Aftercare Programs

A brief guide to aftercare programs for alcohol rehab and their importance in the recovery process.

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ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Aftercare programs are an essential part of every good rehab program. They will help you maintain sobriety and prevent relapse. This article offers details on aftercare programs for a drinking problem and their importance.



Why Aftercare is Important after Alcohol Rehab

You have successfully finished alcohol rehab! Congratulations. Now you have been discharged in the world. But, are you really cured and ready to face the everyday challenges? Can you do it without ongoing support?

Life after rehab can be difficult.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) relapse rates for individuals who are in active treatment programs is actually relatively high, 40-60 % in most cases. [1] This is because addiction is a complex disease. Recovery doesn’t begin and end with rehab,but is a lifelong and continuous process.

So,the longer you stay sober after completing a rehab program, the lower your chances of relapse are.

How can aftercare help? Aftercare is the stage following intensiveand it is an integral part of every good alcohol treatment program.The primary goal of every aftercare program is maintaining abstinence and preventing relapse. In fact, aftercare programs are shown to considerably improve the long-term recovery and lead to higher rates of abstinence. [2]

Staying sober can be challenging, and that is whyyou need careful planning. Aftercare is the time when you implement the lessons and strategies you have learned in rehab in the real world.

So, what are the benefits of an aftercare program?

  • Building positive social relationships
  • Keeping your motivation high
  • Maintain sobriety
  • Preventing relapse

Without individualized and carefully planned long term community based services that support sobriety, the relapse rates will be much higher, especially for socially vulnerable individuals.

An Alcohol Aftercare Plan

A reputable rehab center should be able to draft an aftercare plan tailored to your needs. The quality of your aftercare plan is closely connected with your overall success. In fact, its purpose is to connect you and your family to community support to help keep you sober and minimize the risk of relapse.

Your aftercare plan should include a collection of the following:

  • Education
  • Family therapies
  • Group therapy
  • Help with employment
  • Housing
  • Monitoring, done in eitherscheduled appointments, phone or email.
  • Outpatient appointments with a clinician / counselor
  • Participation in addiction support groups
  • Psychotherapy
  • Recommended or required alcohol testing
  • Relapse prevention strategy
  • Social services
  • A stay in a sober living home

There are many different kinds of aftercare treatment options which can help you prevent relapse and live a sober life. However, knowing what works for you will help you achieve your goals. This is why aftercare needs to be 100% custom to your needs.

Treatment Center Programs

Aftercare is usually coordinated by your original treatment center. It is important that the treatment center you choose provides a continuum of care. Addiction affects many aspects of life: medical, mental, social, occupational, family, legal, and a treatment center should address the same aspect in order to be successful. [3]

This why finding a treatment center that offersquality programs and services matched to your needs is a key step on your journey to recovery.

Before choosing a treatment center program, do your research. Take into consideration the following factors:

  1. Can you get a private room?
  2. Does it offer medically assisted detox?
  3. Does it offer specialized programs for different groups (age or gender based, LGBT)
  4. Does the program address dual diagnosis issues?
  5. How close is the facility to your home, and will you need transportation?
  6. How qualified is the staff?
  7. Is the treatment center licensed?
  8. Is their approach evidence-based?
  9. Staff-patient ratio. The more staff per patient, the better the care.
  10. The length of the treatment programs.
  11. The quality of aftercare services.
  12. Inpatient vs. outpatient setting for treatment.
  13. Will you have access to email, phone or computers?
  14. Will your insurance cover payment and will it be enough?

Many treatment center programs operate their own aftercare programs, and the services can vary greatly. Always check what does an aftercare program includes, and if it will fit your needs, or not.

Sober Living Homes

These are typically apartments or houses that help people safely transition into the “real world”. A good sober home is a drug-free environment for people that dedicated themselves to a sober life.Although they don’t offer actual treatment and are not as strictly structured as inpatient rehab, they offer a lot more than a living environment. Many halfway or ¾ way houses provide recovery methods and 12-step programs. Every sober living home has its own house rules that need to be respected.

If you want to live in a sober house, you are expected to be self- sufficient and pay rent. You can also work or search for employment during your stay. In general, it is a cheaper alternative to a residential treatment center where you can invest in your own recovery.There are no limits on the length of stay, although many people stay for at least 90 days.

So, what are the benefits of living in a sober home?

  • Maintaining sobriety
  • Lower risk of relapse
  • Finding and keeping a job after recovery
  • Staying out of legal trouble
  • Safe environment free from triggers
  • Reconnecting with your friends and family

Not everyone needs to stay in a sober living home. But for many people, staying in a halfway house can decrease the chances of relapse.A sense of comradery and sober living can start here…and last for a lifetime.

Therapy and Counseling

The purpose of aftercare counseling is to create a supportive and comfortable environment where you can speak freely and openly about your feelings, struggles, and strengths during the recovery process. It is particularly beneficial for people diagnosed with dual diagnosis who are also suffering from some mental issue.

There are two types of talk therapy offered in alcohol aftercare programs:

1. Group counseling.

In a group therapy setting, you will share and listen to others’ experiences in a group of people recovering from alcohol addiction. This option is often less expensive, as you share the cost of therapy with those who attend.

2. Individual counseling.

In an individual therapy setting, you will meet one-on-one with a therapist to talk about yourself and your progress. Often, you set very personal goals during your sessions. Some people explore and resolve past trauma with a specialist.

Counselling sessions are initially held weekly in most cases, and as you progress, you will gradually reduce your attendance to one session in two weeks or one in a month.

Alternative Therapy

There are many types of alternative therapies available in long-term treatment of alcohol problems. Know that scientific evidence is still being collected for some of these modalities. However, some people swear by these treatments and speak anecdotally of their effectiveness. [4] Some of the forms of alternative therapy in alcohol aftercare include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Art therapy
  • Biofeedback therapy
  • Chiropractic care
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Contingency Management
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Equine therapy
  • Exercise programs
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Holistic Therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Neurofeedback
  • Nutrition therapy
  • Animal therapy

NOTE HERE: These therapies should only be part of a complete alcohol rehab treatment plan, and are used with the aim of maintain sobriety and improving overall well-being to the recovering person.

Support Groups

Most people are strongly encouraged to attend support group meetings.Support groups help you rebuild self-esteem and improve self-perception.These groups offer structured program of recovery and help you stay focused and motivated.

There is no admission process or specified length of participation.In general, meetings are hosted weekly, although you can decide to attend more than one group or meeting each week.

In a support group, members share experiences or concerns related with their addiction and recovery, provide each other with encouragement, comfort, and advice. All members have one aim: staying sober.

Most support groups are based on the 12-step program, which is spiritual in nature and created by the founders of AA, butthere are many alternatives for those who prefer a more secular foundation for treatment.Some of the most popular support groups include:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous, AA
  • Narcotics Anonymous, NA
  • Life Ring
  • SMART Recovery

Aftercare for Alcohol Abuse

For people in recovery, sobriety is a learned behavior. Abstinenceis maintained bymaking the rightdecisions and choices on daily basis. It is hard at the beginning, but as times passes and you learn new skills and strategies to cope with triggers it gets easier and new habits and routines are formed.

In addition to the therapies offered in your overall treatment plan, you can develop your own aftercare strategy.

So, what can you do, and when?

1-30 Days After Rehab

  • Be aware of the negative impulses and learn how to cope with them.
  • Create a daily routine.
  • Create a support network you can turn to when tempted.
  • Make a recovery plan with goals you want to achieve.
  • Search for a psychotherapist and begin to attend sessions.
  • Search a support group and attend at least 2 meetings a week.
  • Start exercising.

30 – 90 Days after Rehab

  • Create a recovery journal and record triggers and how you’ve handled them.
  • Go to career counseling.
  • Go to weekly therapy or counselling sessions.
  • Have weekly routines.
  • Keep on going to support meetings, minimum one weekly.

90 – 180 Days after Rehab

  • Find new hobbies.
  • Set up long-term financial goals.
  • Set up short-term and long-term goals.
  • Work on fixing your broken relationships.

180 – 365 Days after Rehab

  • Mark and celebrate 6 months and 1 year of sobriety.
  • Create personal, professional, and financialfive and ten-year plans.
  • Find motivational methods for success.
  • Help others in recovery.

What Happens if I Relapse During Aftercare?

Relapse: it can happen to anyone.

Unfortunately, relapse is very common among recovering alcoholics. Addiction is a lifelong battle in a world full of triggers and stresses.

So, what happens if you relapse? What can you do?

First, get right back into an active routine that’s focused on recovery. It’s important that you don’t give up. Instead, continue on the path of recovery. Persistence is the key. Even if you started drinking again, that doesn’t mean you can’t get back on the right track.

Then, know the difference between a slip and a relapse. A slip is an unplanned one-time event, while a relapse is a complete abandonment of the aftercare and recovery plan. If a slip turns into a relapse than you should immediately contact someone so they can help you get back to rehab.

Don’t hesitate to call us if you have relapsed. Our treatment advisors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to give you information about the next steps you can take.

Reference Sources:[1] National Institute on drug abuse: Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction
[2] NCBI:Outcome of Alcohol Dependence: The Role of Continued Care
[3] National Institute on drug abuse: Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction
[4] American Addiction Centers: Addiction Therapies for Treating Alcoholism

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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