Treatment Levels Depend on Current Need

Learn About the Levels of Treatment


“I’ve experienced many types of mental health treatments over the past 23 years. Recovery is not a straight line and I just try to make the best choices I can.”

Just like with physical health concerns, most people enter treatment through an outpatient appointment with a doctor or counselor. However, in some cases, people enter treatment through a crisis or emergency clinic, hospital emergency room, or at a withdrawal management or detoxification center. Effective treatment can be provided in outpatient, residential, or inpatient settings.

After completing an assessment with you, your counselor or doctor will be able to recommend the level of treatment that is best for you. They will make a recommendation based on your physical health or physical safety needs, whether you need 24-hour support from staff or peers, and the frequency of counseling sessions that would benefit you during a week or day. Usually people who start at higher levels of treatment such as inpatient or residential treatment will transition to outpatient treatment when they are stable enough to return to community living.

Regardless of the level of treatment, you may be prescribed medications. Medications can be used to help people who are addicted to alcohol or opioid drugs manage the withdrawal or craving. They can also be prescribed for people with certain mental health diagnoses to manage symptoms such as depression or anxiety. Some people choose to stay on these drugs for years and others may remain on them for a few weeks or months.

Outpatient counseling

During outpatient counseling, you meet with a counselor once or twice a week for counseling sessions that may last an hour to two. While receiving treatment you can live at home and continue your normal day-to-day activities. Many people will improve in an outpatient setting without more intensive care. If your symptoms require it, you may be prescribed medication. Often people begin outpatient counseling by searching on their own or after a recommendation from a doctor, friend, or family member.

Day treatment or intensive outpatient

Day treatment is also called intensive outpatient treatment. During day treatment you can still live at home, but you will spend more time in counseling than you would in regular outpatient. You may receive counseling three to five days a week for three to five hours a day. Your treatment may include individual and group counseling, or family counseling. You may also receive drug and alcohol use monitoring. Day treatment is generally recommended for people with moderate to severe mental health or substance use symptoms.

Residential treatment

During residential treatment you will live at the treatment center and receive 24/7 support from staff and other individuals in residential treatment. Counseling is more comprehensive, five to seven days a week for three to eight hours a day. Interventions could include medication management. Residential treatment is generally recommended for people with severe mental health or substance use symptoms.


In an inpatient program you will live at a hospital or treatment center and receive 24/7 support from nursing staff to ensure your safety. Inpatient treatment is generally recommended for people with severe mental health or substance use symptoms who may also have physical health problems or need medical care during withdrawal from alcohol or drugs. You will receive daily counseling and around the clock medical and psychiatric care.

All levels of treatment can be effective. The type of treatment or level of treatment that will be most effective for you depends on your current needs.

Learn more about the varying levels of care

Explore Treatment Options in Colorado

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