Substance Use Counseling: A Roadmap Toward Recovery

The first step in recovery for anyone is accepting the need for help. A person may have to overcome mental blocks, stigma and his or her own expectations in order to come to terms with an addiction. However, once we can acknowledge that we need treatment, the real work can begin.

Everyone’s needs are different, so getting started with substance use treatment requires a personalized assessment to determine the most appropriate path for treatment. This assessment is often called a “Level of Care Assessment” and is conducted by a mental health professional.

Treatment options

There are numerous options available for substance use treatment, and a treatment plan will factor in the substance used, the frequency and volume of the substance consumed, how much a person is functionally impacted by addiction, previous participation in treatment, and other factors.

The most common treatment programs include a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and Outpatient Program (OP). Exactly how these services are provided will differ by organization, but many follow a similar format, explained below.

Partial Hospitalization

PHP is designed to help those who are struggling with addiction on a daily basis. It’s called Partial Hospitalization because it is not residential (aka, participants go home at night). The program follows a work-week schedule, and includes psychoeducation on both addiction and lifestyle habits, as well as substance use counseling.

PHP, like all other levels of treatment, will focus on recovery skills such as identifying and managing triggers, learning healthy coping strategies, replacing negative habits and building a system of support. A partial hospitalization program will teach these skills in a manner that is catered to individuals just starting (or re-starting) treatment.

One of the perks of a program that occurs for several hours a day is that a greater variety of healthy activities can be included. Often, PHP incorporates meditation and other recreational activities. Moreover, a PHP will typically include training for life skills like maintaining housing and employment.

Intensive Outpatient

Less time-consuming than PHP, but more demanding than outpatient treatment, is intensive outpatient treatment. Depending on a Level of Care Assessment, an individual may continue with IOP after completing a PHP, or begin at the IOP level.

The standard for IOP is ten hours of programming per week. It may be broken up to include nine hours of group therapy per week and one hour of individual addiction counseling. Group therapy will typically take one of two forms, the first being education and skill learning, the other being seminar-style with groups sharing their perspectives with each other.

All of the same skills as PHP will be revisited in an intensive outpatient program, but there will be a greater emphasis on how those skills are building and progressing. If you haven’t set goals yet in PHP, you’ll do so here.


An outpatient program is the lowest intensity of treatment, and usually includes drug and alcohol counseling once weekly as well as resources to enhance recovery outside of counseling.

Participation in an outpatient program typically indicates that a person is further along in recovery, and therefore sessions will mostly focus on sustaining recovery by coping with triggers and continuing to build and maintain a strong support system.

Substance use counseling

Substance use counseling is part of all treatment modalities. Whether it occurs during a partial hospitalization program or makes up the focus of outpatient treatment, it’s guaranteed to be incorporated into your recovery.

Whether you need drug counseling or alcohol counseling, it’s also likely to be the longest-lasting part of your treatment. Many individuals who engage in treatment for an addiction participate in substance use counseling for years.

Finding the right program for you

There are three major types of treatment programs for addiction, and all of them include some form of drug or alcohol counseling. Finding the right program for you doesn’t have to happen alone. Call a treatment center to have a Level of Care Assessment done, and you’ll be well on your way to the best program for you.

Mazzitti & Sullivan Counseling can help you find the right program for your needs. Whether it’s partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient or outpatient treatment, you’ll find help for your addiction from a dedicated and compassionate team. Help is just a call away at 800-809-2925.