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Stabilization phase

© 2009 CAMH


The stabilization phase focuses on:

  • engaging the client
  • addressing stigma issues
  • orienting the client to the methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) program
  • urine screening
  • assessing the client
  • introducing harm reduction strategies
  • planning treatment
  • stabilizing the use of other substances (e.g., including alcohol)
  • stabilizing the client's functioning (Martin et al., 2003).

Stabilization is a critical phase of MMT. Clients may find the early weeks of treatment overwhelming, and this is the time when they are most likely to drop out of treatment. Clients may continue to use opioids and other substances during this phase because:

  • their methadone dose has not yet reached a level that helps them manage withdrawal symptoms
  • they have not yet been able to make the lifestyle changes needed to support a change in their substance use.

It is unreasonable to discharge clients for continued substance use during this phase of treatment.

Clients' needs should be assessed during stabilization. Counsellors should respond to the client's acute needs, such as housing and food, so that these issues do not distract the client from their treatment goals. If urgent needs are met effectively at the beginning of treatment, the client's stress will be reduced, and he or she will be more likely to develop confidence in the counsellor and remain in treatment.

For a more in-depth discussion of stabilization in the context of MMT, see Chapter 8 of Methadone Maintenance: A Counsellor's Guide to Treatment (PDF).