Aftercare is one of the most important steps in a person’s addiction treatment program. While rehab initiates the process of healing, addiction is a complicated and long-term condition that can require extended treatment. Therefore, it’s vital that an aftercare plan is implemented following inpatient or outpatient treatment that helps a patient adjust to regular life, continue building new skills, and prevent relapses.
What Happens in an Aftercare Program?
Relapse rates in the US are approaching 60%. Aftercare plans are an essential part of ensuring that a person doesn’t relapse or at least has the means to deal with one if it happens.
Aftercare is essentially a recovery plan for someone who has just completed rehab. This includes activities and resources that help a person cope with triggers, manage stress and emotions, and deal with substance cravings. Each person’s aftercare should be personalized and unique to their own needs.
For example, an aftercare plan can include:
- Attending support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), or 12-Step groups
- Attending outpatient treatment
- Staying in a sober living facility for a period
- Arranging a sponsor or a sober support system
- Attending individual or group counseling sessions
- Providing a list of resources to support recovery and sobriety
Some of the available resources that can form part of an aftercare plan include:
- Coaching and goal setting
- Career counseling
- Legal advice and support
- Case management
- Substance monitoring
- Academic support
- Financial planning and budgeting support
Types of Aftercare Programs
Aftercare programs can take all shapes and forms. Some of the most effective are:
Sober Living Homes
Sober living is an excellent way to transition from rehab treatment to regular life. These types of homes provide a safe and structured living environment that is free from alcohol or drugs and allows residents to develop strong support networks. Sober living homes usually have strict rules which involve curfews, house chores, random drug screening, and mandatory attendance at support group meetings. These rules serve to provide structure and accountability, which helps residents become more autonomous as they progress to a sober life.
Alumni programs are often offered by comprehensive rehab programs (both inpatient and outpatient). These networks provide an opportunity for clients to stay connected with their treatment team and with those who were also undergoing treatment. Membership in an alumni organization can help you stay grounded and reminded of your key recovery goals after you finish your primary treatment program.
Support groups are an integral part of therapy both during treatment and after. 12-step groups and others like AA and NA exist in all large cities and many smaller towns in the US. The benefit of these groups is they help you stay focused on recovery while providing ongoing emotional support. This is especially important during turbulent times such as big life changes, new relationships, and managing daily stresses. Attendance at these groups is usually free, and participation is confidential.
Once you’ve completed a treatment program at an inpatient or outpatient facility, your therapist may recommend that you continue therapy. This can include other outpatient programs or regular visits to see a counselor, a group meeting, or a clinic for medication management. Depending on your circumstances, it can be beneficial to step down to a less structured outpatient treatment program that allows you to ease into regular life while still receiving support.
Case managers are also an invaluable part of an aftercare plan as their role is to look after your discharge. As you prepare to enter the world outside of rehab, case managers can support and advocate for your best interests by helping you find healthcare in your community, navigate legal issues, or find affordable housing and childcare.
How to Create an Aftercare Plan
Many rehab centers and addiction treatment facilities provide aftercare planning. Patients should take advantage of these programs as they can make a big difference in the recovery process. Aftercare can provide patients with the right tools and resources to adjust to life after substance abuse. While many people only require support for about 3 to 6 months, others may need a year or more to adjust.
Aftercare plans are usually created with you and your therapist or counselor. Once you’re aware of your needs, you and your therapist can work together to come up with a tailored plan that meets your unique circumstances. You can also come up with a modified aftercare plan as your goals and needs change.
Aftercare Relapse Prevention
One of the most important reasons for an aftercare program is to prevent relapse. How this is done will depend on each person’s needs and what types of support and resources they are given. One of the key ways to prevent a relapse is to learn how to stay sober while dealing with the stresses of everyday life. This can also include:
- Obtaining a sponsor or actively maintaining a sober support network: this will help you cope with triggers and cravings.
- Learning to identify triggers: these can be people, places, or events that cause you to crave drugs or alcohol. You’ll likely have learned how to manage triggers during rehab, but it’s important to be aware of these during the aftercare period.
- Developing your own relapse prevention plan: once you’ve sat down with your therapist and created an aftercare plan, you may want to come up with your own plan for managing triggers and how you can cope with everyday stresses. This might include breathing techniques, support buddies, or safe places to go to.
- Taking up hobbies: whether it’s sports, music, art, or games, being active with a hobby can be a great way to de-stress and managing cravings.
- Keeping up self-care: putting together a plan for your physical, emotional, and mental health can also do wonders after rehab. Make sure you’re eating well, exercising, getting enough rest and sleep, and that you have a proper support network.
How to Find an Aftercare Program
Before you search for an aftercare program, start by checking with your current treatment center or rehab facility. Most comprehensive programs will provide aftercare as part of your overall treatment plan. Other go-to sources include drug counselors and therapists, and mental health and addiction treatment facilities. You could also contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, you are not alone. Treatment and support are readily available. Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment.
You can also find a list of treatment centers near you on our website to help get you on the path to recovery.
At RehabAid.com, we are dedicated to helping people recover from problematic substance use and associated mental health disorders. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, you are not alone. Information on treatment and support options is readily available through the National Helpline of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-4357. To further assist you along the path to recovery, the treatment center locator on our website allows you to easily find rehabilitation programs and services in your local area.
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