Primary vs secondary treatment: what is the difference?

When finding ways to treat your addiction, the process can be daunting, especially when looking to cover each of your specific needs. If you are feeling unsure about which options to explore and the right rehab treatment to seek, you have come to the right place. Below, we will identify both primary and secondary addiction treatments, outlining the differences between them and why they are each useful on the road to recovery.




Primary treatment


Offering programmes at an inpatient facility with daily access to medical support and therapy, there are many different methods used to treat addiction in its primary stages.

What is offered

Early into admission, you will be given a treatment programme which includes a timetable of elements in your schedule, such as group work, one to one sessions and care planning.


Abstinence is a necessary step to rehabilitation, and therefore, once admitted to a primary care facility, you will usually meet with medical consultants who will complete a thorough medical assessment. If you require detox, you will be prescribed a detoxification regime.


Connecting with therapeutic programmes is a huge part of primary addiction treatment across facilities and allows users to get to the root of their problems with addiction and decide upon the necessary steps to take moving forward. There are usually a variety of different treatments and addiction therapies to choose from, such as:


Group therapy



Group therapy is one of the most powerful tools to facilitate the reintegration process. With a safe, supportive environment and an emphasis on collaboration, all individuals can engage in and support one another’s progress, maintaining an open channel of communication between the therapeutic team and themselves. Building connections to others at the facility ensures that people need not feel alone or isolated in their recovery.


In private facilities, rehab aftercare is also provided following a course of treatment. This is useful in helping to maintain a network of support and understanding as you prepare to return home.


Secondary treatment

It can be overwhelming to return to your life following primary treatment. Entering your home environment, free from drugs and alcohol, might fill you with an initial sense of peace and gratitude, but challenges and hurdles can quickly present themselves. With all the pressures of the outside world, you might feel as though you have no means to navigate them.




While inpatient facilities provide a chance to remove yourself from the lifestyle triggers that can lead to relapse in the short-term, secondary addiction programmes are vital to recovery in the long term. The goal of secondary addiction treatment is for clients to secure the smoothest possible transition back to their everyday lives.


What is offered

In secondary treatment, individuals are supported to determine specific difficulties they may have to overcome when they return home, and with this information, they can create a plan to work through and resolve these issues.

Additional therapy

Addiction is not as simple as chemical dependence, and there are other factors which can lead to substance abuse. By working with a therapist following primary treatment, the individual can better understand and identify those triggers that can lead to a relapse.


Activities provided in secondary care include workshops on varied topics, such as:

  • Anger and stress management
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Nutrition and exercise
  • Managing finances
  • Relapse prevention




Manging responsibility

Many of us have committed all our time in primary treatment to focus entirely on recovery, so the adjustment back to daily life with its countless duties and tasks can be a stressful transition. For this reason, clients in secondary care are often involved in tasks to regain their independence. From domestic duties to voluntary work and peer mentoring, these activities help to engender self-esteem and confidence in those struggling to get back into the swing of things.

A wide range of services may be necessary for an individual to successfully recover from a long-term substance misuse problem, and it might be necessary to work with external agencies to ensure that the individual has a network of support available to them. These resources might also be extended based on the individual’s needs, with structured transitions available for families, safeguarding services for dependent children, health care for additional medical problems and clinical mental health services.


Our facilities

At all our UKAT treatment centres, we work step-by-step, guiding and facilitating you towards your recovery. In our primary treatment facilities, we understand that your needs and wishes might change in treatment as you move through your respective programme. For this reason, you will be asked to take control of your own recovery by engaging with and regularly looking at your care plan. This will help in identifying if the plan remains in line with your needs, helping to re-establish what it is you wish to gain from your time at the facility. This treatment approach does not attempt to train you in your recovery but rather employs strategies to draw upon your own resources. We believe that this is the most effective method on the road to recovery.




While we do not offer secondary treatment at most of our UKAT centres, our Oasis Runcorn facility involves secondary treatment as part of the process. It is highly recommended that you continue to build upon the positive gains you have made during primary treatment and move into secondary care. What is so special about our services comes with the UKAT brand promise. It guarantees that if your treatment is unsuccessful within a ninety-day programme, you will be welcomed back with thirty days of complementary treatment. We are committed to providing you with the most comprehensive treatment journey, assuring that upon completion, each person will have attained the strategies and motivation they need to continue their lives free from addiction.

In recovery, the more involved and proactive you are, the more likely the outcome of long term, enduring recovery is. By assuring ourselves that we have the resources to deal with face up to life’s difficulties, we can feel the real achievement that comes from knowing that we are truly seeking to better ourselves.