Skip to main content

ASAM Certification and Why It Is Important to Your Treatment

If you’ve been looking into treatment options for addiction, you may have heard the term ASAM certification. Some treatment centers and healthcare providers are ASAM certified, but others are not. You may be wondering what this certification is and if it matters to your treatment. Here’s a quick overview of what this certification means.

What is ASAM certification?

Providers with the ASAM certification are qualified to use the ASAM criteria to assess the level of care a patient requires. This assessment certifies that a provider is following evidence-based practices and understands how to use the ASAM criteria.

The ASAM criteria is a set of guidelines that help providers provide ongoing care to patients at every stage of their illness. It helps providers accurately diagnose patients and understand what level of treatment will best serve their needs.

This certification is a way to ensure that patients all across the country are receiving high-quality care. While some providers offer services without having received ASAM certification, patients of these providers may have a more difficult time being confident they’re receiving the best care available.

The Six Dimensions of the ASAM Criteria

Providers using the ASAM criteria will evaluate patients in each of the following six categories or dimensions:

1. Acute intoxication and/or withdrawal potential

This dimension evaluates a patient’s past or current substance use and the potential withdrawal symptoms they may experience when giving up a substance.

2. Biomedical conditions and complications

This dimension evaluates a patient’s health needs and how they may affect an addiction treatment plan. This could include conditions like malnutrition or a weakened immune system caused by long-term substance use. It can also include conditions unrelated to substance abuse that may affect a patient in recovery, like a genetic heart condition.

3. Emotional, behavioral, or cognitive conditions

Mental health concerns are very common among individuals struggling with addiction. This dimension evaluates emotional, behavioral, and cognitive needs as part of the addiction treatment. For many people, these issues have been caused by substance abuse, and for others, these issues were present before the substance abuse began.

Pre-existing mental illness is very common among individuals with substance abuse disorders, and to effectively be treated for addiction, these issues must be treated as well.

4. Readiness for change

Addiction treatment plans are most effective when patients are ready to change their circumstances. This dimension evaluates the individual’s readiness for giving up substance abuse and creating a new lifestyle.

5. Relapse or continued use potential

Without proper planning, relapse is common among individuals working toward addiction recovery. This dimension helps create a treatment plan that decreases the risk of continued substance abuse and addresses the risks that could lead to relapse.

6. Recovery Environment

Environment plays a major role in reaching a full recovery from an addiction. This dimension evaluates the patient’s environment, including the people in their social circles and living situation. This helps providers determine whether the patient’s environment will help or hinder their recovery.

ASAM Continuum of Care

One of the major benefits of ASAM certification is its holistic approach. The ASAM criteria guides providers in providing support for every stage of illness. There are multiple levels of care that patients may move between as their addiction improves or worsens.

Some patients may fall in-between levels of care, and trained providers can help individuals find the right amount of support that fits their needs. Levels of care can also be adjusted to meet the needs of children and adolescents needing treatment for an addiction.

Early Intervention/Prevention

In the early intervention or prevention stage, an individual may be on a dangerous path toward addiction, and early intervention can support them in making adjustments that allow them to avoid ending up with a substance abuse disorder.


When a patient requires some support while recovering from an addiction, they may benefit from being an outpatient of a treatment program. This means they’ll visit with health professionals, but much of their day-to-day life will remain the same.

Intensive outpatient/partial hospitalization

Intensive outpatient/partial hospitalization is for patients who need more support than an occasional visit with a health professional can provide. However, some aspects of day-to-day life can continue because the individual is not in the hospital full-time.


Patients with serious addictions may need residential/inpatient level of treatment. This is often helpful for individuals with environments that make it difficult to avoid continued substance abuse, or for individuals who have struggled with substance abuse for extended amounts of time.

Intensive inpatient

Intensive inpatient care may be required for patients who have serious complications from substance abuse. This level of care can help people with co-occurring conditions of mental illness or eating disorders, as well as patients whose physical health has suffered significantly from substance abuse. Patients experiencing difficult withdrawal symptoms may also require intensive inpatient care while moving past the withdrawal stage.

Why is ASAM certification important to your treatment?

ASAM certification allows providers to address not just your substance abuse issues, but all the other aspects of your health, as well. The reason this is important is because the risk of substance abuse is largely impacted by things like your mental and physical health, your environment, and your own motivation to live a healthy life. Treatment plans that fail to address each aspect of health are often less effective than plans that take the whole picture into account.

The ASAM certification also allows you to get treatment that is specific to your needs. This type of treatment can be catered to your individual circumstances, leading to effective recovery and long-term health.

If you or a loved one could use support in recovering from an addiction, find a provider who is ASAM certified. Mental health professionals with ASAM certification can help you find the most appropriate treatment plan for you and help you get back on track to living a healthy and happy life.

Jackson House Recovery Centers is an ASAM-certified addiction treatment center, and we are ready to help you take the next step in your recovery journey. For more information about our program or admissions, please call us at (866) 396-3655.

Back to top