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What Is Aftercare? and Developing An Aftercare Plan

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What Is Aftercare?

Recovery from drug abuse and addiction doesn’t stop when a treatment period ends. At its core, aftercare should be considered a type of continued treatment, which immediately follows a relatively shorter period of addiction treatment care, such as inpatient rehab or intensive outpatient treatment.

Don’t Underestimate Aftercare

In the United States, an estimated 2.15 million people (9% of the population) have a substance use disorder (SUD). According to statistics, the rates of relapse are extremely high among people with an SUD—ranging from 37% to 56%.

Research finds that when people take advantage of aftercare services, their rates of relapse decrease.

Unfortunately, only about half of people utilize aftercare services and even fewer people complete their aftercare programs. If you are planning on entering or leaving a treatment program, make sure to plan ahead and have an aftercare program in place.

It is important to pay close attention to a patient’s post-treatment time interval, for it is during this crucial period that strides made during recovery are reinforced. There are many different kinds of aftercare treatment options which can help prevent relapse and expand upon the coping strategies learned during rehabilitation. They are as follows:

  • Outpatient treatment: The individual lives at home while attending treatment a few times a week when it is convenient for him or her.
    • Group counseling: The patient will listen to and share experiences associated with addiction and work to build social and coping skills in a group setting.
    • Individual therapy: The patient will meet one-on-one with a therapist to build upon progress made during initial treatment.
  • 12-step programs: Fellowship programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), provide support and encouragement for the individual on the road to recovery.

Clinicians can prescribe varying lengths of extended care or aftercare, depending on the individual’s needs and dispositionupon completion of initial treatment.It’s vital that the patient follow his or her aftercare plan very carefully, as substance relapse rates are estimated to be between 40 and 60 percent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Often, continued participation with a 12-step program is strongly encouraged and, in some cases, required. Regularly scheduled outpatient follow-up appointments at a hospital or clinic are also quite commonly seen.

Recovery is a lifelong journey. To get the support you need, call us at today.

Typically, aftercare entails far less frequent contact with treatment personnel than during the acute phase of treatment—therefore, it approximates a more real-life situation of self-sufficiency, individual determination and hard work in maintaining one’s own sobriety.

In many cases, the transition from acute treatment to self-sufficiency will be monitored at various time intervals per week – providing a strong incentive for the patient to avoid trigger situations and resist the urges to use drugs again. As part of a comprehensive aftercare plan, monitoring also serves the purpose of detecting an impending or recent relapse and allows for re-evaluation of a treatment plan and in doing so, ultimately, promotes patient health and safety.

Developing An Aftercare Plan

A quality inpatient rehab program will tailor a set of aftercare requirements and goals for each patient, based on discharge evaluation and specific patient needs. In some cases, such as court-ordered treatment, diversion or other work/employment drug and alcohol assistance programs, aftercare participation is mandatory and closely monitored. While they may be involuntary in some cases, treatment and aftercare are no less effective because of it.

Examples of some of the components leading up to and involving many aftercare plans include:Man in therapy

  • Relapse prevention strategy drawn up and rehearsed prior to the end of initial treatment
  • Prescription for consistent participation in addiction support / self-help groups (frequently 12-step meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous)
  • Regularly scheduled outpatient follow-up appointments with a clinician / counselor for continued therapy
  • When needed, arrangements for a controlled living environment post-treatment – halfway houses, sober living, etc.
  • Recommended or required drug testing
  • Monitoring: can be done during scheduled appointments, on the phone or email. The information age has ushered in a variety of newer methods for continued patient care, including video appointments, text message check-ins and various other support and tracking apps.

Recovery Is Not Easy

It’s important to find a supportive environment to continually assist you in avoiding temptation. This involves the members of the support system removing any mind-altering substances from the home, avoiding using intoxicating substances in front of the recovering individual, and encouraging full compliance with the aftercare plan.

Aftercare programs that involve sponsors or someone who is always available to talk are extremely important. Many times an aftercare program involves family, group and individual therapy and other protocols that are developed for a recovering patient’s individual needs.

Recovery Never Ends

Recovery is a life-long process and doesn’t end upon completion of rehab or therapy. Get the help you need with an aftercare treatment program. Call us at to get the confidential guidance you need. Our treatment admissions specialists are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide information that will help you choose the best course of aftercare treatment for your individual needs.

American Addiction Centers maintains a strong partnership with a large group of insurance companies at our addiction treatment facilities. Start the journey to recovery and find out instantly if your insurance provider may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab and associated therapies.

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Eric Patterson, MSCP, NCC, LPC, is a professional counselor who has been working for over a decade to help children, adolescents, and adults in western Pennsylvania reach their goals and improve their well-being.

Along the way, Eric worked as a collaborating investigator for the field trials of the DSM-5 and completed an agreement to provide mental health treatment to underserved communities with the National Health Service Corp.

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