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Working with a Qualified Counselor for In-Person or Online Outpatient Drug & Alcohol Rehab

Which Level of  Treatment for Alcohol or Drug Abuse is Appropriate for Me? Working with a Qualified Counselor to Help me get the Right Help for my needs

As we saw in the previous post, there is a great amount of consideration that goes into assessing the appropriate needs of each person seeking treatment for substance abuse.  The counselor who went through the 6 Dimensions of the ASAM Criteria with you, now has the task of evaluating all that information and making a recommendation to you for treatment.

In many cases, it is beneficial to the counselor to speak with your family in a family counseling session, maybe with your spouse and significant other.  In some cases, maybe with a good friend.  The counselor is trying to get information from as many sources as possible to make the right decision for you regarding your outpatient treatment program.  The counselor may need to talk to your physician if there are medical issues to be considered.  This is not the case of the counselor being “nosey” they are trying to get the most well-rounded, balanced set of information possible.

As we saw in the previous post, each of the 6 Dimensions is rated on a level of severity from 1-4.  This information is used to determine which level of care, and which types of treatment will be most helpful for your recovery.

Outpatient Therapy – Level 1 in the ASAM Placement Criteria

Generally, this is with an individual therapist.  At this level, all 6 Dimensions would be minimal.  Perhaps the person needs more motivation to seek a more substantive level of care.  A therapist would help you identify some of the pros and cons of reducing or refraining from drinking or using substances.  Many therapists are skilled in types of therapy that can be effective in helping in the recovery effort.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) – Level 2.1 in the ASAM Placement Criteria

IOP is the first structured level of treatment and is the level at which most people begin treatment.  It is designed to accommodate those who work or go to school.  Programs meet during the day or evening, online or in person.  Group therapy sessions meet 3 times per week for 3 hours each.  Weekly individual sessions are held at a scheduled time that accommodates your needs.  Family therapy sessions help periodically to discuss the progress that family members see and gives them an opportunity to discuss any constructive concerns they may have.

A benefit of IOP is that you get to experience the world you live in and discuss difficulties with your counselor almost every day. This is why those who go to Residential Treatment generally step down to IOP after completion of that program.

During treatment at this level, you learn about the basics of addiction, identify triggers and provide solutions to help deal with those concerns. Options such as online outpatient drug and alcohol rehab are also available to improve comfort levels.

You will also learn life skills that you may need to help in your recovery.

Getting involved in substance and alcohol abuse support groups can be beneficial, as you can surround yourself with other people facing similar struggles with withdrawal symptoms and the challenges of recovery. It can be a hard road, but you don’t have to go alone. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines ten core life skills:

  1. Communication – verbal and non-verbal ways of expression that are appropriate within your work, family, and social circle.
  2. Coping with stress – recognizing sources of stress, how stress can affect life, and how to control stress levels
  3. Coping with emotions – recognizing emotions, how emotions influence behaviors and responding appropriately
  4. Creative thinking – the ability to explore available alternatives and consequences of action or inaction
  5. Critical thinking –ability to analyze information and experiences
  6. Decision-making – dealing constructively with decisions throughout life
  7. Empathy – imagining a different perspective even if the situation is not familiar
  8. Interpersonal relationships – relating positively to interactions with others
  9. Problem-solving – dealing with issues as they come throughout life
  10. Self-awareness – recognition of self, character, strengths, weaknesses, desires, and dislikes


Each of these is covered along with many others during the length of the IOP.  The second major element of outpatient rehab programs is your Individual Counseling sessions.  These sessions are about “you.”  In these sessions, the counselor will help you review the events of your life and help you find events that have given you a negative perception of things, and teach you ways to change those.  You will also look at traumatic events that may have occurred in your life that have affected your need to self-medicate from the subconscious pain they cause you today.

Intensive Outpatient Programs in the United States generally last from 6-10 weeks.  At the time of discharge, you will review your progress with your counselor and evaluate any further counseling or medical needs you may have.

Many IOPs utilize MAT, medication-assisted therapy.  If you and your counselor believe you may be assisted by medication for dealing with cravings, or if you are depressed, you may be treated by a medical doctor on the staff or one the facility has a formal relationship with.


Partial Hospitalization – ASAM Level 2.5

This level is for those whose need for medication needs to be evaluated on a daily basis.  New medications need to be monitored to ensure that they are providing the proper outcome for you.  At this level, you are in a hospital environment during the day with the opportunity to do some group therapy and work with the nursing staff to determine if you are functioning as well as possible.  Normally this level only lasts a couple of days to a week.

Residential Treatment – ASAM Levels 3.1 – 3.7

Residential Treatment is provided on several levels depending on the severity of your issues and the type of oversight you need.  Residential Treatment is a great way to get a head start on recovery.  Most people step down from Residential Treatment to the Intensive Outpatient Program level.  Residential Treatment programs generally last 30 days.

Where do I begin? Start with an outpatient program that does ASAM Criteria evaluations and let the counselor identify your specific needs and make a recommendation to you.  Most outpatient programs work closely with inpatient or Residential Treatment programs and will make a rapid referral for you if that is required.  At Life Management Resources, we have evaluated every patient using this criterion since 1999, over 25,000 patients. If you know someone who is suffering from addiction, here are some tips on how to help someone with addiction.


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