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Addiction Aftercare Programs

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In 2020, 40.3 million Americans aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder (SUD) in the past year.1 More specifically, 28.3 million had an alcohol use disorder, 18.4 million had an illicit drug use disorder, and 6.5 million struggled with both an alcohol use disorder and an illicit drug use disorder.1

Drug and alcohol addiction is a medical disorder that affects the brain, changes behavior, and is chronic and relapsing in nature.2 Studies have found that, within 1 year following treatment, 85% of people relapse and return to drug use.3 When individuals take advantage of aftercare services, their rates of relapse decrease. However, many people do not complete their aftercare program, and many forego aftercare services altogether.

If you are planning on entering or leaving a drug or alcohol addiction treatment program, it is recommended that you have an aftercare program in place.

What Is Aftercare?

Recovery from drug misuse 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 period of addiction treatment care, such as inpatient rehab or intensive outpatient treatment.

Your post-treatment time interval is a crucial period, where strides made during recovery are reinforced. There are different kinds of aftercare treatment options which can help prevent relapse and expand upon the coping strategies learned during rehabilitation.

These include (and will also be discussed in greater detail further in the article):

  • 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 disposition, upon completion of initial treatment. It’s vital that the patient follows their aftercare plan carefully. Often, continued participation in 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 common. 

Typically, aftercare entails far less frequent contact with treatment personnel than during the acute phase of addiction treatment—therefore, it approximates a more real-life situation of using self-sufficiency, individual determination, and hard work as tools for 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 or alcohol again. As part of a comprehensive aftercare plan, monitoring also serves the purpose of detecting an impending or recent relapse, as well as allowing for re-evaluation of the patient’s treatment plan. In doing so, ultimately, it promotes patient health and safety.

Developing an Aftercare Plan

A comprehensive inpatient rehab program will tailor a set of aftercare requirements and goals for each patient, based on their 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:

  • Relapse prevention strategy drawn up and rehearsed prior to the end of initial treatment.
  • Prescription for consistent participation in drug or alcohol addiction support/self-help groups (frequently 12-step meetings such as AA or NA).
  • Regularly scheduled outpatient follow-up appointments with a clinician/counselor for continued therapy.
  • When needed, arrangements for a controlled living environment post-treatment, e.g. halfway houses, sober living, etc.
  • Recommended or required drug testing.
  • Monitoring, which can be completed during scheduled appointments, on the phone, or via email. A variety of newer methods for continued patient care exist now, including video appointments, text message check-ins, and various other support and tracking apps.

Types of Addiction Aftercare Programs

It’s important to find a supportive environment to continually assist you in avoiding temptation. Aftercare programs that involve sponsors or someone who is always available to talk can be 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. There are various types of addiction aftercare programs.

Rehab Facility/Facility-Based

The treatment program or rehab facility you attend may offer its own aftercare program. Some of the more common services that could be offered include ongoing therapy, sober living programs, and alumni organizations. Facility-based services provide the additional benefit of continued access to many of the same professionals and services that you encountered during your treatment phase, often making the transition easier.

Case Management

Your addiction aftercare program may begin with the case manager at your rehab or treatment program facility. In addition to therapy, counseling, or other outpatient services, case managers may help you identify various employment services or social services such as childcare or legal services. Case managers will usually help coordinate these services and guide your continuous care plan.

Alumni Programs

Alumni programs are a good way for people to stay connected with former rehab patients. Many drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs offer alumni organizations as part of their aftercare support services.

Behavioral Therapy

There are several types of on-going behavioral therapy that can help treat and manage substance use disorders. Behavioral therapy can help people learn and apply techniques for relapse prevention and successful recovery. Some of these therapy types may include:

Sober Living Homes

Sober living programs provide a stable, drug-free environment for those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. People residing in a sober living home will live with other individuals who are in recovery, pay rent, and complete household chores as they transition from treatment to post-treatment.

Support Groups

Support groups may be part of your aftercare treatment plan. Programs like AA and NA encourage abstinence among other individuals who are also in recovery. The community and accountability aspects of a 12-step mutual support group have been shown to be an effective component of a drug and alcohol addiction treatment plan.

Benefits of Addiction Aftercare Programs

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), successful recovery from drug and alcohol addiction is a long-term process.4 An individual’s aftercare treatment plan may include employment services, medications for addiction treatment, family counseling, and/or social or legal services. It has been found that a continuing care approach delivers the best results.4

There are many benefits of an addiction aftercare program:

  • Life-long support.
  • Sense of community and accountability.
  • Reduction in relapse risk.
  • Social/legal/employment-related support services.
  • Tools and techniques to help with long-term recovery.
  • Medications for addiction treatment.
  • Support from counselors, therapists, and/or mutual support groups.

Transitioning Into a Sober Living Home

Sober housing can be a valuable step in your recovery journey. Living with individuals who share the same goals can be highly effective. Sober housing can be especially helpful in situations where an individual’s living arrangement or home environment is not conducive to a drug-free lifestyle or could create urges to use drugs in cases such as severe stress.

Those living in sober housing will usually be required to find a job and maintain employment, and the home may help identify and secure this work. There may be certain bills or rent to pay, in addition to household chores and responsibilities, as well as active mutual support group participation. While residing in a sober living environment, people can build on the skills they learned in treatment in order to successfully transition to more independent living or return to their previous place of residence.

Choose the Best Course of Treatment and Aftercare

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 for free at for the confidential guidance you need. Our admissions navigators are available 24 hours a day, 7 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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