Treatment plans identify an individual’s current level of functioning, the tools needed to move forward in recovery, and the goals that need to be reached. A treatment plan serves as the overall framework that treatment will follow. Over time, as the person progresses in recovery, the treatment plan should be reassessed to ensure it is working at optimal efficiency for the person in need.

Treatment plans can be created for any length of time, from a single week to several months. While an overall treatment plan might encompass a long period of time, even up to a year or more, it can be helpful to break down the plan on a month-by-month basis. The following are steps you can follow to create an individualized monthly treatment plan in conjunction with treatment professionals.

To Do List

Treatment Plan Basics

A Simple Breakdown of the Planning Process

Step 1: Determine treatment needs.

The first step in creating a monthly treatment plan is to determine individual treatment needs. Generally, during the intake process, treatment professionals will gather information about current substance use and the severity of the addiction. This information serves as a baseline to measure progress and the success of treatment. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) treatment improvement protocols recommend determining the severity of all existing mental health disorders when creating a treatment plan, to ensure that treatment will address all current concerns. As a result, the intake assessment will generally include an evaluation to identify and diagnose any co-occurring mental health issues.

Another important factor is the individual’s readiness for change. Recovery from a substance use disorder requires significant changes to thought and behavior patterns, and the individual’s willingness to make these changes can be a determining factor in the success of treatment. Someone with low motivation to change may benefit from different treatment methods during the initial phase of treatment, such as Motivational Enhancement Therapy or Motivational Interviewing. A highly motivated individual may be able to engage in more intense forms of treatment earlier in the process.

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Step 2: Choose appropriate treatment methods.

The next step in creating a monthly treatment plan is determining what treatment methods are most appropriate for the individual’s current needs. Different therapy modalities have been shown to be more effective with certain addictions. The severity of the addiction – and any co-occurring disorders – will also determine the appropriate setting for the next month of treatment.

The most effective treatment methods for substance use disorders tend to combine behavioral therapy with pharmacotherapy. Behavioral therapy can help individuals refrain from substance use, and create new patterns of thought and behavior to replace the cycle of substance abuse. Many different therapy modalities exist, and various combinations can be helpful in the treatment process. Personal preference should be taken into consideration when creating a treatment plan, but research has shown that some types of therapy are more effective for certain drug use problems. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) lists the following research-based methods of behavioral therapy along with the substances for which they have been shown effective:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and nicotine
  • Contingency Management or Motivational Interviewing: alcohol, stimulants, opioids, marijuana, and nicotine
  • Community Reinforcement Approach with Vouchers: alcohol, cocaine, and opioids
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy: alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine
  • The Matrix Model: stimulants
  • 12-Step Facilitation: alcohol, stimulants, and opiates

Specific pharmacotherapies exist to treat opioid, tobacco, and alcohol addiction, though other medications are often used to treat specific symptoms of withdrawal and co-occurring mental health issues. The treatment plan should be reviewed each month to ensure the methods being used align with current needs. Most behavioral therapies require longer than a month of treatment in order to create lasting change; however, reviewing the treatment methods often can help to ensure that individuals are moving forward in the treatment process.

Step 3: Set realistic goals.

The final step in treatment planning involves setting goals. When creating a monthly plan, it can be helpful to include both short-term goals – such as goals for the following week – and goals for the month as a whole. Recovery can be a lengthy process; tracking your progress can help you to recognize the milestones you reach throughout your recovery.

Goals should be individualized and based on your current level of functioning. Example goals include attending a certain number of support group meetings per week, maintaining abstinence for a specific length of time, or submitting a certain number of job applications. It is important that goals are attainable but still require significant effort.

Moving Forward in the Recovery Process

While treatment professionals guide the overall treatment plan, clients should be part of the treatment planning process. Clients who partake can feel better prepared to face the challenges of recovering as they are active participants in every step of the journey. A monthly treatment plan is a helpful tool in measuring progress, and it can alert you to changes that need to be made as you move forward in recovery.