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Designing a Comprehensive Substance Abuse Treatment Plan - Ascendant New York
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Designing a Comprehensive Substance Abuse Treatment Plan

February 25, 2019

For many who are seeking to escape the distressing effects of substance abuse and addiction, getting clean is the primary focus. While this is a very important first step, a good treatment plan will incorporate more than just this initial procedure. A comprehensive substance abuse treatment plan needs to take into consideration the ongoing obtainment and utilization of the tools that are necessary for sustaining wellness beyond the detox stage.

Most treatment programs include an initial screening. During a screening process, basic information about the potential patient is obtained. This gathered information may include the age of the patient; the type of substances involved; and current risk levels. These factors can help the treatment center to decide whether the patient’s needs are a good fit for admittance. Following a screening process, more in-depth information about the patient can be obtained.

In order to ensure the best outcomes of sustained sobriety, the presence of validated assessments tools  – which can be administered before, during, and after the initial course of treatment – should be present within the program. These assessments can determine a patient’s existing strengths, and can pinpoint the areas that need extra support during recovery. An example of the types of areas that are present in effective screening tools can be found on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website. Ideally, these assessments will be conducted by a highly trained professional, familiar with both the specific substance addiction and the assessment design.

Elements of a Comprehensive Substance Abuse Treatment Plan

Utilizing the information obtained from these assessments, a comprehensive substance abuse treatment plan can be developed. The term, comprehensive, refers to the idea that all aspects of a recovering person’s life are going to be considered during treatment. Both the current situation, and the patient goals, are incorporated into the plan. The major areas of life focus are physical; mental-emotional; and social needs.

Physical Needs

A famous model of human needs, referred to as Maslow’s Heirarchy, demonstrates the importance of tending to physical needs as one recovers from substance abuse and addiction. In this model, our physical needs form the base of our entire system of growth. Without the basic provisions of food, safety, and healthcare, our physical bodies tend to stop working, making further progress impossible. For this reason, a comprehensive substance abuse treatment plan should address questions about the patient’s primary needs:

  • Housing: Where will the patient be staying during recovery?
  • Transportation: How will the patient get to and from the facility?
  • Medical: Which medications will be most efficient in treating for this particular withdrawal? What other health concerns are present?
  • Safety: What steps will be taken to ensure that the patient is well cared for?

Mental & Emotional Needs

As the initial symptoms of physical withdrawal from a substance subside, many former users find that their levels of stress, depression, and anxiety increase. For some, this may be due to the fact that the drugs were masking preexisting, mental health, issues. For others, just the change of ceasing to depend on a substance can bring on the stress. In either case, studies have consistently shown that those who continue to receive ongoing mental and emotional treatment following initial detox are more likely to be successful in abstaining from substance abuse. Comprehensive substance abuse treatment plans should, therefore, include components such as the following:

  • Education: What does the patient need to know about maintaining sobriety?
  • Therapy: What mental health issues does the patient struggle with? What do the patients need to discover about themselves and others?
  • Compassion and Support: Which type of struggles are unique to this individual, and how can we help?

Social Needs

Human beings are social creatures. There is not much of what we do in life that is not somehow connected to another human being. Both the use of drugs – and the abstaining from them – can have a tremendous impact on our social life. Aspects of our social life include interactions with those in our family and friends groups, as well as our experience within the workforce and with the law. Some social questions that are addressed in a comprehensive treatment plan are as follows:

  • Family and Friends: What does the recovering person need from loved ones? What do loved ones need from the recovering person?
  • Work: What needs to happen for the recovering person to obtain, or maintain, employment?
  • Legal: Are there any legal hurdles that have occurred as a result of the substance use or cessation? Which legal resources are needed?

A comprehensive treatment plan should be a dynamic and evolving guideline for wellness. Through ongoing case management, the plan can be adapted and modified, as necessary. Situations requiring modification of initial treatment plan factors can include the patient’s concerns about the treatment; changes in the patient’s life circumstances; or the discovery of new information which would be beneficial to include within the plan.

In addition to the services that are being provided by the treatment center, directly, a comprehensive substance abuse treatment plan will also include access to referral and community resources. In many cases, the treatment center will already be working in tandem with the patient’s primary care physician. Further resource integration can include plans for interacting with local therapeutic facilities and programs, such as through scheduling ongoing attending of religious or other support group meetings. The treatment plan should also include a road map for cessation of intensive intervention, as the patient’s sobriety eventually enters the long-term maintenance phase.

The most evolved form of substance abuse treatment planning also takes into consideration cultural factors. A person’s culture can refer to specifics such as race; sex; family status; and even residency location. Many studies have indicated that both how, and where, we grow up can have an impact on how we view the world. These unique perspectives on life lend themselves to customized approaches toward generating mindsets and motivations in sustaining wellness. Without taking into consideration a person’s culture, treatment providers may be less successful in connecting with a patient’s needs and goals.

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