What is Aftercare?
In 2020, 40 million people in the United States met the criteria for substance use disorder (drug addiction), and 28 million were diagnosed with alcohol use disorder (alcoholism), according to SAMHSA data. With improved access to treatment and aftercare, these numbers could be significantly reduced.
Addiction is a common, aggravating, and incurable condition, but most addictions respond favorably to evidence-based treatment. Regrettably, fewer than one in ten of those who require drug or alcohol rehab manage to engage with professional treatment.
NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) defines substance use disorder as a chronic and relapsing brain disorder. Like other chronic conditions, addiction can be managed and treated with a personalized array of:
- Medically supervised detox
- MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
Addiction treatment is typically administered in an inpatient or outpatient rehab center. Aftercare is an umbrella term used to describe the ongoing care you engage with after leaving rehab. The most common forms of aftercare are:
- Outpatient treatment
- Sober living communities
- Support groups
- Alumni programs
What Is Aftercare?
Aftercare is a comprehensive plan to support those in the early phase of addiction recovery.
Regardless of the treatment provider, the treatment intensity, or the therapies and interventions used, all addiction aftercare programs have these three goals:
- Maintain your recovery from substance abuse.
- Find and implement ways of preventing relapse.
- Create a life filled with purpose and rewarding relationships.
The best aftercare plans are always personalized and will include resources, interventions, and activities intended to help those in addiction recovery combat stress, cravings, and personal triggers for substance abuse.
A typical aftercare plan may involve:
- Stepping down from inpatient rehab to some form of outpatient programming.
- Attending individual or group counseling sessions.
- Staying in a sober living community.
- Attending a 12-step support group or secular peer support group.
- Taking part in the alumni program of your treatment center.
- Reaching out to your sober support system.
Aftercare is crucial because so many people experience difficulties when they transition from rehab into sober living. The risk of relapse is greatest during the first few months after someone leaves rehab. Relapse rates of 40% to 60% are comparable to relapse rates of asthma, diabetes, and other chronic, incurable health conditions.
If you and your treatment team develop a customized aftercare plan early in your recovery, this can help to promote ongoing abstinence and minimize the likelihood of relapse derailing your recovery.
We will now summarize what to expect in the following areas of aftercare:
- Outpatient treatment
- Sober living communities
- Support groups
- Alumni programs
Aftercare: Outpatient treatment
Many people who complete a residential rehab program find that they still face stressors and triggers liable to challenge their recovery. Stepping down from inpatient to outpatient rehab can help those people address any ongoing issues.
These are the most common forms of outpatient treatment for addiction:
- PHP (partial hospitalization program): The most intensive form of outpatient treatment, people may engage with PHPs when stepping down from residential rehab, for stabilization after relapsing, or in a standalone capacity. You can expect up to 35 hours of weekly therapy sessions scheduled on weekdays. There will be a strong focus in individual counseling when you engage with a partial hospitalization program. Between therapy sessions, you will return home.
- IOP (intensive outpatient program): An IOP involves up to 15 hours of weekly therapy sessions with a focus on group counseling. You will also meet with a therapist for one-to-one sessions. Intensive outpatient treatment may last for a few weeks or a few months, depending on your circumstances and the severity of your addiction.
- OP (outpatient program): The least intensive form of outpatient programming, you will benefit from a few hours of weekly therapy sessions conducted at a drug or alcohol rehab.
Counseling sessions are always a core component of addiction treatment at both inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities.
Engaging with ongoing counseling sessions is especially valuable for those with a dual diagnosis (addiction and co-occurring mental health disorder), but also effective for all those grappling with addiction.
As you become more confident in your recovery, you can reduce the frequency of counseling sessions.
Some of the most popular modalities delivered by counselors for the treatment of addictions include:
- CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy)
- DBT (dialectical behavior therapy)
- Biofeedback therapy
- Family therapy
- Motivational interviewing
- Experiential therapy
- Holistic therapies
Aftercare: Sober Living Communities
Sober living homes, also known as sober living communities, are residential facilities designed for those in recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs.
While you can find sober living communities throughout the United States, they are especially prevalent in California.
There are two types of sober living homes, those with a leader responsible for creating and enforcing rules, and those run along more collective and democratic lines. Both models are proven effective for increasing motivation to stay sober.
As long as you continue to engage with aftercare, remain abstinent, pay your dues, and abide by the rules, you can remain at a sober living home for as long as you need.
Aftercare: Support Groups
Although most addiction treatment centers do not operate using a 12-step methodology, many people find 12-step support groups like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) are invaluable forms of aftercare.
Peer support groups like AA and NA allow you to benefit from the support of others undergoing similar experiences. As you become more secure in your sobriety, you may find that you can help others in early recovery from addiction.
For those who prefer secular support groups, there are many alternatives to 12-step groups, including SMART Recovery.
Aftercare: Alumni programs
Most drug and alcohol rehab centers offer access to alumni programs. These programs are designed to help you maintain your sobriety after attending inpatient or outpatient rehab.
As well as providing you with educational resources, employment assistance, and connections with therapists or counselors, alumni programs also allow you to build a sober support network by remaining in contact with others from your treatment program.
Personal Aftercare Steps You Can Take After Rehab
Recovery from addiction to alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs is not a single event, but rather a continuous chain of events. The recovery process may not always be linear – addiction has high relapse rates of between 40% and 60%, similar to the relapse rates of other chronic health conditions.
Fortunately, many people find the recovery process becomes easier to manage once they form new habits, routines, and relationships.
Consider these aftercare steps you can implement during the challenging initial year of abstinence from addictive substances.
Month 1 of aftercare
- Create a recovery plan so you can determine how to achieve your goals.
- Establish a robust sober support network.
- Become more proficient at recognizing and managing negative impulses by working out what triggers you to use addictive substances.
- Prioritize maintaining a healthy, supportive living environment.
- Create a daily living routine and stick to it.
- Find a suitable therapist or counselor.
- Explore various support groups and see if any make the right fit.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes daily.
Months 2 and 3 of aftercare
- Try out some new hobbies.
- Continue engaging with support groups if appropriate.
- If required, attend regular counseling or therapy sessions.
- Consult a career counselor and discuss your professional goals.
- Write a recovery journal including strategies to overcome personal addiction triggers and avoid relapse.
Months 3 to 6 of aftercare
- Start to repair any damaged relationships.
- Develop short-term and long-term financial goals.
- Focus more on your long-term goals.
- Celebrate recovery milestones.
- Help others on their personal recovery journeys.
- Develop longer-term (five-year and ten-year) plans.
- Seek out new ways to spend your time.
If you relapse at any stage of your recovery, this is not a sign that treatment was ineffective. Rather, relapse means that your treatment and aftercare plan needs adjusting, so make any changes and reach out for help if required.
Addiction Treatment and Aftercare at Drug Rehab Centers
Finding the most suitable drug or alcohol rehab can be challenging with so many options at your disposal throughout Southern California. Reach out to Drug Rehab Centers today and we’ll connect you with appropriate rehabs near you.
When you are comparing rehabs, you should check the quality of aftercare offered as well as the strength of the treatment programs delivered.
We can help you find a licensed medical detox center, allowing you to withdrawal from alcohol or drugs as safely and comfortably as possible.
Additionally, we can help you access treatment programs at all levels of intensity, including:
- Inpatient rehab (residential rehab)
- Outpatient rehab
- IOP (intensive outpatient program)
- PHP (partial hospitalization program)
- Virtual rehab (remote therapy)
All the treatment centers we recommend deliver evidence-based interventions to help you tackle the physical and psychological elements of addiction. Crucially, all the rehabs also help you beyond discharge, supporting you through your ongoing recovery.