A Elements Behavioral Health Guide to Drug Rehab
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Treatment Goals for Substance Abuse and Mental Health

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Treatment Goals for Substance Abuse and Mental Health

The goal of any drug rehab program is to reduce or eliminate substance abuse or dependence. However, over the years, addiction professionals have discovered that simply stopping the behavior is not enough. Instead, patients must either eliminate the circumstances that are causing them to abuse drugs, or learn to effectively cope with them so that they will stay clean. A necessary first step, therefore, is to identify these circumstances or “triggers”.

Creating Long-Term Treatment Goals for Substance Abuse

The drug rehab clinician’s assessment should identify specific problems that need to be addressed during treatment. Learning to effectively handle each of these problems is considered a treatment “goal”; drug rehab goals are observable and measurable changes in behavior. Goals can either be short-term, long-term or lifetime; some are so complicated that they may not be mastered during the initial phase of drug addiction treatment. Further, once a patient starts making progress in recovery, treatment goals for substance abuse may actually change over time. Although many patients will share a few core treatment goals, such as effectively managing triggers, the information gleaned from pre-admission assessments will also help develop goals particular to the individual patient. Six treatment goals make up the core of any drug rehab plan.

Substance Abuse Withdrawal Treatment Goals

First, the patient must exhibit an absence or reduction of withdrawal symptoms to the point of no longer needing intensive medical management. Closely related is goal two — medical issues should be under control such that medical monitoring is no longer necessary or can be handled somewhere other than an inpatient medical facility. In addition, the patient should obtain a primary care physician, identify any unresolved medical or dental issues that had been neglected during the period of addiction, and develop a plan for maintaining health and wellness going forward.

Intense Outpatient Treatment Goals for Substance Abuse

Treatment GoalsFor patients engaged in intensive outpatient drug rehab, emotional or behavioral treatment goals typically involve reducing the severity of issues so that they do not need to be intensively managed or can be managed by another provider. For instance, patients who can appropriately express and handle their feelings have met the goal of recognizing, labeling and expressing emotions. When a patient can talk about the shame or guilt they feel about having taken drugs, they have learned to associate the two. Other patients may have met the goal by simply identifying the problem and developing a plan for dealing with it going forward. Still other patients will learn techniques to help manage anger, control impulses or reduce depression.

All patients who enter drug rehab are expected to eventually recognize their own drug use and the negative consequences, realize the severity of the addiction, and accept the treatment goals for substance abuse. The sooner the patient achieves these goals, the sooner he or she can begin recovery.

Relapse Prevention Treatment Goals

One of the most constructive techniques learned during drug rehab is how to deal with potential relapse. Although recovery has been traditionally seen as an “all or nothing” endeavor, recent research suggests that relapse is simply a sign that it is time for additional treatment, much like when a cancer patient’s tumor grows back.

For most patients, remaining totally abstinent from drugs will be the desired recovery outcome. During treatment, these patients will learn how triggers, cravings, and relapse relate to one another and will identify their own drug triggers. They will also learn relapse prevention skills that can be practiced outside of the recovery center such as calling a sponsor or going to an AA meeting when under stress. For some patients, it may be necessary to stop high-risk behaviors or end relationships with people who have yet to stop taking drugs.

The most important goal for recovery may relate to improving the patient’s home environment so that recovery will be supported and coping skills will be successful. Many patients will learn living habits that promote sobriety and develop relationships within the sober community. In addition, many recovering addicts need to re-learn how to establish and maintain friendships or develop socialization skills. Patients should also be encouraged to develop long-term education and/or career goals.

Transitioning Between Levels of Drug Rehab

Intensive outpatient drug rehab is certainly a good option for some patients. However, not all people will thrive in this environment. Clinical professionals must always be ready to transition to a higher level of care if indicated in her ongoing assessment. Conversely, when patients have obtained the optimal level of care they can from a particular drug rehab program, he must be discharged to a lower level of care. Most professionals will be able to readily refer to other addiction treatment services, social service and vocational programs, medical professionals, churches, and 12-step programs. Clinicians should resist referring patients to a known or comfortable group of contacts and, instead, strive to match the referral to the patient’s unique needs and circumstances.

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