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Understanding the Four Levels of Care in Addiction Treatment

Millions of people in the United States live with addiction. About one in twelve people meet the requirements for addiction treatment, but only a fraction of those who need help receive it.[1] There are social, financial, and personal reasons for this, but treatment is essential to give people the best chance to overcome their addiction and live full, healthy lives.

Once someone does decide to engage in treatment, choosing the right level of care is important. It can be a difficult choice. You must balance your needs for care, the responsibilities you have at home and in the community, and the severity of your addiction. Understanding the levels of care in addiction treatment can help you make the right choice to get the care you need.

Overview of the Levels of Care in Addiction Treatment

Addiction treatment is offered at several different levels. Even within each level, addiction specialists adjust the length of the program and the therapies used. This is because addiction is not a one-size-fits-all condition. The length and severity of your addiction, your history of treatment attempts, mental health conditions, and the substances you used will all contribute to your treatment plan in any program. Here are the 4 main levels of care you may find at an addiction treatment center.


Many people begin substance abuse treatment by completing some sort of detox program. As your body rids itself of toxins, you may experience symptoms that can be extremely uncomfortable or even dangerous. When you go through a medically supervised detox program, you receive supervision and treatment for your withdrawal symptoms to keep you as safe and comfortable as possible during the detox process. You also receive support to keep you from relapsing when your cravings for drugs or alcohol are likely to be intense. These allow you to experience a complete detox, which increases the likelihood of long-term success.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment–also called residential treatment–is a good option for people who need intensive addiction treatment with 24-hour care. During an inpatient treatment program, you will receive medical care, individual and group therapy, and education. The goal of an inpatient treatment program is to teach people the skills they need to live life without using drugs and alcohol. Inpatient treatment also keeps people medically and emotionally comfortable during this process.

The length of time you spend in an inpatient program will depend on the length and severity of your addiction and other personal and environmental factors. Residential treatment is especially good for people who do not have stable housing or who require care for medical or mental health conditions.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) is a good option for people who need an intensive level of care and have a stable living condition. In this level of care, people have a strict schedule of treatments that include group counseling, education, and individual therapy. Instead of living at the facility, they return home in the evening. This makes IOP treatment a good option for people who have family responsibilities, or who want to stay engaged with their support network.

Intensive outpatient treatment can be a choice for people who want intensive treatment but are not willing or able to commit to a residential program. It can also let people practice sobriety in their environment and can give people valuable insight into their commitment to recovery and ability to maintain sobriety in their real lives. It is not a good option for those who have significant medical or mental health needs. While people with special considerations receive referrals for medical or mental health care, it is not generally provided in IOP programs.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment is the most flexible of all the levels of care provided in addiction treatment. People receive face-to-face care from mental health and addiction professionals while still being able to work, meet the needs of their families, or keep up at school. The goals of outpatient treatment are the same as other levels of care: to help people understand their addiction and teach them the skills they need to avoid relapse in the future.

Participating in outpatient addiction treatment is a good option for people who are not ready or willing to complete a higher level of care. It allows people to practice being sober and managing cravings while faced with their real-life triggers. It is not an appropriate level of care for people who have constant, strong cravings or who do not have a consistent, supportive home life. Outpatient care is a good choice for people who have already completed a higher level of care, such as IOP or residential treatment.

Figure Out Which Level of Care is Right For You and Start Treatment Today


If you or someone you love are struggling with substance abuse and need supportive, comprehensive addiction treatment, you are not alone. At the Mandala Healing Center, we believe that addiction is a whole-self condition. That is why our programs are designed to care for not just your body, but your mind and spirit, too. We work to empower people to overcome their addiction and learn how to live the full, self-directed lives they deserve. If you are ready for life-changing treatment, call us today.