Trends in Treatment: Looking Forward

With healthcare being such a hot topic, what can we expect to see in the world of addiction treatment services in the future? What is currently taking place and where will it lead as the dynamic changes from what currently is and which direction will it lead?

Treatment services are predicted to increase in availability as we move into a new paradigm. That said, just how will they increase and who will provide them? Most agencies are working hard to stay one step ahead of the new trends in healthcare by providing services by individuals who are better trained and have higher degrees than in times past.

Blended treatment is the catchphrase that many use and most often heard in discussions about the changes we will see in every model, both medical and nonmedical, and all the various places in between who call themselves partially medically based.

More focus will be placed on the individual receiving treatment services--their needs for medical, social, and all other services that may impinge on their ability to maintain abstinence once they have received basic services for treatment of their addictive condition. This is going to challenge the resources of many agencies because many do not have the programs, staff, or funding necessary to provide all aspects of this kind of holistic treatment. Thus, treatment services will need to address the missing pieces in their protocol and develop resource management systems to serve the people they treat.

Beginning with their substance abuse or process addictions, a bare beginning is made for each individual addict. They will need additional services to maintain ongoing abstinence. There may be serious medical issues that need to be dealt with and services rendered while still in treatment for the support that is necessary. Some of these will deal with medications and interventions that are perilous to abstinence. There are usually legal issues that will need to be outsourced for many. The list of resources can be quite substantive and time consuming for the treatment professional.

This is the new world of treatment. Mind, body, spirit and social concerns will need to be addressed. Some addicts will need to take classes in parenting, domestic violence, pain management for ongoing physical problems (which are often the source of their addiction to pain medications!), physical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and even financial, social, and nutritional skills.

As these needs become more apparent for clients, many agencies have attempted to work to build a support network for their clients, but it has been somewhat hit and miss. Standardization will certainly be a part of the healthcare reform model. It is expected that most insurance carriers will follow suit and request the same kinds of services be made available to their clients. As we see healthcare issues being more and more impacted by a person's use and abuse of medications and alcohol, it is only sensible to treat them more holistically to begin with. This kind of reform is a long time coming, but few are prepared to provide the types of services required.


Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions' counselor.