Addiction is a chronic, progressive disease that can affect anyone, and in the midst of the current drug crisis in the United States, this has, unfortunately, been proven hundreds of times over. Overdosing on addictive substances such as opioids, fentanyl, and heroin has outpaced both gun violence and car crashes to become the leading cause of death in Americans under the age of 55.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 20 million adults age 18 and older in the U.S. meet the criteria for a substance use disorder, but only about 12 percent of them actually receive addiction recovery treatment.

There are many reasons that someone may not get treatment for their addiction, some of which are out of their control, such as a lack of access to treatment resources. Other reasons may include denial or feelings of shame because of how the public stigmatizes addiction or that the perception that the cost of treatment is too high a barrier.

However, one of the most common reasons someone may not seek treatment for their substance use disorder is that they don’t know where to begin or what to expect throughout the intake process before starting a treatment program. Read on to learn how to start the recovery process from the first phone call to starting treatment.

What Are the Steps of the Rehab Intake Process?

Initial Phone Call

It all begins by getting in touch with a treatment center, which generally will involve a confidential consultation with a specialist to help determine what type of treatment program will most benefit your specific needs. There are several different kinds of treatment programs for drug and alcohol rehab, including:

  • Long-term residential
  • Short-term inpatient
  • Partial hospitalization
  • Intensive outpatient
  • Outpatient

Which program is right for you will depend on factors such as the severity of your addiction, your current living situation, and other specificities that will be discussed in further detail later on with either a doctor or psychologist as well as usually a counselor or therapist.

Other things that may be discussed during this first phone call are if you are looking for in-state or out-of-state treatment, as well as whether or not the facility can offer the services that you might require, such as a faith-based program, medication-assisted treatment, a holistic therapy-focused program, and other potential requirements.

Insurance and Payment

The initial phone call may also be when you can at least begin to explore different payment options as well as get your insurance verified, although the verification at least can also generally be done online. Insurance verification determines if the treatment center is in-network for your insurance as well as what kind of coverage your policy provides you with.

If there are out-of-pocket expenses involved because of a lack of coverage or you do not have insurance, then there are other potential means of paying for addiction treatment that can be discussed, including financing and working out a sliding scale of treatment costs.

Touring the Treatment Center

While someone may not always be in the position to tour a treatment facility beforehand, especially if they are traveling from another state, it can be a good thing to do to get a better idea of what to expect upon arrival, especially if you are going into a long-term residential program and will be living on the premises.

Touring a treatment center allows you to get an accurate assessment of the amenities that pictures online may not be able to provide, as well as the client-to-staff ratio and the state of the facility itself.

Meetings and Diagnostics With the Doctors and Intake Staff

Also referred to as the “intake interview,” this stage of the process will involve a thorough and detailed analysis of your personal addiction history, as well as a battery of different diagnostic tests. Some of the questions you can generally expect to answer include:

  • A summarization of your past drug or alcohol use
  • Why you began using
  • Why you are seeking treatment
  • When you started using
  • What substances you’ve used
  • How you’ve used them
  • The frequency and dosage of use
  • If you have had any previous substance abuse treatment
  • If you have a history of any mental health disorders

While these may be difficult to answer, it is critical that you are honest, as these questions are meant to help the doctors, clinicians, and staff determine the best methods of approaching your recovery treatment.

The intake staff will also require your medical history so that any underlying physical issues that could relate to your substance abuse can be properly diagnosed and treated. It will also help to anticipate any potential health complications that might arise during medical detox. In addition to this, a physical exam will also typically be conducted.

Other common diagnostic tests and assessments include:

  • Testing for drugs and alcohol in your system
  • Blood chemistry tests
  • Pregnancy tests
  • Organ or glandular function tests
  • Sexually transmitted diseases tests

medical person discussing how long intake process takesAlong with these tests, there may also be psychological testing and assessment, even if you do not have a known history of mental health issues, as there may be a co-occurring disorder present that has gone undetected due to the symptoms and side effects commonly associated with addiction. This is done to ensure that if someone requires specialized treatment, such as dual diagnosis, they will receive it.

All of these evaluations are meant to help pinpoint what specific forms of treatment are necessary for or will be most helpful to your recovery.

Beginning Your Addiction Recovery Treatment Program

The last step in the intake process blends into the first steps of your recovery treatment. What the beginning of your recovery program looks like will depend on your specific needs, such as whether you will need to begin with detox, if you will be living at the treatment center or commuting to and from the facility as part of an outpatient program.

In almost any case, however, you will work with your counselor or therapist to take the information that has been gathered over the course of your evaluations to help create a customized treatment plan of different therapies and modalities. The idea is to collaborate on a plan for what will best help you begin to better understand your addiction and the underlying issues behind it and work toward isolating these negative behaviors and replacing them with positive and effective coping skills to maintain long-term sobriety.

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