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what is continuum care in addiction treatment.
February 11, 2018

What is Continuum Care and Why You Should Look for it in Your Treatment Program

what is continuum care in addiction treatment.Embarking on the journey to sobriety and the end goal of living in effective recovery requires ongoing commitment, detoxing from addictive substances and following up with a comprehensive, integrated treatment program. Realistically, relapse is a risk for those who’ve completed detox and treatment, especially for the first 90 days, but often for a year or longer after treatment. That’s why it’s so important to do extensive research to find a treatment program that offers continuum care that provides the full spectrum of coordinated and tailored treatment services both during the official treatment program and afterward.


Continuum care, also called continuum of care, continuity of care and continuing care, is a model of comprehensive, integrated addiction treatment services that begins with initial consultation and detox, progresses through formal evidence-based treatment prepared for the client based on diagnosis and needs, and continues with extensive aftercare services, referrals to appropriate resources and more. Depending on the treatment facility selected, what it offers, and the client’s needs, continuum care may include the following:

  • Initial assessment and diagnosis or diagnoses
  • Treatment plan prepared according to diagnosis/diagnoses and to meet client needs
  • Residential treatment or intensive outpatient treatment
  • Medically-supervised detox
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
  • Evidence-based treatment modalities, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Educational sessions – learning about the disease of addiction, learning to identify triggers and cues, effective coping strategies, developing better communication skills, learning about healthier lifestyles
  • One-on-one counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Holistic and alternative therapies, including massage, nutritional counseling, yoga, meditation
  • Introduction to and participation in support groups: 12-Step groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, and/or non-12-Step self-help groups, such as SMART® Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training)
  • Family participation
  • Relapse prevention

Following completion of residential treatment or intensive outpatient treatment, continuum care involves some of the following elements of a stepped-down approach to recovery, called aftercare:

  • Structured recovery residence, such as sober living home or transitional housing
  • Ongoing individual counseling
  • Ongoing group counseling
  • Ongoing follow-up to ensure attendance at support meetings
  • Random urine drug tests
  • Marriage and/or family counseling
  • Access to other therapeutic treatment modalities, including relaxation training, physical exercise
  • Recovery coaching
  • Weekly continuing care sessions


Research shows that continuing care, or professional continuing care services, serves to enhance the recovery rates of adults and adolescents. Bergman et al. (2015), looking at post-treatment emerging adults (aged 18-25 years), found that active participation in 12-Step self-help groups and recovery-oriented professional services may enhance recovery outcomes for emerging adults after residential treatment.

Kelly et al. (2016), noting that the therapeutic alliance between clinicians and patients during psychotherapy treatments has been associated with treatment response and outcomes, found that a similar type of therapeutic alliance between 12-Step sponsors and sponsees predicts a more favorable substance use outcome and may help explain the effectiveness of 12-Step self-help groups for those in recovery from substance use disorders.

While there are many paths to wellness, successfully overcoming addiction and maintaining sobriety relies on strong systems of support, both from family, self-help groups, community resources, peer recovery coaches, recovery education, recovery housing, recovery management checkups and other aspects of recovery-oriented care.


While many addiction treatment facilities may tout their continuity of care approach to recovery, there are singular elements that characterize effective continuum care. Primarily, it is the professionalism, commitment and people that elevate a treatment facility and treatment program to the highest standards and effectiveness in helping its clientele achieve and maintain lasting sobriety.

When searching for the right treatment program to meet your needs, be sure to look for staff that display passion in their work, that nurture each client and help him or her achieve measurable results. Serving in the addiction treatment and recovery field is more to them than a job, it’s a career that is meaningful and purposeful.

Look, too, for staff that stay up to date on the latest research and become trained in the latest and most effective evidence-based treatment modalities and help clients by inspiring them to push beyond their barriers and past difficulties in addiction to achieve desired goals. Having worked with others who struggled to overcome their fears and memories of dark days, these staff can inspire you by relating some of those stories of transformational healing. They truly embody the concept of recovery-oriented and client-centered care.

Besides being knowledgeable in the latest treatments, being passionate about what they do, you want everyone you encounter in your continuum care treatment program to be professionals with whom you can develop a therapeutic alliance. You need to be able to trust your psychotherapist, to create a bond with him or her that facilitates mutual work on your treatment goals.

You want to be involved in your treatment, to work with treatment staff in not only achieving measurable results but also in modifying treatment approaches. As such, you want to be in a treatment facility that keeps you informed on what treatments will be used, how long they’ll last, what they consist of, and how effective they’ve been in treating others with a similar diagnosis.

You also want to be involved in a treatment program at a certified facility where everyone you interact with has a singular purpose: to learn how to live a better life in sobriety. Treatment should always be more than merely treating an illness or disease. Indeed, the best addiction treatment program is staffed with professionals who emphasize growth and progress toward goals, not merely reduction of symptoms, although that is also a measurable outcome. As such you want treatment staff in your treatment program to create a program for you based on your life goals, to help you learn how to deal with and manage practical problems once you return home, go back to work or school.

Finally, you want your treatment program to put you in contact with caring professionals who understand the treatment and recovery process, recognize common pitfalls and obstacles and that recovery involves a series of stages. In all their interactions with you, they encourage the hope and belief that it is possible to achieve something better in your life, help you empower and believe in yourself, develop self-responsibility and take actions that promote recovery. Assisting you to live a life of dignity and growth is another aspect of the best continuum care treatment program and associated treatment professionals.

To learn more about Beach House’s continuum care approach to addiction treatment, reach out to our admissions team today!


Drug Alcohol Dependence. “Recovery benefits of the ‘therapeutic alliance’ among 12-step mutual-help organization attendees and their sponsors.” Retrieved January 3, 2018.

Drug Alcohol Dependence. “The effects of continuing care on emerging adult outcomes following residential addiction treatment.” Retrieved January 3, 2018.

EMDR Institute, Inc. “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy.” Retrieved January 4, 2018.

National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists. “What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?” Retrieved January 4, 2018.

National Center for Biotechnology Information. “Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health [Internet].” Retrieved January 6, 2018.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Evidence-Based Approaches to Drug Addiction Treatment.” Retrieved January 5, 2018.