Is Addiction Treatment a One-Size-Fits-All Approach?: Benefits of an Individualized Treatment Plan

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there is no one-size-fits-all approach to addiction treatment. Each person is unique and has different treatment needs. Quality addiction treatment programs utilize detailed biopsychosocial assessments to evaluate each patient’s substance use, mental and physical health, trauma history, and social support. They use this information to create an individualized treatment plan that addresses each person’s unique needs, situation, experience, and more.1

In this article:

Why Addiction Treatment is Not a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

The addiction recovery process is highly personal and unique to the individual.2 The best addiction treatment programs go beyond your substance use and address your varying needs, not just your addiction.3 Treatment programs and services should be matched with your unique problems and level of need to maximize treatment success and recovery.1

Because recovery is such a personal process, addiction treatment should be both age and culturally appropriate. For example, an adolescent may have different treatment needs than an adult with the same addiction, and those needs should be evaluated and addressed accordingly.2

Many people struggling with substance use disorders also have a co-occurring mental health disorder. Effective and comprehensive treatment needs to address both conditions simultaneously.1

Ultimately, individual treatment outcomes depend on the following:1

  • Nature and extent of your problems
  • Appropriateness of the treatment approach and model
  • Quality of interaction between you and your treatment providers
  • Availability of additional services

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The Most Effective Treatment Programs Use Individualized Treatment Plans

When you begin addiction treatment, you’ll likely be given a biopsychosocial assessment, which is a comprehensive, evidence-based assessment that evaluates your substance use as well as the biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors that contribute to your addictive behaviors. The biopsychosocial assessment will help your treatment team to diagnose any substance use or mental health disorder that you may have and guide them in creating an individualized treatment plan that is right for you and your unique needs.4

A quality, individualized treatment plan is person-centered and strengths-based, drawing upon your personal strengths and resources to aid you in recovery and keep you engaged in treatment. The following factors should be carefully considered when developing a treatment plan to ensure it meets your individualized needs:5

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity and race
  • Culture
  • Language
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religious and spiritual beliefs
  • Overall physical and mental health
  • Health literacy
  • Co-occurring health conditions
  • Severity and duration of addiction
  • Trauma history
  • Social support

Quality addiction treatment programs provide a continuing care approach that is adaptive to your ever-changing needs. Your individualized treatment plan should be assessed periodically and modified as needed, depending on what is working and isn’t working for you. A health professional should modify your treatment plan if a relapse has occurred.1

The Benefits of Using Multiple Therapies

You could take many pathways to recovery, and oftentimes they overlap and intersect.1 What works for one person may not work for another. Because addiction is multifaceted, an individualized treatment plan is usually dynamic and includes a combination of therapies and treatment modalities.6

Behavioral Therapies for Treating Addiction

A variety of different behavioral therapies treat addiction including:1,3,6

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps people recognize the connection between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. CBT for substance use involves helping you recognize the situations that trigger you to engage in substance use and find ways to either avoid these experiences or find alternative and healthier ways to cope.
  • Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT): Multidimensional family therapy is a therapy approach for adolescents that addresses the underlying influences of substance misuse and strives to improve overall family functioning.
  • Group therapy: Group therapy helps you learn how to solve problems and cope with stress without turning to drugs or alcohol. Through the peer support of the group, you’ll discuss the harmful effects of your substance use and build upon your motivation to obtain and sustain your recovery and sobriety.
  • Motivational Interviewing: Motivational interviewing focuses on rapid change by implementing strategies to motivate self-driven behavior change to control substance use.
  • Contingency Management (CM): Contingency management is a therapeutic approach that provides positive reinforcement by offering motivational incentives to remain substance-free. Certain rewards or privileges may be given to patients for attending counseling sessions, taking medications, or passing drug screens.

Medication-Assisted Treatment for Addiction

Medication may also play a role in addiction treatment and be included in a person’s treatment plan. Medication may be prescribed to treat co-occurring mental health disorders as well as the addiction itself.4

Opioid and alcohol addiction often require medication-assisted treatment to assist in the body’s detox process and minimize withdrawal symptoms. Medication may also be used as a form of maintenance treatment to help you sustain recovery and prevent relapse.5

Health professionals often prescribe methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone for people with addictions to heroin, prescription painkillers, and other opioids. Benzodiazepines are typically used to manage alcohol withdrawal while naltrexone, topiramate, disulfiram, and acamprosate are used to treat alcohol use disorder. Research has shown that, while medication-assisted treatment may be effective on its own, it is most effective when combined with psychotherapy and behavioral treatment approaches.1

Supportive Services Integrated Into an Individualized Treatment Plan

For treatment to be effective, it must be comprehensive. Treatment not only needs to address your substance use, but also address any personal, medical, legal, vocational, psychological, or social problems.6

Some supportive services may be offered during addiction treatment to help aid you in recovery, such as:1,2

  • Medical detox treatment
  • 12-step programs
  • Peer support groups
  • Nutritional support and assistance
  • Addiction and health education
  • Substance use monitoring
  • Child care services
  • Family services
  • Career services
  • Housing services
  • Financial services
  • Transportation assistance
  • Clinical and case management
  • Spiritual services
  • Legal services
  • Aftercare
  • Relapse prevention strategies
  • Self-care
  • Holistic treatments like yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and massage therapy

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Inpatient or Outpatient Treatment: What’s Right for You?

Addiction treatment is available on an inpatient or outpatient level. Inpatient treatment takes place in a residential facility where you would reside 24/7 for a designated period, typically ranging from 30-90 days, but sometimes much longer. Therapeutic communities (TCs) offer long-term residential treatment for six months, 1 year, or longer, in some cases.3

Outpatient treatment takes place in an outpatient facility such as a physician’s office or outpatient rehab facility. You would visit the clinic or facility regularly (usually daily or multiple times each week) for a designated time to receive counseling, medication, or other treatment services as needed.3

There is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing a rehab facility. It ultimately depends on your unique needs and situation.

Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Rehab

Inpatient addiction treatment is generally a better option for those with:3,4,5,6,7

  • Severe or chronic addiction
  • Polysubstance use
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders, particularly those with severe mental illness
  • History of relapse
  • History of withdrawal seizures
  • Unstable living environment outside of treatment
  • Unreliable means of transportation
  • Lack of social support at home
  • Ability to take time off from career, education, family, or other responsibilities

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient addiction treatment is generally best suited for those with:3,4,5,6,7

  • Mild or moderate addiction
  • Stable living environment
  • Reliable transportation
  • Strong social support
  • Responsibilities to maintain outside of treatment, such as employment, education, or family obligations
  • No history of relapse or withdrawal complications
  • Financial constraints or budget (outpatient treatment is usually far more affordable than inpatient rehab)

Many people may choose to start with inpatient addiction treatment and transition to outpatient treatment after graduating from the inpatient rehab program. Ultimately, it is your decision on what is most appropriate for you.

Finding a Treatment Program That Offers Tailored Treatment Plans

As you can see, addiction treatment is multifaceted and complex. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating substance use disorders. Instead, treatment is unique and tailored to the individual and their personal needs.

If you or someone you love are struggling with addiction and would like support in finding an addiction treatment center near you that offers individualized treatment plans, call 888-647-0051 (Who Answers?) to speak with an addiction treatment specialist today.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Knowing What to Ask.
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2022, March 8). Recovery and Recovery Support.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse (2019). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (2020). Substance Use Disorder Treatment for People with Co-Occurring Disorders. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) 42.
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2016). Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research Based Guide (Third Edition).
  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2019). Treatment Options.


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