Recovering from a substance use disorder takes time, dedication, and vigilance. Often, the tools provided by a residential treatment center simply aren’t enough to produce long-term sobriety: they must be accompanied by long-term addiction support services. Aftercare programs are designed to provide just that. But what is aftercare in recovery – and how does it make a difference in helping people to stay sober long-term?
What is Aftercare in Recovery?
Addiction aftercare is a program that helps to support people in their transition from addiction treatment to recovery in the real world. Aftercare extends the treatment process – without interfering with people living their lives as they see fit. It provides support, accountability, and motivation to stay sober, and helps people stay connected to professional addiction services.
Aftercare can take many forms. Just a few aftercare options include:
- Counseling services
- Alumni programs
- Self-help or 12-Step support groups
- Sober living houses
While many treatment centers will offer aftercare planning, the best facilities will offer extensive aftercare programming. These are two very different approaches to helping people after they leave residential treatment – and provide remarkably different results.
Nearly every treatment center offers some form of aftercare planning. This typically begins the day you start treatment and ensures that you have a safe and supportive environment to go to after your stay at a treatment center is over. This could mean planning a transition to a sober living home, ensuring your family is supportive of your recovery, or removing the drugs or alcohol from the house before you return.
An aftercare plan also includes activities and resources for you to engage with at your discretion. For example, it might encourage going to 12-Step meetings several days a week, connect you with the Department of Human Services in your city, or recommend a therapist for you to see when you get home.
Ultimately, an aftercare plan puts the next steps in the recovery process squarely in your hands. It is not a continuation of services and is generally less beneficial than an aftercare program.
Aftercare programming is a more targeted and clinical approach to recovery after treatment. Rather than simply drawing a map for each client to complete on their own, aftercare programming provides services directly. These programs can help people to deal with the stress, cravings, and triggers of everyday life after they leave residential treatment.
Unlike an aftercare plan, aftercare programming continues many of the services of addiction treatment in a more relaxed format. An aftercare program includes services such as:
- Individual or group counseling
- Meeting with a psychiatrist regularly
- Case management services
- Phone support
- Mindfulness-based relapse prevention programs
- Routine physical healthcare
These services work together to ensure that each client leaving a program gets the support they need during this vital stage of recovery.
ELEVATE Wellness Center in Pasadena has developed an extensive aftercare program in ELEVATE Post, which provides comprehensive and holistic services to clients immediately following treatment. This allows our clients to continue treatment and recovery uninterrupted after completing a residential program – and provides the accountability and support that are so essential to long-term recovery.
Why Aftercare Is Important
Recovering from a substance use disorder takes time. Drugs and alcohol can cause lasting changes in the brain that make it more difficult for people to enjoy activities outside of substance use. Further, it can lead people to experience regular drug cravings, and makes the risk of relapse more likely. These brain changes will recover, but it can take up to 14 months for people’s brains to fully heal.
The risk of relapse is highest in the early months of addiction recovery. Between 40-60% of people with a substance use disorder will relapse after treatment, usually within 90 days after treatment completion. Continuing treatment is the best way of protecting against relapse, but for most people, long-term residential treatment isn’t an option. Continuing treatment with an aftercare program is an effective solution: giving people the flexibility needed to return home while continuing the evidence-based treatments provided by a professional addiction treatment facility.
Addiction aftercare is vital for one simple reason: it helps people to stay abstinent and continue their path in recovery. Aftercare programs help people not only stay sober while in the program, but for months and years afterward. Researchers have found that the effectiveness of an aftercare program is dictated by its length and level of services offered – such that longer, more intensive care produces the best outcomes.
Elements of a Successful Aftercare Program
Research has granted significant insight into what makes an effective aftercare program. The key elements that are associated with longer periods of abstinence include:
- Aftercare programming that lasts for a minimum of 3 to 6 months
- A variety of different treatment services offered
- Flexibility to fit different client’s needs
Importantly, several different aspects of an aftercare program can work together. Attending 12-Step support groups, meeting with a therapist, and participating in relapse prevention programs can all have an additive effect on your ability to stay sober. And the data shows that it works: choosing a treatment center with an effective aftercare program can increase the likelihood of prolonged recovery to over 65%, according to a 2014 article in Psychiatry Journal.
Choose ELEVATE Wellness Center in Pasadena
ELEVATE Wellness Center in Pasadena offers holistically-minded addiction treatment for people who aren’t satisfied with treatment as usual. Our facility has been created from the ground up by experts in the addiction field and contains the best in evidence-based therapies and specially designed programs to help people thrive in recovery.
Part of our commitment to excellence is our unique aftercare program. Our team understands the need for long-term support for people recovering from substance use disorders and created ELEVATE Post as a results-focused aftercare service. Recovery aftercare services are an essential component of our treatment program and ensure that each of our clients has the tools needed to maintain their abstinence long-term.
When you’re ready to start addiction treatment, contact our team for a free consultation by calling 855-778-8668 or filling out our confidential online form. Don’t let your addiction hold you back from living a better life any longer – long-term recovery is just a phone call away.