Stages of Recovery from Substance Abuse

Recovery can be overwhelming. Our chance of life-long recovery through sustained abstinence increase significantly the further along in the recovery chain process we go. The stages of recovery from substance abuse start with intervention and continue with a step-down level of care system, starting with detox and progressing through the stages of recovery to life-long maintenance.


The first stage of the recovery process is intervention. Mostly, family members and friends will ask that we get help. Some of us come to the realization on our own that we need help. Often, the legal system will push us in the direction of recovery.


Detox lasts anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. The purpose of detox is to safely manage our withdrawal symptoms after we stop taking drugs or alcohol.

In-Patient Therapy

In-patient therapy lasts for several months. Components of a comprehensive treatment plan include an assessment, evidence-based treatment, substance use monitoring, clinical and case management, recovery support programs and continuing care. A well-rounded treatment plan should include vocational services, mental health services, medical services, educational services, HIV/AIDS services, legal services and family services. Some treatment centers offer art therapy, music therapy and even equestrian therapy, among other modalities.

Sober Living (Recommended  stay is 1 year)

Sober living offers a peer-supportive, alcohol and-drug free environment for us to build upon a foundation of recovery. This is an opportunity to build a community of support and actively participate in a 12-step program. This will help us develop skills in forming healthy relationships and behaviors compatible with life-long sober-living . We practice our coping skills and self-care, and maintain physiological and emotional improvements during earlier stages of recovery from substance abuse. We monitor threats to relapse and make corrections as needed.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

While in Sober Living, we attend PHP. PHP is often 9am-5pm, 5+ days a week. On a typical day, we participate in group therapy, check­-ins, cravings management and a 12-step study, among other things. While here, we learn about relapse prevention skills, gain a greater understanding of the brain chemistry of addiction and the progression of the disease of addiction. This stage of recovery usually lasts for 1 month .

Intensive Outpatient Therapy (IOP)

While in Sober Living, we attend Intensive Outpatient Therapy (IOP). IOP is a less time-intensive, lower level of care . It is a period where we take the next step towards independent living. IOP is usually 3-4 sessions per week that last a couple of hours. Here, we will continue individual and group therapy sessions. With this level of care, it is a great time to find employment or go to school while maintaining best practices learned in treatment.


As we go through the stages of recovery from substance abuse, life-long maintenance is the goal. After 1 year of sobriety, we are ready to think about the next stage of our development: we are ready to transition from a supportive Sober Living house to independent living. To maintain our sobriety, we need to continue to actively participate in a 12-step group and nurture our community of support .

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