Treating Chemical Dependency

Generally, an alcoholic/addict has three options for beginning a life of recovery:

  1. Inpatient Treatment
  2. Intensive Outpatient (IOP)
  3. Twelve-Step Programs (e.g. Alcoholics Anonymous)

The first two should include the Twelve Step principles as part of the treatment program. As an interventionist, I always recommend programs that have a 12 Step foundation.

A brief overview of each option:

Option 1:
Inpatient treatment means residential stay that varies in length depending on the treatment center’s programs, insurance availability, and the client’s response to treatment. It includes group and individual counseling as well as times of study and reflection. One very important aspect of inpatient treatment is the interaction with other patients. Generally, the longer we can keep a patient in inpatient treatment the better their chances for recovery. Inpatient treatment provides the overall best opportunity for the alcoholic/addict to begin a solid recovery.

Option 2:
Intensive Outpatient (IOP) treatment also involves group and some individual counseling usually three nights per week, 3-4 hours per night. The client will also have assignments to read and complete. The challenge with outpatient treatment is that the client returns to work and home, often the sources of many of the triggers that lead him to drink or use. He is much more likely to defocus from his primary need for recovery. However, many people successfully begin recovery through a solid IOP program.

The family needs to be aware that insurance covers different levels and periods of time. Qualifying patients for insurance is one of the greatest challenges treatment centers battle every day. Often a patient in inpatient treatment will run out of insurance for the inpatient treatment and be recommended for IOP. This is not unusual, and neither the family member nor the patient needs to view this as a setback.

Option 3:
Alcoholics Anonymous is far and away the best program ever devised for the treatment of alcoholism. For success, however, the client must be willing to go to any lengths to learn and apply the 12 Steps. This means attending 5 or more meetings each week for months, getting a sponsor, reading the book Alcoholics Anonymous, and learning to rely on a Higher Power.

Frankly, probably 90% of the patients I deal with would recover if they went to AA and followed the program. The problem is, that probably 90% of the patients I deal with are not about to start attending AA and working that program. The denial and prejudice are so deep that she will not go. We try to get her into a controlled and supportive environment so she can focus on recovery only. She will then see the wisdom of the 12 Steps.

After the initial treatment phases of Inpatient or IOP or both, the patient may be recommended for some type of sober-living arrangement. This likely will mean living in a group home that provides crucial structure, support, and accountability for the patient in early recovery.

The aftercare plan will also contain recommendations about continued counseling, attendance of AA meetings, exercise, diet, and even church attendance. Following these recommendations to the letter ensures the best possible recovery.