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Types of Treatment


There are many different types of treatment. Some treat specific conditions, while others work for many different conditions. The goal of most treatments is to change thoughts and behaviors, and, if needed, manage physical dependence on drugs or alcohol. You may need more than one type of treatment.

Where you get care

Outpatient (meaning you have an appointment and leave the same day)
There are two main types of outpatient care.

  • The first type is like a standard doctor’s visit. It’s best for people who can make and keep regular appointments. How often you go will depend on the care you need.
  • The second type is intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization. This can include one-on-one appointments, group sessions, and learning about coping skills. These programs help coordinate your care more intensively than standard visits and usually last for at least a few hours.

Many opioid treatment programs are outpatient.

Outpatient programs can be in-person or using telehealth (meaning care online or over the phone). Telehealth can be a great way to receive care, especially for people who have a hard time getting to appointments. This is usually an option for first line treatment and for maintenance. You can search online for telehealth treatment or support specifically for mental health, drug, or alcohol issues.

Inpatient (meaning you stay at a hospital or treatment program overnight for a few days or weeks)
This is usually for people needing 24-hour care for their mental health or drug or alcohol misuse. Most of these programs are connected to a hospital or clinic.

Residential (meaning you live at a treatment program)
Residential care usually lasts for a few weeks to a few months. Treatment for more serious conditions may mean staying with a program for a year or more. There are different types of residential programs focused on helping people including programs that work with people who have severe mental health conditions to get ready to live in their community, and programs that help people stop using drugs or alcohol.

Each program has its own costs, so it’s important to understand how to pay for treatment.

Interim care (meaning you need care right away but there isn’t an opening)
Many treatment options have long waitlists, but can still help while you wait. Interim care can provide daily medicine and emergency counseling to keep you safe until an outpatient, inpatient, or residential spot is ready for you.

Peer recovery support
There are many support groups available—based on the type of issue you’re dealing with. They’re most often used for supporting recovery and allow you to connect with people who have similar experiences. Learn more about support groups.

Types of care

Therapy and counseling

There are many types of therapy and counseling. They are part of most treatment plans and usually happen with a licensed behavioral health professional, either one-on-one or in a group setting.

Counseling and therapy are usually focused on developing healthy skills to cope, like handling the loss of a loved one, drug or alcohol use, or a problem in your relationship. It can help you better understand the core cause of your thoughts and behaviors, so you can change unhealthy patterns.

Some common names you’ll see are family and marriage therapy, motivational therapy, art therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Medication management

For some mental health, drug, or alcohol disorders, there are medications that can help improve your symptoms. These medicines have to be prescribed by a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant.

Medications for Substance Use Disorders (MSUD)

There are types of MSUD for different conditions. Work with your health care provider to learn about your options.

Medications for opioid use disorder are specifically for treating opioid use through an approved medication, most often in combination with counseling. There are 3 approved medications to treat opioid use in the U.S.: methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.

Approved medications for alcohol use disorder and tobacco use disorder are also available.

Harm reduction

The goal of harm reduction is to lower your chance of having negative effects from issues with mental health, drugs, or alcohol. Health care professionals and programs can work with you to be safer. Some examples of harm reduction are:

  • Having a safety plan if you start feeling like you might hurt yourself
  • Learning to lower your risk of getting an infection from injecting drugs
  • Carrying and knowing how to properly use opioid overdose reversal medications (e.g., naloxone and nalmefene)
  • Connecting with peer support and recovery support services

Support groups

Learn more about support groups.

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“Everyone’s journey is different. There was a path that worked for me, even if there were some detours along the way.”

Last Updated
Last Updated: 04/24/2023
Last Updated