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What is Aftercare For Addiction Treatment?

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

February 28, 2021 (Originally Published)

November 16, 2023 (Last Updated)

Table of Contents

Going to an addiction treatment facility is the first and of course, the most important step for many in their recovery from addiction. This is just the first step in a long journey. The 30 to 90 days most spend in Rehab is usually just the first period of many years that will follow in recovery. Most people find that after they’ve been wrapped in up in addiction for years or even decades, a short stint of 2-3 months in Rehab has only cleansed their bodies of the substances. The real recovery process begins in what is called “aftercare.”  Aftercare for addiction treatment may include several things, including:

  • Intensive Outpatient Treatment – or “IOP,” a process where people are under supervision but are allowed to leave the facility to attend treatment programs, job training, etc.
  • Partial Hospitalization Program – or ‘PHP,” refers, as the name implies, where the patient is in a hospital setting for part of the time and attends treatment elsewhere at different intervals.
  • Sober Living Homes – These are sometimes called “halfway houses” although that term is completely wrong as it actually refers to supervised release from jail – which of course, is something else entirely.

Simply put, adjusting to life after rehab is extremely challenging, and after being removed from the rehab routine, it is essential to continue one’s addiction treatment using one or more of the options listed above. Although most facilities are hush-hush about relapse rates after Rehab, it is safe to say that more than half (and up to 70%+) will relapse after Rehab without further treatment. Luckily, many programs, organizations, and resources are out there to help recovering alcoholics move on to a life of sobriety.  

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Programs and Organizations for Aftercare for Addiction Treatment

Facility-Based Programs

Many rehab facilities operate their own aftercare for addiction treatment programs. The scope of these programs varies tremendously. Examples of aftercare services some rehab facilities provide include sober-living arrangements, follow-up therapy, medical evaluations, and alumni support groups. While most rehabs are very good at letting patients know what aftercare services are available, it is best to contact them if you are unsure.

Sober Living Homes

A sober living home is a residential facility for individuals recovering from substance abuse. Some are affiliated with rehab facilities and government organizations, but the majority operate independently. Sober living homes are found across the United States, but most are based on the West Coast, particularly California. Sober living homes have been proven to increase the likelihood that recovering alcoholics will remain sober, as shown in many studies. While most sober living homes are designed for temporary residence of less than a year, some offer longer-term options. Some sober living homes have a leader who creates the rules and enforces them, while others operate more collectively and democratically. Both models have proven effective, and which one is “best” depends on the individual in question. While every sober living home operates under a different set of guidelines, most share some characteristics in common, including a promise by all residents to remain sober, abiding by certain curfews, and sharing certain expenses. Most sober living homes have stricter guidelines for new residents, that are gradually lessened the longer the individual lives in the home.

Therapy and Counseling

Aftercare for addiction treatment always includes therapy and counseling sessions which are held daily (sometimes multiple times a day) in inpatient rehab facilities. These are perhaps the most critical part of the process. Continuing therapy and counseling after leaving rehab are equally critical. It is generally advised for newly sober former alcoholics to attend weekly sessions, gradually reducing frequency to bi-weekly and monthly as time goes on and their sobriety is more secure. Therapy and counseling are especially important for alcoholics with a dual diagnosis with an additional mental health condition, who need treatment for both. There are many types of therapy available. Some of the most popular for the treatment of alcoholism include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Faith-Based Drug Rehab
  • Holistic Therapy

Support Groups

It is strongly recommended that all recovering alcoholics regularly attend support groups, especially early in sobriety. Support groups are groups of recovering alcoholics (and other substance abusers) and sometimes their families who meet and discuss shared issues. These issues range from how they came to realize they needed to get sober to how specific alcoholism treatment medications impact them. Support groups provide a number of benefits, including offering a judgment free atmosphere where members feel understood, giving a sense of stability and people to fall back on in hard times, and being a source of advice and information. The vast majority of support groups are classified as 12-Step programs. These programs generally break down recovery into steps that all members are expected to follow. 12-Step programs are modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, by far the best known and most widely attended substance abuse group in the world. While Alcoholics Anonymous in particular and 12-step programs in general are the most popular support groups, many others are available for individuals who feel a different approach would work best for them. Although it is difficult to accurately gauge the success rate of individual groups, studies have shown that regularly attending a support group substantially increases the likelihood that a recovery alcoholic will remain sober.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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