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What Does a Substance Abuse Treatment Plan Look Like?

By  Gulnaz Khan
One of the first steps towards recovery is drafting a treatment plan, a document that maps out your problems, goals, and objectives.

 

One of the first steps towards recovery from substance abuse is drafting a treatment plan with your provider. This individualized roadmap will help both of you establish realistic expectations, set up goals, and track your progress.

Treatment plans should consider how substance abuse impacts all aspects of your life, including your mental, physical, social, and financial health. This document is fluid and should be updated as your needs change over time. Here are the main elements of a treatment plan.

1. Diagnostic Summary

Your provider will review your substance use patterns, medical history, and mental health conditions. Based on these assessments, they will summarize the main problems that brought you to treatment, and recommendations like medication and behavioral therapy.

2. Problem List

This list outlines specific issues that you want to target during treatment and a summary of the signs and symptoms that illustrate the problem.

Example
Problem: Inability to reduce or stop alcohol intake
As evidenced by: Two DWI arrests in the past year
As evidenced by: Heavy drinking (more than 5 drinks) multiple times per week

3. Goals

After you come up with your problem list, it’s time to think about solutions. Goals are brief statements about what you want to change and should be:

  • Based on your problem list (at least one should directly relate to the substance abuse)
  • Broad (instead of focusing on eliminating a behavior, focus on how to replace a harmful behavior with a healthy one)
  • Reasonably achievable during the treatment period

Examples
1. Learn anger management skills.
2. Learn how to express negative emotions to family members.
3. Develop a healthy diet.

4. Objectives

Goals are things you want to change, while objectives are concrete steps you will take to achieve each of those goals. Objectives should be “SMART”:

  • Specific
  • Measurable (actions that can be observed)
  • Attainable (reasonable to achieve within the treatment time)
  • Relevant (related to the issues on your problem list)
  • Time-limited (have a target date for completion)

Examples
1. Attend weekly counseling sessions with therapist.
2. Take daily prescription medications, including antidepressants.
3. Practice the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

5. Interventions

These are the methods your treatment specialist will use to help you complete each of your objectives.

Example
1. Problem: Inability to control drinking
2. Goal: Develop healthy stress management skills
3. Objective: Attend weekly support group meetings
4. Intervention: Treatment specialist will refer the client to local support groups, monitor weekly meeting attendance, and help resolve barriers to attendance, such as access to transportation or childcare services.

6. Tracking and Evaluating Progress

Your provider will keep comprehensive notes in your chart to track your progress and evaluate whether a treatment is working. This typically includes details about your response to treatment, changes in your condition, and adjustments to the plan. They may also ask you to write down your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

7. Planning Long-Term Care

During treatment planning, your clinician may discuss long-term maintenance care and relapse prevention. After you've completed the initial treatment program, your continuing care plan may include:

  • Attending regular 12-step meetings or support groups
  • Continuing therapy sessions with a counselor
  • Taking prescription medications, including medication-assisted treatment for opioid and alcohol use disorders