A Guide to the Levels of Drug and Alcohol Treatment

Going into drug and alcohol treatment for the first time can be a pretty confusing and chaotic experience. Just finding a good place to go can feel like finding a needle in a haystack, so there are a few helpful tools to help you or your loved one navigate through the levels of what the treatment process looks like for drug and alcohol recovery.

The first step is finding your location, depending on where you want to go and how much you are able to spend, you will most likely have a plethora of options to choose from. It is up to you to decide if you would like to attend a 12 step centered treatment facility or one that provides holistic alternatives, or even a long term wilderness program, the options are endless. A good starting rule of thumb is to ensure that your center is licensed, accredited, and provides a wide range of therapeutic options such as individual therapy, group therapy, and access to 12 step fellowships.


Detoxification is usually necessary for people to safely eliminate any of the drugs and alcohol in their system. Some people will require longer stays in detox, where their levels can be monitored closely. This is usually the case for alcoholics and people who abuse benzodiazepines, as these two categories of drugs can be fatal if removed from the system suddenly. The point of detox is to provide patients with round the clock monitoring, access to 12 step meetings, medications to aid with the mental and physical side effects of withdrawal, and access to therapy if necessary. The whole aim of detox is to ensure that the person is in a safe environment, separated from their drug of choice.

Up next, Partial Hospitalization (PHP) or Residential Services

PHP and RES provide patients with a specialized treatment plan for the next few weeks. PHP usually ranges anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months depending on the level of care needed for each person. It is common for people with dual diagnosis’ to require a longer length of stay in this higher level of care. PHP requires patients (usually) to attend around 12-15 hours of group and individual therapy a week. The patients will get an individualized treatment program from a therapist, they will learn techniques to cope with emotions and stress in healthy ways, they will learn about the disease of addiction, and they will be monitored around the clock. Patients who are in a PHP level of care will usually be introduced to outside meetings of a 12 step fellowship ( AA or NA ) where they can get a feel for the program, and meet other people in the fellowship.  PHP is an important level in drug and alcohol treatment because it provides a healthy length of separation from the addict and the possible triggers of the outside world.

drug and alcohol treatment therapy

Intensive Outpatient

IOP is the level of treatment that separates the “men from the boys.” This is where patients are able to move into a monitored home but are encouraged to start working a job, attend meetings on their own, and start assimilating back into everyday life. They will still be required or encouraged to attend around 9 hours of group therapy a week to ensure that they are staying accountable and taking Urine Analysis tests to ensure they are staying sober. IOP level of treatment can be a tough time for many recovering addicts as it is their first real taste of freedom. However, if they stick to their scheduled routine and continue to see their therapist and work a 12 step program, they should do just fine. Patients can choose to stay in IOP anywhere from a few weeks to a few months depending on how much structure they want.

Last But not Least, Outpatient

Outpatient is usually the final level of treatment in the drug and alcohol process. Again, this can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on how willing the person is to stay sober. Outpatient services will require the person to attend one 3 hour session of group therapy a week, and patients are encouraged to continue seeing their therapist. They will be tested for drugs when they come in for their group therapy but at this point, the patient will most likely be looking towards moving out of halfway and into a 3/4 house or their own apartment. OP level, when the process is followed accordingly, is usually around the 6-month mark in a person’s sobriety. If the person has stayed sober that long, they are usually working a good program, have a job, and are willing to take responsibility for themselves.

While levels of care and lengths of stay can vary between treatment centers and between the addict, the general idea is that when the levels of drug and alcohol treatment are completed with patience and willingness, there should be no reason why a person cannot stay sober. The crux of the matter is that people are introduced to alternative methods to coping with life on life’s terms, which is difficult for any recovering addict. As a person stays and absorbs what they learn throughout each level of treatment, they will begin to understand what exactly the disease of addiction is, how it manifests in their lives, and how to utilize the tools of recovery that will safeguard them in times of crisis.

Every level of drug and alcohol treatment is important, and passing through each level provides the person not only with a feeling of achievement in knowing that they accomplished a goal, but they will learn more and more along the way. They will be provided with trained professionals who can help them understand the feelings they have, and treatment creates a strong foundation for a recovering addict to get back on their feet.

Seeking Treatment for Alcoholism and Addiction

If you or a loved one has a problem with alcoholism or addiction and want to experience recovery in a thriving community with lots of people just like you, then call the professionals at Stout Street today at 866-722-7040. Our trained staff is standing by to take your call and help you in any way we can. We know how difficult of a decision this can be and we know what it takes to ensure you find your own person path in recovery.  You no longer have to do it alone, so give us a call today and find the happy and sober life you’ve always dreamed of.