There’s a huge emphasis placed on addiction treatment, and rightly so. Psychotherapy, medication and other therapeutic modalities are your best bet for long-term sobriety.
However, the focus on intensive treatment can give the false impression that once you graduate from a program you’ll have an easy transition back into your environment without professional support. The hard truth is that recovery is far from over when you finish rehab.
That’s where aftercare comes in. Whether you’re ready to transition out of higher-level services or you’re just curious about the journey ahead, you’ll want to know about aftercare treatment and the support you’ll need when it comes time to apply what you’ve learned and put your skills to the test.
What is aftercare?
Aftercare is an umbrella term that includes any continuing care you receive after completion of a rehab program. Generally, when people talk about aftercare they’re referring to 12-step programs, counseling, vocational training, lifestyle support, sober living housing or any combination of these post-residential treatment programs.
This level of care is part of what’s called a continuum of care, or a full spectrum of care from prevention to medically managed intensive inpatient services. A continuum of care makes it easy to transition between services depending on your need and your circumstances. Aftercare is the level of treatment that generally follows outpatient treatment.
Aftercare is less intense than rehab and detox facilities, but it’s critical to maintaining your hard-won gains in recovery. Aftercare is designed to decrease your chances of relapse, but it’s more than that, too. Continuing services help you to build a meaningful life as you achieve goals and find your passion.
How can aftercare help me in recovery?
Early recovery is the most vulnerable period of sobriety. Aftercare can aid you in abstaining from drugs and alcohol, but there are other benefits, too. Here are the pros of aftercare.
1. Aftercare keeps you connected to resources
As long as you are connected to some form of treatment, whether it’s a 12-step group or counseling, you automatically have a plethora of resources at your fingertips. Even if the program you continue to attend does not have extra assistance in-house, there are sure to be affiliated programs that do.
2. Aftercare reinforces the treatment
Inpatient and outpatient services are laden with lessons about identifying triggers, cultivating coping skills, managing distress and finding healthy outlets. While all of this material is useful, it’s often packed into a short amount of time, and learning is only surface-deep.
Aftercare not only gives you the opportunity to let these lessons soak in, but the nature of this level of service gives you the chance to apply them in the real world.
3. Aftercare builds on your support system
Depending on the aftercare you decide to engage in, you’ll foster a circle of social support. Many people elect to participate in groups for months, years or even decades after recovery. The relationships you make could turn into lifelong friendships.
Moreover, the support network you accumulate through aftercare can be an essential emotional support on your toughest days of recovery because they know what it’s like to walk in your shoes. A sober community that can relate to your situation is an irreplaceable asset to your healing.
4. Aftercare helps you to live with purpose
Rehab places a strong focus on fighting triggers and reducing the risk of relapse. As you progress in your recovery, though, it’s likely you’ll become eager to fill the gap in your life that substances left with healthier, enjoyable activities.
Aftercare can help you build a meaningful and positive life, and the options are limitless. Here are some ways aftercare can help you find purpose.
Opportunities to volunteer
Chances to express yourself through creative outlets like writing, painting, story-telling, etc
Connection to social relationships
Inspiration from others in recovery
Growth in self-knowledge
Space to process and unravel the root of your addiction
A chance to share your story to motivate others
Healthy ways to relieve stress
Develop a self-care routine
Continuing services can take several forms, but it will always be true that you’ll get out of it what you put into it. Participating in a variety of aftercare programs will multiply the benefits you experience.
Where can I get continuing services?
Many rehab programs utilize some form of a continuum of care, whether they provide the services through the same facility or refer you to another provider. When you make the first call looking for the right treatment experience, you’ll want to ask about the levels of care each facility offers.