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4 Components of an Effective Substance Abuse Treatment Plan

doctor going over treatment plan with troubled young couple

Creating a substance abuse treatment plan is one of the core functions of any treatment facility, and it can be crucial to success in a path to recovery. Because every person’s journey is different, treatment plans should be unique to the individual client and their specific journey.

What is a Substance Abuse Treatment Plan?


A substance abuse treatment plan is an individualized, written document that details a client’s goals and objectives, the steps need to achieve those, and a timeline for treatment. These plans are mutually agreed upon with the client and the clinician. Ultimately a substance abuse treatment plan serves as a roadmap to recovery success and can evolve as treatment continues.

How do you write a Substance Abuse Treatment Plan?


There are four necessary steps to creating an appropriate substance abuse treatment plan: identifying the problem statements, creating goals, defining objectives to reach those goals, and establishing interventions.

Identifying Problems


The first step of building a plan is an assessment of the client and their current situation to identify the problems. A problem statement is a clinical report of a condition requiring treatment for that individual. These are abstract concepts that typically encompass an assortment of behaviors exhibited by the client. For example, a problem statement may be “suffering from anxiety” or “insecurity” or “depression.”

As you’re developing the list of problems, it’s important to include items of evidence. For example, if a problem statement is that the client is suffering from depression, a piece of evidence could be a score of 22 on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale.

Most often, the process of identifying problems starts with a biopsychosocial. As treatment progresses, new problem statements can arise, and just like the treatment plan as a whole, problems are continually evolving.

Creating Goals


Once the problem statements have been identified, the next step is to develop meaningful goals with your client. These goals focus on addressing the problems identified. They should be comprehensive in not only eliminating the problem but also improving the appropriate skills to help prevent the reoccurrence of the problem in the future.

An excellent example of a goal for a patient with the problem statement, “suffering from insecurity” would be:

Goal: The client will develop and put into practice positive affirmations.

Ultimately goals should define the behaviors clients are to exhibit consistently to successfully recover.

Defining Objectives


First and foremost, objectives are tactics to reach the goals established. They are behaviors that are concrete and can be easily identified by those around the client. For example, a person could hear a client speaking positive affirmations out loud to themselves.

Because of their nature, objectives must be very clearly defined. A common technique for setting well-formed objectives is to put them up against the SMART criteria. SMART is an acronym standing for:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Attainable

R – Relevant

T – Time-Based

Checking each of your defined objectives with the SMART criteria will help ensure you have a thorough plan to reach the client’s goals. Let’s look at our examples from previous steps and what an appropriate objective may be:

Problem: Suffering from insecurity

Goal: The client will develop positive affirmations.

Objective: The client will keep an affirmations journal and share it daily.

Establishing Interventions


The last step in creating an effective substance abuse treatment plan is to establish interventions. Just like objectives, these are tactical and measurable; however, these are items you and your team do to help the client reach their goals and objectives.

When establishing the interventions, you’ll also want to set which team member is accountable for completing each. For example, a group counselor may be responsible for helping the client share their feelings of insecurity in a group session. Therefore, your objective would look something like the following:

Objective: The client will share feelings of insecurity in group sessions led by the group counselor, Eric Townson.

While these four steps will help you create an effective substance abuse treatment plan, it doesn’t stop there. You, your team, and your client must evaluate the treatment plan along the way and make adjustments as necessary. It is essential to track behaviors and feelings as they progress and keep all that information in the patient record.

Substance Abuse Treatment Plan Documentation


Your team will be documenting each client’s progress throughout treatment in their patient record. A behavioral health EMR, like Sunwave, helps your organization do just that. Sunwave allows you to build treatment plans, record progress, sign off on completed treatment or medications, complete treatment plan reviews, and report on results. Schedule a demo with one of our behavioral health treatment platform experts, and they’ll be happy to show you how Sunwave can make your facility more effective and efficient.