After Addiction Treatment: What is Aftercare and why does it Matter?

Drug and alcohol treatment or rehab is a tremendous accomplishment and completing treatment successfully is reason to feel proud. However, treatment is just the beginning of a long journey of recovery.

Staying free of drugs and alcohol is easier within the safe confines of treatment, when support is available around the clock and temptation to use is reduced significantly. However, it becomes more difficult to stay clean when treatment is finished and it’s necessary to face the ups and down of everyday life. Aftercare can provide critical coping strategies for long-term success.

Relapse Prevention

Up to half of all people who complete drug and alcohol treatment will eventually relapse. Although the risk of relapse remains high for five years, the first two months following completion of rehab are when 65 to 80 percent of relapses occur.

A carefully devised aftercare plan will pave the way as you navigate the early days of recovery and ease back into a regular life.

It’s important to understand that relapse doesn’t mean treatment has failed, but a slip or a full-blown relapse is an indication that more treatment may be needed. An aftercare plan before you leave treatment will minimize the risk of relapse.

Components of an Effective Aftercare Plan

Aftercare is defined as any program of support follows drug and alcohol treatment. A typical plan can take a variety of forms, including regular counseling, support groups, debriefings or booster sessions.

A good treatment center makes long-term recovery a top priority and won’t release people without a carefully devised aftercare plan. Usually, creating a highly individualized aftercare program is a team approach between clients and staff. The involvement of family also increases the odds of staying clean.

SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has defined four major components of an effective aftercare plan.

  1. Health – managing addiction while learning to make healthy, informed choices that support physical health and emotional wellbeing.
  2. Home – maintaining a safe, stable place to live after completion of treatment.
  3. Community – building social networks and stable relationships that offer friendship, love and support.
  4. Purpose – establishing a life with meaningful daily activities and endeavors, including work and family, as well as income and resources necessary to participate in society.

An aftercare program may also include medication, transportation, child care, financial planning, job training and assistance with legal problems. Aftercare may last a few weeks or several months, although some people continue some form of aftercare for years.

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