What kind of professional treatment do I need for addiction?

Louise Polansky - addiction treatment therapistBy Louise Polansky, Addiction Therapist at our Outpatient Treatment Center

If you have a problem with substance abuse, and you are unable to stop using on your own, professional addiction treatment is available to help you make needed changes.

The first step is to contact a behavioral health treatment provider to make an appointment for an evaluation by a professional to determine what level of care is the most suitable to address your situation. Some people need minimal treatment combined with support group involvement for necessary changes, while others need a longer program involving extensive structured interventions.

The levels of care which will be recommended by the professional doing the evaluation are detoxification, hospitalization, partial hospitalization, residential, intensive outpatient and outpatient care, sometimes followed by a sober living facility for continued support. Insurance coverage and financial assistance options are taken into consideration during selection of a treatment provider.

Although Volunteers of America of Indiana doesn't provide all levels of addiction treatment, we do have addiction treatment counselors that provide some services in the continuum of care at our behavioral health centers in Indianapolis and Evansville.

Here is a description of all levels of care.


Detoxification is recommended for individuals who are unable to taper their use to zero on their own without encountering dangerous medical consequences (for example, withdrawing from alcohol or benzodiazepines) or who are unable to endure the sometimes extremely unpleasant symptoms of drug withdrawal (for example in heroin withdrawal). Detoxification treatment – which is conducted under the watch of medical professionals and often includes provision of "comfort medications" – varies somewhat in length but is usually from three to five days.

Inpatient Hospitalization

Inpatient hospitalization is recommended for individuals who have serious physical health complications in addition to their substance dependence. Examples of health complications include compromised liver function, heart problems, and pancreatitis, and others, which need to be treated for full recovery to occur. Services are provided by medical personnel.

Partial Hospitalization

Partial hospitalization is recommended for individuals who need intensive support in early recovery but do not need residential services. Partial hospitalization services are generally provided daily during the week for four to six hours a day, and program length varies from short stays of three weeks to longer stays of three months. Partial hospitalization services (which include educational and process groups, skill-building groups, and introduction to support groups) are provided by counseling staff including licensed therapists and social workers.

Residential Services

Residential services are often recommended for individuals who have completed partial hospitalization or detoxification programs, or even intensive outpatient programs, and who need continued intensive support to become well established in their recovery. Services are provided by counseling staff and include on-site support groups and accountability monitoring.

Volunteers of America of Indiana has a residential addiction treatment program for mothers involved with the Department of Child Services. It is called the Fresh Start Recovery Center and there is no cost for participants.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient services, which are provided by Volunteers of America of Indiana's behavioral health center, are recommended for individuals who are able to maintain abstinence on their own, without detoxification or post-detoxification, and who need to learn about recovery and what is entailed. This may include acknowledging that they have a problem and can't change on their own, learning new coping skills, learning how to deal with difficult feelings, building a support system, accepting powerlessness over drugs/alcohol, and changing thinking patterns.

At our behavioral health center, substance abuse counselors and therapists facilitate gender-specific group classes about substance abuse or provide individual counseling sessions and therapy.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Clients who struggle with maintaining abstinence while in outpatient treatment or other level of care may benefit from use of medications prescribed or administered by physicians to support abstinence. These medications include daily naltrexone for heroin and alcohol dependence (monthly naltrexone is called Vivitrol), which reduce or eliminate craving to use; daily acamprosate to reduce cravings for alcohol; daily Antabuse to deter use of alcohol; and daily buprenorphine (Sub Oxone and Subutex) or methadone to replace unhealthy use of opiates.

Dual Diagnosis

As recovery progresses, sometimes individuals experience anxiety, depression or other mental health symptoms which can be addressed through consultation with mental health service providers who will evaluate need for behavioral health medications for either long- or short-term use. Some people used these medications while in standard addiction treatment, and others enter dual diagnosis programs. Either way, addressing these symptoms is an important part of recovery.