non-denominational/interfaith) specializing in spirituality.

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