Drug rehab aftercare programs are follow-up treatments and therapies offered to people who have graduated from an intensive drug rehab treatment program. Studies published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicate that people who complete a drug rehab treatment program are more likely to remain abstinent and have a reduced risk of relapse.
Just as with customized rehab programs, there is no single aftercare program that will be right for everyone. The right post-rehab aftercare program should be tailored to suit each person’s individual needs throughout their personal journey to recovery.
What Is Post-Rehab Aftercare?
It’s common for many people to assume that recovering from drug or alcohol addiction means just getting through the detox period and they’ll somehow be “cured.” What those people often don’t realize is that detox is just the first step in the recovery process. The real recovery process begins after detox is complete.
Detox only eliminates the effects of the substance from the body. Yet on its own, detox does nothing to address the psychological triggers behind addictive behaviors.
Specialized drug rehab treatment programs work to address those psychological triggers and reasons. Counseling sessions begin working to develop strong relapse prevention strategies designed to reduce the risk of returning to self-destructive patterns of behavior after leaving rehab.
However, when a person does leave rehab, it doesn’t mean that treatment ends. Far too many people complete an addiction rehab treatment program only to return home to people, places, or situations that already proved to be triggers for substance abuse problems.
The Importance of Post-Rehab Care
It’s important that recovering people have access to ongoing rehab aftercare treatment programs that provide support and motivation to maintain the new skills, coping mechanisms, and daily routines they learned in drug rehab, even after they return to independent living.
Studies show that commitment to an addiction aftercare program increases the likelihood of remaining sober. While there is a broad number of different programs and resources available to people in recovery after leaving rehab, every person reacts differently to certain inputs.
The key to finding the correct combination of aftercare programs and ongoing support resources is to discuss your individual needs with an addiction care specialist. Attend multiple aftercare program options and make a commitment to continue participating in those that provide positive results.
What Happens in Drug Rehab Aftercare?
There are a number of different types of post-rehab aftercare programs available. The majority of intensive inpatient rehab treatment programs provide a large selection of different therapies in an effort to ensure people always have access to the support they need through recovery.
Some common rehab aftercare programs include:
Outpatient Follow-Up Rehab Programs
Spending an extended period of time residing in an inpatient rehab center helps instill new habits and skills for living a sober life after treatment, but most people still need ongoing therapy and support when they leave treatment.
Outpatient drug rehab programs still require the recovering person to check in with addiction specialists to attend counseling sessions or other treatment programs.
Some programs may require attendance every day, while others may only require that the person checks in a few times per week. When sessions are complete, the recovering person is able to return home again.
Sober Living Homes
Sometimes called halfway houses, sober living homes provide temptation-free accommodation that allows recovering people to continue putting their newly learned skills and daily routines to good use.
Many people leaving rehab struggle with the idea of returning to their former homes, as those places and people could be considered triggers for substance abuse. Choosing to live temporarily in a sober living community allows recovering people to develop new daily routines without the need for drugs or alcohol.
There are many instances where people may need to attend ongoing individual therapy sessions that continue the work started while in rehab. Depending on the person’s needs, counseling sessions might be once a week or several times a week.
Aside from continuing to address some of the underlying psychological triggers behind addictive behaviors, counseling can also help to strengthen and reinforce relapse prevention strategies learned in rehab. Some people may require further counseling to work on anger management skills or grief management skills, while others may have other personal issues to work through in their private individual sessions.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
The majority of people leaving an intensive rehab treatment program will have been introduced to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Even after leaving rehab, attending CBT sessions can provide short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatments that help people focus on problem-solving and finding positive ways to change behavioral patterns or patterns of thinking.
Traditional 12-step group meetings, such as Addicts Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are perhaps among the most well-known addiction support groups available. Continued participation in group support meetings helps maintain motivation to stay sober and reduces the risk of relapse.
There are non-12-step programs available that are sometimes referred to as self-help programs. Many such organizations provide group meetings and peer support in addition to offering a broad range of self-help tools and resources, such as SMART Recovery. These can be used in conjunction with other meetings and counseling sessions to provide additional support.
Dual Diagnosis Support
Recovering people with a dual diagnosis may require ongoing support for their specific needs. Regular medication management and counseling sessions can provide an ongoing level of integrated aftercare support, particularly during early recovery.
Dual diagnosis group support meetings provide an opportunity to meet with like-minded people dealing with the same recovery challenges. Regular attendance at meetings reduces isolation and helps develop new peer connections.
Job Skills Training or Study Programs
Some people leaving rehab may have financial difficulties or may have low employment skills. Committing to job skills training or enrolling into study programs provides positive outlets for creating new social connections away from people associated with substance use. Learning new job skills or studying for a new vocation also improves financial circumstances and enhances self-esteem.
Lots of recovering people find that continuing to keep up with some of the alternative therapies learned in rehab can help them stay motivated after leaving rehab. Most alternative therapies focus on providing natural ways to manage cravings and control urges, along with providing healthy ways to relieve stress and reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression without the need for drugs or alcohol.
Joining a group yoga class or meditation session can help develop new social networks and maintain physical health at the same time as relieving stress. Participating in exercise programs maintains fitness and physical health levels and provides a natural way of releasing endorphins.
Preparing for Discharge from Rehab
During an intensive drug rehab treatment program, recovering people are taught a range of new coping skills and tools designed to help them maintain abstinence after being discharged. Before they leave the rehab program, addiction care specialists work to customize the right aftercare options to suit each person’s needs.
Aside from the specific types of rehab aftercare programs mentioned in this article, some other options might include:
- Job placement assistance
- Educational lectures or courses
- Social events
- Leisure activities
The objective of all aftercare programs is to provide support and guidance through the recovery process to reduce the risk of relapse.
How Long Do You Need to Attend Aftercare Programs
The actual length of time needed for any drug aftercare program will vary for different people. Some may require intensive outpatient rehab or counseling sessions for a longer period of time, while others may find that regularly attending group meetings and participating in self-help groups is sufficient to keep them motivated.
Only the individual person, with help and advice from addiction care specialists, counselors, and family members, can decide which combination of aftercare programs is likely to be most suitable for their needs. Each type of program offers a range of physical and mental health benefits, so it’s important to investigate and participate in various options to assess how effective they might be for each person’s recovery path.
Making a commitment to a drug rehab aftercare program can significantly reduce the risk of relapsing back into self-destructive patterns of behavior. Aftercare programs are designed to help people in recovery learn effective new coping skills and strong new relapse prevention strategies that allow them to engage in a healthy, productive life without the need for drugs or alcohol long into the future.