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What does Continuum of Care Mean?

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“Continuum of Care” is a phrase you may see quite a bit online when looking at substance use treatment options. But what does this phrase even mean, and is it important?

Continuum of Care Explained

The concept of Continuum of Care can be thought of as a spectrum of treatment intensity. It begins with the highest intensity needed to help jumpstart the recovery process for a given individual. For substance use, the highest level of treatment is detox, where an individual must be medically supervised as they physically endure physiological and mental withdrawal symptoms from drugs or alcohol. Residential treatment, also referred to as in-patient treatment, is considered the next level on the spectrum. Typically thought of as the “traditional 30-day rehab,” lengths of stay can actually vary from two weeks to up to a year. Even within residential treatment, one could say there is a spectrum of treatment as well.

The next level of care is Partial Hospitalization (PHP) or Intensive Outpatient (IOP). PHP is also referred to sometimes as day treatment. In these types of programs, clients do not stay at the facilities from which they receive services. Instead, they typically live at home, in sober living, or in some kind of structured housing. Services are provided for a few hours each day, and clients typically reduce the number of hours and number of days they receive services as they progress through treatment, until they reach what is known as a General Outpatient level of care.

General Outpatient may include 1-2 group sessions a week combined with weekly individual therapy. This is considered toward the lower end of intensity of the continuum of care treatment spectrum as patients are spending less time in highly structured group settings and have more time to seek out individual counseling to work on skills that will help them transition back to ordinary life.

However, note that addiction treatment is not a 30-day affair. In truth, addiction is a chronic disease and it is best to plan for an extended period of care. After exiting the acute phase of treatment (detox, PHP/IOP, etc), a person should seek to maintain contact with support groups or private therapy to maintain adherence to a lifestyle of recovery.

It is important to note that interlaced within the entire continuum of care are psychiatric services, including medication-assisted treatment, and community support groups, such as twelve-step programming, SMART Recovery, and other groups. Beyond General Outpatient, individuals may continue seeing a therapist on an individual basis, as well as continue to engage in psychiatric services and community groups. Extended care has been shown to produce substantially better outcomes in adherence to addiction recovery.

The Continuum of Care and Encore

Encore Outpatient Service offers Partial Hospitalization, Intensive Outpatient, and General Outpatient levels of care. We work with individuals coming from higher levels of care such as detox or residential treatment, as well as individuals who are more appropriate to begin treatment at one of our levels of care. We customize treatment to meet the needs of each individual client, providing psychiatric services, nutritional consults, vocational coaching, and recovery coaching for our clients to best help them succeed.

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