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Aftercare: What Is It & Why Is It Important?

aftercare program

Aftercare is a vital part of the recovery process. Addiction does not simply end once a detoxification program is completed. An individual is not fully recovered even when their stint in a rehabilitation program is over. In fact, addiction never truly releases its grasp without continuous post-recovery programs.

What is Aftercare?

Detox and rehabilitation are important first steps in substance addiction recovery. The type, style, and length of the rehabilitation program will vary depending on the person. What doesn’t vary is the need for follow-up treatment that occurs once the initial rehabilitation program has been completed. That follow-up treatment is referred to as an aftercare program, continuing care program, or post-care recovery.

A post-rehabilitation program is meant to provide continued guidance. It gives the individual a place to turn to when they need additional help. Aftercare can sustain you as you begin to re-integrate into your daily life. It is a necessary experience that can be tackled alone or, more often, in a group setting.

What is the Purpose of an Aftercare Program?

Simply put, the purpose of post-rehabilitation programs is to prevent an individual from experiencing a re-occurence. It is a sad but true fact that re-occurence is a very real possibility after treatment has ended. In fact, some estimates place the number of individuals experiencing re-occurence at about 40 to 60 percent.

Re-occurences are much more likely to happen when those in recovery do not have a support system in place. Aftercare does not entirely remove the possibility of a re-occurence. Expecting that to be the case can cause very real frustration on the part of the individual and their loved ones. More accurately, post-rehab care helps those living with addictions find ways to create a structured life without substances. It helps them to maintain long, full, and fulfilling lives that do not rely on outside stimulants.

The National Institutes on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, state that the longer the recovery period lasts, the more likely an individual is to stay drug free. Aftercare can be viewed as an extension of the recovery period that has an indefinite end.

Aftercare can be viewed as an extension of the recovery period that has an indefinite end.

What Can Be Expected During After Care?

Just as treatment does not necessarily follow the same protocol for each individual, aftercare must be tailored to fit the patient’s needs. It may involve a method of managing impulses and cravings. It may be a series of steps taken when the patient finds that they may be slipping. Sometimes it is more about preventing those triggers that lead to substance abuse than it is about managing urges when they appear. After care is often a combination of many different techniques.

Some of the benefits and skills learned from after care include:

  • Coping mechanisms
  • Skills to help fight cravings
  • Social engagement
  • General well-being

Post-care programs are not purely composed of mental and emotional processes. Substance use and addiction can take a severe toll on the human body. Care must include steps that help the body to recover along with the mind.

Some individuals may find that exercise helps to clear their minds while also invigorating the body. Yoga is a popular choice due to its restorative nature. Others might find great success from walking, running, biking or swimming. Likewise, a healthy diet and sleep schedule is an important part of recovery. These are not actions that can replace group therapy, individual therapy or 12 step programs, but they can serve as excellent supplements.

programs for aftercare

What Are Different Types of Aftercare?

The after care program must be planned well in advance. The patient should leave rehabilitation, in whatever form it takes, knowing that recovery will continue. This will help them feel more confident, stick with the plan longer, and have less fear about facing each day.

Some individuals may benefit the most from continued outpatient therapy. They might feel that continuing to have individual therapy sessions is the right choice for managing life after rehabilitation. This could be either a long or short-term plan.

Group therapy is a very popular and useful tool. These sessions allow individuals to talk through their struggles and experiences with others who can truly empathize with the recovery process. Group therapy is often part of a 12 step program, though many individuals prefer to be part of multiple groups.

Sometimes group therapy begins while the individual is still taking part in the rehabilitation program. This is one of the best methods of group therapy because individuals are already familiar with the program and other individuals in the group.

What Are Some Misconceptions About Aftercare?

Some believe that a post-recovery program is a cure for addiction. This is simply not the case. Care of this nature helps individuals but they must do the work every day in order to continue having a successful recovery.

Some also think that aftercare programs have an end date. Post-rehabilitation care never truly ends. Over time, the steps taken to heal the mind and body from addiction becomes a regular part of one’s life. Some may continue going to group therapy sessions indefinitely. Others may find that spiritual services, yoga, or meditation techniques are part of their necessary care program.

Aftercare Programs at Integrative Life Center

ILC has aftercare programs that benefit those in every stage of recovery. We are very proud of our weekly alumni meetings. While we do use the term ‘alumni’, ILC clients are encouraged to attend these weekly meetings from their very first day. These weekly meetings help clients build community and connections with others. 

We also offer special events for our alumni – we love celebrating recovery together through in-person and virtual events.

We also encourage our alumni to find additional support groups. Spiritual groups are the right choice for some. Others prefer 12-step groups. Regardless of the type of group that is chosen, it is important to attend a group at ILC along with outside groups for a fully-realized aftercare program.


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