Completing your rehabilitation treatment is not the end of your recovery. Instead, it is the start of a lifelong journey. The process of healing continues far beyond treatment, and it is essential to have continued support when you return home. Everyday life is full of challenges and moments that might tempt you back to old habits. Aftercare services ensure that you have a solid support system to lean on when you need help.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration lists four main aspects of aftercare:
Fulfilling these factors can make it easier to overcome the challenges that you face throughout your recovery.
Aftercare, also known as continuing care, entails utilizing local services to support your recovery after you return home. While continuing care is essential for anyone seeking self-improvement, it is especially beneficial to those who fit the following criteria:
Some examples of aftercare services include one-on-one and group therapy sessions, local 12-Step meetings or other self-help groups, medical check-ups, prescribed medication for managing symptoms, and participating in activities like volunteering in your community. Everyone is different, so what one person finds helpful and invaluable may not affect someone else. It’s in your best interest to try out various support options and adopt the ones that you find most meaningful.
Although the first step of successfully treating addiction is to rid your body of substances, a comprehensive healing approach must include a plan to follow up and take advantage of community engagement and local aftercare services to keep yourself healthy. Continuing care lowers your risk of relapse and increases your chances of successfully maintaining long-term sobriety.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports the following about the importance of aftercare: “Treatment enables people to counteract addiction’s powerful disruptive effects on the brain and behavior and to regain control of their lives.”
As you go through rehabilitation and treatment, you’ll have the opportunity to work with your care team and therapists to establish the best path forward for your continuing care. While in treatment, you will form a plan that includes personal therapy options and coping skills to help you once you return home. Your care team may also have information about specific local groups and organizations that can assist in your aftercare. They will make sure you know exactly what to do to keep accessing the support you need once you leave the treatment center.
If you are looking for local aftercare possibilities on your own, you can use the following resources:
One of the most challenging aspects of aftercare is finding the motivation to stick with it during especially difficult moments. When you feel down or things begin to get overwhelming, it can be easy to brush off your next meeting or skip a therapy appointment; these moments are precisely when you need that support and connection the most. Here are a few tips for sticking with aftercare:
You will develop an aftercare plan with your care management team while you are in treatment. However, sometimes those plans do not always line up with what is available or practical once you return home. There is always the possibility that some facet of your community resources may be limited or inaccessible. If an element of your plan is not working quite right, you will want to go over it with your therapist or another member of your support system to find a better bit. If you’re reading this before entering treatment, keep in mind that you can always request backup options when constructing your aftercare plan. Including alternatives when you first write your plan can save you time and frustration down the road.