Guiding You through the Intake Process

Substance abuse intake assessment processThe intake process for addiction rehab programs is designed to make this first step in recovery as smooth as possible. Most treatment facilities will arrange for intake to take place as soon as possible after a person seeks out or agrees to treatment. The process can take several hours, and it is typically fairly involved, including multiple interviews, questionnaires, and assessments. The information provided through this process will help the treatment team determine the best plan of action moving forward.

Steps of the Intake Process

The following are the steps you should expect when going through the intake process for drug or alcohol rehabilitation.
Steps of the intake drug treatment process

Step 1: Speak to an admissions coordinator

During this initial contact with the treatment facility, you will likely speak to an admissions coordinator. This person will gather some basic information about you and the substance abuse problems for which you’re seeking treatment. Be prepared to provide identifying information like your name and age, as well as what substances you’re abusing and to what extent. Remember that all information you provide is confidential.

After gathering this information, the treatment facility will schedule a full intake. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends that intake take place as soon as possible after seeking treatment. You will likely be able to complete the intake process the same day.

Step 2: Complete interviews and questionnaires.

Many different tools can be used to collect information that will help to shape your treatment plan. Interviews and questionnaires are normally completed during the intake process, and they can take several different forms. Some interviews are structured, meaning the clinician will have a list of questions to ask you and will then write down your responses. Unstructured interviews are more like conversations; the clinician will have some topics to discuss, but the questions will be determined by what you say and what you feel is important. You may experience either or both of these interview methods during intake.

Questionnaires are often an important part of the intake process. Some measure general mental health or test for specific psychological disorders, while others measure drug use and addiction. Questionnaires that gather demographic information – age, sex, occupation, and other personal information – may also be administered. Some questionnaires are self-administered, but if you have trouble with reading or writing, a clinician can help you complete the forms. These questionnaires sometimes use medical terminology that most people are not familiar with, so it is not unusual to require help in completing these forms.

Step 3: Participate in medical and mental health assessments.

To create a treatment plan, ensure client safety, and establish attainable goals, treatment professionals need to know about any co-occurring issues. A doctor will perform a medical assessment at intake to assess an individual’s overall health and to determine if any co-occurring medical issues are present. In addition, a mental health assessment will be given to identify any co-occurring mental health issues.

In cases of dual diagnoses, where a substance abuse issue co-occurs alongside a mental health issue, both disorders are treated simultaneously to ensure recovery on all fronts.

Step 4: Learn about the treatment program.

Rehabilitation programs can follow many different models. They differ in length, intensity, and treatment methods. NIDA has reported that various models of treatment can be effective in establishing recovery from a substance use disorder. Different models include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, multidimensional family therapy, Motivational Interviewing, and motivational incentives.

If you are enrolling in a residential program, the facility may follow a treatment method specifically designed for this environment, such as a therapeutic community approach. Part of the intake process will involve explaining how treatment works and introducing the methods used in your particular rehab program.

Some treatment methods use vouchers – rewards given when certain treatment goals are met. The voucher system will be explained to you, as well as the rules for behavior. You may have to sign an abstinence contract, in which you agree not to drink or use drugs. You can also find out about other services your treatment facility provides, like job training or anger management courses.

Step 5: Meet with your therapist.

The intake process often includes an initial therapy session. Your therapist will want to learn about you and your life. This initial meeting doesn’t just involve your substance use habits. It will also include information on your employment status, family relationships, social habits, and other lifestyle aspects. This initial meeting is a chance for you to get to know your therapist as well. You can ask what methods of therapy are used and how often you will meet.

Therapy is a holistic process that addresses every aspect of a person’s life. By treating you as a whole person, the therapist is able to help you improve your life circumstances, which will help you avoid returning to drug or alcohol use in the future.

Taking the First Steps

While the intake process may seem overwhelming at first, it is designed to help you get the treatment you need. The process is used to gather information that will inform the creation of your treatment plan.


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