Addiction specialists widely understand that recovering from an addiction, and healing from its effects on the mind and body, takes time. That’s why aftercare can be very useful.
Aftercare recovery programs offer long-term, ongoing support following an intensive treatment program, such as inpatient or residential rehabilitation (rehab).
Addiction aftercare can strengthen your commitment to recovery and connect you with resources capable of helping you build a successful and fulfilling future.
What Is An Aftercare Program?
Aftercare refers to a form of treatment planning that occurs just before or after the completion of an intensive treatment program, such as residential treatment.
Essentially, this involves creating a plan for what’s to come after detox or rehab, with the understanding that continued structure and support is important to long-term recovery.
Often, this will include coordination for outpatient substance abuse treatment, as well as housing arrangements and other mental health or social service needs.
Goals of aftercare include:
- stabilization: Ensuring continued stabilization, as it concerns housing, physical health status, mental health, and outpatient care coordination
- health: Promoting behaviors, activities, and lifestyle choices that support your continued recovery and treatment goals
- skill development: Providing support to help you further develop and nurture coping skills you’ve learned throughout the treatment process
- support system: Building a strong and reliable support network to aid your treatment and recovery process
- relapse prevention: Providing skills development opportunities and resources to prevent relapse in early recovery.
Aftercare planning can be short-term or long-term, based on your individual needs. These programs can last weeks, months, or over a year in total duration.
What Does Aftercare Look Like?
Aftercare is a customizable treatment plan for addiction recovery that’s developed according to the needs of those on the road to recovery.
These continuing care programs work to meet you where you are in the treatment and recovery process, with consideration for factors such as travel and scheduling needs.
Common types of aftercare include:
Alumni Support Programs
Some drug treatment centers offer recovery support programs for former rehab clients. These are sometimes referred to as alumni organizations.
Often, this is offered with the goal of helping people remain connected to the rehab facility, should they need additional care, and a peer support network.
Alumni support programs may offer:
- recovery support groups
- weekly or monthly sober events
- online support options (e.g. social media groups, message boards)
- contact information for on-demand professional support
- phone or in-person follow-ups to check in
Sober living is a type of housing program intended specifically for people who are in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction.
By offering a secure, drug-free living environment, sober living homes can be beneficial for people who lack stable housing, and those at high risk for relapse outside of a treatment facility.
Sober living offers a stable environment with access to ongoing support. This can offer a safe space for you to practice utilizing coping and recovery skills you’ve learned during treatment.
Halfway housing is similar to sober living in that it can offer stable, secure, drug-free housing for people with addiction.
Unlike sober living, halfway houses are specifically intended for people with a criminal background whose housing options may be limited.
Self-help programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (NA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) can offer regular, ongoing support for people in recovery.
Principles of AA and NA are utilized in most 12-step programs, which offer structured, guided steps for healing from the physical, mental, and spiritual effects of addiction.
Benefits of support groups include:
- connecting you with others in recovery
- providing a safe place to discuss your substance use history
- helping you learn new coping skills
- helping you remain accountable to meeting your treatment goals
- offering peer support
In addition, there are also support group options that exist for family members, or other loved ones who have been affected by substance use disorder. These can be similarly helpful.
Case management services serve to help you navigate what comes after completing a treatment program. A case manager can be an important ally and asset to your addiction recovery process.
Case management may involve:
- finding housing options
- identifying outpatient treatment options
- treatment referrals
- job assistance
- finding childcare
A case manager will check in with you regularly, on a weekly or monthly basis, and continue to assess both your needs over time in order to adjust your aftercare plan accordingly.
Outpatient Treatment Programs
Outpatient programs such as intensive outpatient programs, partial hospitalization, and general outpatient programs can also be helpful after completing an intensive program.
Outpatient programs involve attending treatment, such as individual therapy and skills groups, for a predetermined set of time each week.
What this might look like:
- partial hospitalization programs (PHP): Also known as day treatment, this program involves attending treatment most weekdays and returning home at night.
- intensive outpatient programs (IOP): This program generally requires fewer hours than PHP. For example, a couple hours a day, or two to four days per week.
- general outpatient: Attending weekly therapy sessions, group therapy, and having regular visits with a medical doctor and/or psychiatrist.
- medication-assisted treatment: MAT is a combination of behavioral therapy and medication for people with opioid or alcohol use disorder to reduce cravings and support recovery.
Drug counseling, and mental health counseling for people with a co-occurring disorder, are a common form of long-term form addiction aftercare.
Counseling services can be helpful for months or even years after completing drug or alcohol rehab. This can help to address issues specific to a person’s experience with drugs or alcohol.
For instance, counseling may help to address:
- domestic issues
- relationship problems
- underlying trauma
- mental health
- financial problems
- legal issues
- grief or loss
Counseling services can be acquired through a variety of providers, such as a licensed clinical social worker, a psychologist, or a licensed addiction counselor.
What Are The Benefits Of Addiction Aftercare?
Research shows that continuing care, or aftercare, can offer a number of benefits for adolescents and adults who are on the road to addiction recovery.
- provide ongoing support
- reduce the risk of relapse
- teach important life and recovery skills
- connect you with social and healthcare services
- strengthen your commitment to recovery
- help you build a support system outside of drug rehab
Who Needs Addiction Aftercare?
Aftercare can be useful for anyone with a history of drug or alcohol abuse problems. This is especially true for people with chronic addiction or a co-occurring mental illness.
Aftercare programs may be helpful for:
- opioid use disorder
- alcohol abuse and addiction
- heroin addiction
- cocaine addiction
- meth addiction
- marijuana abuse
- prescription drug abuse
- dual diagnosis
Find An Aftercare Addiction Recovery Program Today
Aftercare can be a crucial component of the recovery process for people who are overcoming a years-long addiction, as well as others who are at a greater risk for relapse.
For more information about aftercare, and how to find aftercare options near you, call our helpline to speak to a treatment specialist today.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Recovery and Recovery Support
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Treatment and Recovery
- U.S. National Library of Medicine — Impact of Continuing Care on Recovery From Substance Use Disorder