Definitions of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Treatment

Drug and alcohol treatment providers offer various types and stages of care. Frequently, individuals struggling with addiction benefit from a continuum of care with graduated stages of structure and support. Some, however, do well with only primary care consisting of inpatient treatment or rehab, while others, who need more support and a longer recovery period, advance from primary care to a sober living house (tertiary treatment). Some treatment centers provide an extra stage in the form of secondary treatment.

The level of care (primary, secondary or tertiary), depends on individual needs, finances and other factors.

Primary Treatment

The first stage of recovery, consisting of inpatient treatment or rehab, begins with a thorough assessment and detox. Once the substance has left the body, clients benefit from intensive one-on-one and group counseling, which helps them understand how addiction affects the mind and body. In this highly therapeutic environment, clients develop coping techniques, build confidence, identify triggers and address various psychological issues that frequently accompany addiction. Family involvement is usually recommended as a critical aspect of primary treatment.

Primary treatment builds a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Duration varies widely but usually spans at least 30 to 90 days.

Secondary Treatment

Secondary treatment is a transitional phase that begins after completion of primary treatment. This interim form of treatment allows clients to continue working closely with a therapist as they address psychological and emotional issues in greater depth and begin to understand the behaviors that lead to addiction.

This stage is supportive but somewhat less structured than primary treatment. It usually lasts one to six months, and is useful for individuals who need help learning to navigate daily life without substances. This is a dangerous time for many in recovery and risk of relapse is high.

As people begin the process of returning to daily routines, they learn the importance of accountability and responsibility and gradually regain more control of their lives. Secondary treatment usually lasts one to six months.

Tertiary Treatment (Sober Living Houses)

Sober living houses help people who need long-term support as they gradually ease back into life.The structure of sober living houses vary, but the goal is to provide a safe, peaceful environment for continued recovery as individuals adjust to a new, sober lifestyle. The support of others in recovery is a critical aspect.

Sober living houses aren’t always “houses,” but may consist of condos, apartment, or even residential neighborhoods of several houses. Residents usually pay a fee to cover room and board and may be expected to pay for their own food. Duration is generally two to three months.

Residents of sober living houses are expected to adhere to certain rules, often consisting of a curfew and participation in household chores. Sober living homes require more personal responsibility than primary or secondary care. Residents are usually free to come and go freely during the day, but are often expected to work or attend school.

Random drug testing is common and those who test positive may be asked to leave the house, or may be referred back to primary treatment.

Our Treatment is Different

At Paracelsus, confidential, in-patient treatment is followed by individual aftercare, in which each client’s live-in therapist travels home with the client for a period of weeks or months – whatever is needed to help the client settle in to daily life and establish a healthy routine that supports ongoing recovery.

This stage of treatment is followed by a period of time in which the client and therapist interact via phone or Skype.

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