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The Patient’s Journey Through Treatment and Recovery: A Map

The Addiction Policy Forum has produced a new map of SUD treatment and recovery experiences, from trigger events and seeking care all the way to long-term support. Bursting with insights and testimony, this one’s not to be missed.

If you find yourself squinting, it’s not your eyes. This resource is actually a jumbo PDF image, chock-o-block full of useful information. CLICK HERE to download the image and bring it up to size.

Across the top, you’ll see the typical phases of treatment and recovery—triggering events, searching for help, lifestyle changes, etc. Under each of these categories is a column breaking down the phase into sub-components (pressure from Loved Ones, talking to friends, looking for support groups), along with short quotes from people who’ve gone through these stages.

Traditionally, six phases of the patient journey are defined as follows:

  1. Trigger Event/Awareness: The patients assess their own symptoms, conduct research, consider potential health conditions that may require treatment, and may even reach out to online communities (e.g., posing questions on social media);
  2. Help: The patient makes initial contact with a health system, including health insurance, via call center, chat, email, mobile, or an in-person visit;
  3. Care: The patient is assessed at a medical facility (e.g., physician’s office, hospital);
  4. Treatment:  The health system provides the patient with both on-site and follow-up care (e.g., prescriptions, physical therapy, counseling, or suggested lifestyle changes);
  5. Behavioral/Lifestyle Change: The patient makes changes to daily routines and takes part in proactive healing in order to reduce readmissions and promote long-term wellbeing;
  6. Ongoing Care/Proactive Health: The patient manages his or her care between clinical visits or admissions; meanwhile, the health system fosters engagement between the patient and physician in order to enable the patient to address symptoms and maintain good health.

Chaos is part of the challenge of substance use—they don’t call it “disorder” for nothing! This is a tool for regaining some order. We hope it helps.


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In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)