Addiction is a chronic brain disease, which means it requires a long-term treatment plan.
Residential or intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) is only the beginning. Aftercare is the continuing treatment that represents the next steps in ongoing recovery.
Why Does Someone in Recovery Need Aftercare?
In many instances, by the time a person with a substance use problem enters a treatment program, they have been drinking or using drugs for some time. The addiction may have had years or even decades to develop.
By that point, the disease has infiltrated every aspect of that person’s life. It has impacted the way they think, make decisions, and interact with others. Going to treatment means making a radical lifestyle change. It takes time to adjust to no longer using one’s drug of choice and to develop new coping skills.
It simply isn’t fair or realistic to expect a client to undergo an initial phase of drug and alcohol treatment and then release them from the program without any type of follow-up care. Clients need ongoing support as part of maintaining their sobriety.
Aftercare Goals for Those in Recovery
Aftercare is put in place to elaborate on the coping strategies learned in the initial stages of treatment and as a relapse prevention strategy.
- Coping Strategies Enhancement
Drug and alcohol treatment programs teach clients about coping strategies as part of the overall rehabilitation plan. It takes time and practice for each client to determine which coping strategies are going to be most successful.
It’s important for those in recovery to understand that just because one coping strategy doesn’t work for them doesn’t mean they aren’t doing recovery right. It simply means they need to use an approach that’s better suited to their unique circumstances.
Additionally, it’s possible for a strategy that was working for a time to stop being as effective. This means it’s important to have several coping strategies in your personal recovery toolbox.
- Relapse Prevention
Recovery is not a destination. Instead, it’s a journey taken one day at a time. No one ever gets to the point where a relapse is no longer a possibility.
In the early days of recovery, a slip or a full-on relapse is more likely to occur due to inexperience dealing with stressful or emotionally challenging situations. With time and as a person in recovery gains experience in resisting triggers and cravings to drink or use, relapse becomes less likely.
Types of Aftercare Available in Recovery
Aftercare refers to an umbrella of services and treatments. It exists in many forms to meet the needs of people in recovery at various stages.
- Outpatient Treatment Services
With the outpatient approach, the client lives at home (or is independently housed) and attends treatment during the day on a flexible schedule. This treatment model allows the client to work or go to school while attending group or individual treatment sessions.
Clients attending group therapy sessions listen to other members share their experiences with addiction and recovery. They share their own challenges and victories as well. The group, which is led by a counselor or therapist, discusses solutions, offers encouragement, and provides support.
- Individual Therapy
Clients meet with their counselors one-on-one to discuss the issues at the root of their addiction or topics that they do not feel comfortable sharing in a group setting. During individual therapy, it’s possible to focus on a specific area that the client finds particularly challenging over multiple sessions. In group therapy, the topic tends to change each time the group meets.
- 12-Step Programs
Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) offer fellowship and judgment-free support to people at any point in their journey. Those in recovery can attend meetings as often as they feel they need to in order to seek support from others who understand their situation.