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Seeking Help What To Do First


Getting Help

Seeking Help What To Do First

Seeking treatment for substance use disorders (SUDS) can be a difficult and overwhelming task. Yet it need not be so difficult if you have a basic understanding of the treatments available, and know where to start. Don’t panic. There is help in every zip code if you know where to look and what to ask for.

Get Assessed

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. The first step may include medical assessment from an addiction physician, psychiatrist, psychologist,  or specialist in addiction on the nature and severity of the addiction. You should also have mental health diagnosis to determine if there a co-occurring mental illness that compounds the addiction issue. An addiction physician, psychiatrist or psychologist will be to examine your use, triggers for your use, coping skills, relapse prevention skills, and other recovery needs. You may also look at other problems in your life such as mental health concerns like depression or anxiety or difficulty in completing your daily tasks, and you may need to look at core issues such as family-of-origin problems, grief, abandonment and losses, history of abuse and trauma, etc.

How Do You Choose What Kind Of Care You Want, Need, Or Can Afford

Depending on how you’ve been assessed and what your finances are, you will be recommended to a level of treatment. These levels (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/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.

Types of Facilities and Counseling

There are numerous types of treatment. 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 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. 

What  And How They Treat

Addiction SUDS /AUDS – These facilities or counselors focus primarily on the drug and/or alcohol use and ways to live a clean and sober lifestyle. While other issues may be addressed, the primary focus is on the addiction. These facilities may also treat food, sex, and gambling disorders, which are called process addictions.

Co-Occurring: Co-occurring treatment examines both SUDs and mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, schizophrenia, and other illnesses. The majority of people seeking SUDs treatment do have a co-occurring disorder and both (or more) disorders must be treated together for developing stability and recovery.

Faith Based: Some programs offer treatment related to one’s faith, with Christianity being the most common although there are other treatments such as ones’ for Buddhism and other belief systems. In these programs, the belief system is utilized to help one recover by using those strengths.

Non-Faith Based: These treatments are for those who live a secular (non-religious) life or are more spirituality related including such treatments as nature-based recovery or a secular recovery approach utilizing the individual’s personal strengths and motivations. 

Other Treatments:

Detoxification: Detox is for people for whom it is not safe to get clean without medical intervention. For some addictions, it is dangerous to stop using abruptly and a detox program using medications and other medical interventions for withdrawal must be used.

Suboxone: This medication treatment is for those who struggle with opiate addictions. It is used to help facilitate recovery with medication and is monitored by an addictionologist, psychiatrist, or medical doctor. 

Aftercare: Aftercare is an umbrella term for an ongoing program (individually designed for each person) that is the next step after inpatient treatment and sober living, or is part of Medically Assisted treatment. Aftercare may include sober living, work program, ongoing group and/or individual therapy, 12-step programs, family support and other psychological and life skills training.

The Surgeon General’s Report on Addiction states there are many paths to recovery. There are also many types of treatment available.To get help, first locate professionals in your area who can get you started immediately on your recovery journey. Remember, you are not alone in this process, and recovery works..

Reach Out Recovery Exclusive by Carol Anderson

If you need help with addiction or mental health, click the image below to find professional resources in your area.





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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