Treatment: Levels of Care


What is Rehab?

Rehab for drug or alcohol addiction is outlined in different levels of care. For most substances (alcohol included), supervised detox is needed to see a patient safely through withdrawal. A full continuum of care will start with detox, then a residential treatment program, then intensive outpatient (IOP) and sober living.

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Step 1: Detox

Detox is essentially the first step in recovering from physical dependence on a drug.

After using for a length of time, the body will eventually become used to functioning with certain levels of that substance in its system. At this point, continuing to use the drug will become more about staving off withdrawal symptoms than about achieving that “high.” Once a person is physically dependent on a substance, cessation will trigger withdrawal symptoms that can range from uncomfortable to fatal. The detox process is a medical intervention that assists a person safely through withdrawal while minimizing pain and physical harm.

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What Does Detox Involve?

The detox process removes all traces of drugs and alcohol from the body.

  • Comprehensive assessments with physical exams
  • 24/7 supervision
  • Monitoring vital signs
  • Managing comfort
  • Maintenance medications to ease withdrawal symptoms (if needed)


Step 2: Residential

While detox removes drugs and alcohol from the body, residential treatment is where a person begins to heal from addiction.

Residential treatment addresses the underlying drivers of addiction. After a person has gone through detox, they’re left with a clearer mind and body to focus on progressing into a sober lifestyle. Residential programs are typically close to 30 days in length. During that time, a recovering addict will participate in specific therapies, meetings, and activities, all of which provide structure, healing, and growth.

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What Does Residential Treatment Involve?

Residential care is a safe and structured environment for physical, mental, and spiritual growth.

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Safe and comfortable housing
  • Recreational/social activities
  • Fellowship meetings


Step 3: Intensive Outpatient (IOP)

An intensive outpatient program (IOP) helps a person continue to work on recovery while managing their independence.

During an outpatient program, a person will live off-site and attend regular meetings and therapy. IOP programs vary widely, but most will include group therapy, individual therapy, and fellowship meetings, like AA or NA. Many people will choose to complete IOP while living in a sober living home, which is often set up by their residential treatment program. In addition to therapy and fellowship meetings, IOP will ideally offer life skills coaching to help a recovered addict thrive in their new sober lifestyle.

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What Does IOP Involve?

IOP programs vary greatly, but typical features include:

  • Group therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • AA/NA meeting requirements
  • Sobriety mentorship
  • Life skills coaching