There is no doubt that addiction is one of the most insidious diseases on the planet. It is a disease that can completely transform a person into a shell of themselves, while also harming those they love. Addiction is not a curable disease, but it can be treated with the appropriate professional care. Someone who struggles with an active addiction can easily succumb to their disease at any moment. However when addiction treatment is obtained, those who have substance use disorders can learn how to manage them all while abstaining from using drugs or alcohol in the future.
For some, the recovery journey begins in a high-level addiction treatment program such as a residential treatment program. Others may begin their care in an outpatient program. Regardless of where somebody begins in their recovery, it is critical for them to have a sound and sturdy aftercare plan that they can follow when they leave the comforts of treatment. Studies show that those who participate in aftercare exercises are more likely to stay sober and avoid relapse than those who do not. For some, aftercare is something that they focus on heavily in the beginning stages of their recovery and then slowly step back from. Others, however, continue to practice aftercare skills for the rest of their life in order to maintain their sobriety and the recovery they have continually worked so hard for.
What is Addiction Aftercare?
When a client finishes their treatment program prior to leaving and returning back to their everyday life, they will work with the team they have established at the treatment center to develop an effective aftercare plan that meets their unique needs. Depending on each client, their aftercare program may be highly structured or may have a looser structure. Following an aftercare plan is absolutely vital, especially upon completing treatment at a facility.
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What to Expect From an Addiction Aftercare Plan
What kinds of things are included in an addiction aftercare plan? Of course, every client is different, so not every aftercare plan is going to look like the next. But in general, the following things are often involved in most aftercare plans:
- Daily structure — Clients can benefit from developing a general, daily schedule for themselves that provides them with structure and support, especially in the beginning days, weeks and months of their recovery. For example, a client’s daily schedule might include breakfast, work, lunch break, exercise, therapy, time with family, and so on. Having a daily schedule written out can take the guesswork out of figuring out how the day is going to be executed.
- Mental health resources – Prior to a client leaving their treatment program, it is helpful to have a therapist and an idea of what support groups within their community they would like to attend as they gain their footing in the real world. A therapist can provide individual therapy sessions and can also be there for individuals if they feel like they might be slipping or need an additional session to get back up on their feet. Local support groups like 12-Step groups, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous are excellent mental health resources, for they offer everyone involved a safe space to talk about their feelings, listen to the testimonies of others, learn from each other, and gain hope.
- Relapse prevention skills – All clients transitioning back into their everyday lives should have a set of relapse prevention skills that keep them from drinking or using drugs in the future. These skills have likely been developed over time within treatment, however even simply writing down those skills and putting a small list in your purse or wallet can make a huge difference in preventing a relapse. Therefore, discussing and determining how to implement these relapse prevention skills is something that clients can work on with their team of therapists and counselors prior to completing their treatment program.
- Relapse plan – Before a client leaves treatment, they must face the possibility that even with all their hard work, they still may experience a relapse in their future. Relapse certainly does not equal failure, but having a plan for what to do in the event a relapse occurs is absolutely vital to help maintain recovery. Therefore, working with therapists and counselors at the treatment center to develop a plan for what to do if the client relapses is extremely important. This plan can include who to contact in an emergency, the number of the treatment facility, the numbers of the client’s physician and mental health care provider, along with any other information that the client feels important to disclose in the event of a relapse.
All aftercare plans are not made equal, but a client can expect to have these and other elements included into their own personal aftercare plan so that they can continue to build upon a foundation of recovery that will keep them on the right track for as long as possible.