Last updated: 06/6/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Effective drug addiction treatment does not end when you’re discharged from an inpatient program or complete an outpatient program. Aftercare services are a crucial part of a successful long-term recovery. Whether you’re overcoming an addiction to drugs or alcohol, aftercare will (and should) become a vital step to your total healing.
What is Addiction Treatment Aftercare?
Your rehab facility will most likely include aftercare as a step in your treatment plan from the very beginning so that your recovery can flow seamlessly from clinic-based treatment to aftercare support services that are integrated into your day to day life outside. The safety and support that you experienced in rehab should never abruptly end, but rather change into a new form that fosters your growing confidence and independence.
The important lessons you learned in treatment need to be reinforced to maintain your motivation, and returning to daily life outside of a treatment program will present challenges you can’t predict in advance. Having aftercare support services will help you adapt and stay on track for long-term health.
You change a lot during treatment. Your body changes, your emotions change, and your ability to effectively cope with common triggers will change. As you transition out of treatment and back into your everyday life, this evolution needs to continue and should be strengthened by continued support. Aftercare forms a bridge between your initial rehab treatment and your home life.
Aftercare Begins Immediately After Your Release from Treatment
It’s called “after” care because it begins right after rehab treatment. But don’t mistake it for an unimportant afterthought; aftercare is vital to your recovery success.
Once you’ve completed a residential or outpatient treatment program, and you’re ready to transition back into the “real” world full time, you’ll need to turn to aftercare services. Before you even walk out the doors of your rehab facility, your treatment team will work on identifying the support offerings that will be most helpful to your long-term success in recovery and ongoing sobriety.
What Happens in Aftercare?
Aftercare focuses on keeping you engaged in your recovery. This occurs through consistent interaction with your counselor, support network and healthcare team. Without support and interaction, you’re vulnerable to falling back into old habits that put your recovery at risk.
Counseling or Therapy
While in rehab, you most likely experienced family, individual, and group counseling sessions. Individual therapy should be continued as a part of aftercare, and family therapy is also very helpful. Some aftercare programs offer group counseling, but if not, peer support groups can offer a similar supportive experience.
Support is key to recovery, and can be experienced in many forms—counselors and therapists, family and friends, and peer support groups or 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and so on. A strong personal and professional support network of individuals is important, but you should never exclusively rely on support from family or therapists.
Community support is also crucial. The help that is offered through one person in recovery to another person in recovery comes from a place of deep understanding and connection, and should never be underestimated. Support groups like AA also provide you with the opportunity to help others, which can do wonders for your confidence, motivation, and overall sense of wellbeing.
Life is a continual process of learning, and life after rehab is no different. Living well in recovery is a skill that must be learned. Aftercare services continue and build on the education that began in rehab, adding more and more knowledge to support a healthier, happier life.
Job Placement Assistance
The chaos of active addiction makes it difficult to hold down a good job, and you need the security of a steady income and the structure of regular employment to give yourself your best chance of recovery. Employment also helps you to renter the community and feel like a healthy part of society.
To help you find this employment, many aftercare programs provide job placement assistance. This assistance may include teaching you how to write a strong resume or CV, how to make a great impression at an interview, and how to effectively cope with job stressors so that you stay on track with both work and recovery. Some programs will even guide you through the whole process of finding employment, from identifying suitable job openings to preparing for your first day at work.
Having a safe and stable home environment is another key element of a successful recovery, and many aftercare programs will offer housing assistance, from counseling you as you decide where to live and who with, to help you find a suitable apartment or connecting you to public housing services.
Sober Housing Placement
After rehab, you may decide you need to live in a safe and supportive space that is specifically designed for individuals overcoming substance use disorders who are not yet ready to transition into fully independent living. Sober living houses fill this role by providing a drug and alcohol-free environment, structure and services to support recovery, and housemates that understand exactly where you are coming from.
Relapse doesn’t happen overnight. It starts with changes in thoughts and behavior that can be corrected if they are identified in time. Relapse prevention counseling and education can help you avoid returning to active addiction.
Individual Case Management
A wonderful asset to any aftercare program is individual case management, which allows a patient and therapist to work together to evaluate the patient’s specific needs, then plan to address those needs, as well as the patient’s individual goals and dreams for the future.
Aftercare Fosters Long-term Recovery
Recovery is a challenging, exciting, and fulfilling a lifelong journey. Addiction treatment aftercare guides you through this journey, providing whatever help or support you may need to thrive in your new, healthy life.