When a person nears the end of a rehab program, they have already achieved a great deal. However, the fact that they are close to completing treatment in a residential or outpatient treatment center does not mean they are in any way “cured” of addiction. Addiction is a relapsing illness and so people remain at risk of returning to substance abuse even years after leaving rehab. A comprehensive substance abuse aftercare program helps to minimize this risk, keeping individuals moving forward on the road to a substance-free life.

According to research published by Psychiatric Services, the aftercare services made available to individuals leaving a substance abuse treatment center can have a significant influence on their recovery outcomes. Elevate Addiction Services offers a comprehensive aftercare program that includes holistic components designed to protect patients’ sobriety when transitioning from an inpatient treatment center to their homes. Aftercare provides vital support during a vulnerable time when individuals step back into their daily routines. New coping skills learned in a substance abuse treatment center can be implemented under the guidance of a therapist so that individuals are supported as they adapt to life without substance use.

Aftercare for Relapse Prevention

As mentioned above, addiction is now recognized as a relapsing illness. Some individuals with addiction and another mental health problem like depression or anxiety are more at risk of relapse than those dealing with substance abuse on its own. The primary objective of substance abuse aftercare is relapse-prevention which is achieved by offering continued counseling, behavioral and group therapy, holistic practices such as yoga and meditation and a range of other services based on the individual’s needs.

Patients on aftercare programs will have access to therapists, physicians, and counselors which provides another layer of accountability in recovery. Aftercare patients are able to monitor their progress by setting measurable goals under the guidance of a therapist and working to achieve them. Aftercare also provides real-time support in real-life situations so that recovering patients are able to reach out for help at the time they need it.

Research into substance abuse aftercare identifies the following components contribute to the most effective relapse-prevention:

  • Identifying triggers: Patients leaving a substance abuse treatment center have changed considerably from the person they were when they entered the inpatient or outpatient treatment center. Returning home can often feel like exploring new territory as people adjust to life without substances. As a consequence, they may face different triggers than before or may just not know what might make them feel as though they want to use again. Substance abuse aftercare ensures individuals have a platform to communicate their fears about the new triggers for substance abuse they face in recovery so that they can build defenses to them.
  • Learning how to cope with cravings: On leaving a substance abuse treatment center, individuals are faced with a lot of situations that they may not have addressed while they’ve been in either inpatient or outpatient treatment centers. Relationship issues can become “suspended” as people overcome addiction but they are likely to need resolving when patients return home. There are often significant lifestyle changes individuals have to make when they leave rehab such as finding new employment or rebuilding a career, which all carry a risk of making people feel emotionally vulnerable. For many, this can signal cravings for substances as individuals struggle to cope with their vulnerability and the uncomfortable feelings that come with it. Aftercare provides access to counseling and support groups who are there to help recovering patients cope with these high-risk situations. Holistic practices such as mindfulness and deep breathing have been shown to be very effective as coping mechanisms to protect sobriety.
  • Planning a recovery strategy: One of the important aspects of a substance abuse treatment program is introducing discipline into the lives of patients. Having a structure or daily routine is especially important for people leaving an inpatient treatment center as it ensures they are kept busy so they don’t dwell on things too much. Having too much free time is dangerous for a person adapting to sober living and so the structured sessions offered by aftercare are invaluable in boosting recovery outcomes. Aftercare therapists are able to plan recovery strategies with individual patients that are tailored to meet their personal objectives for long-term recovery.
  • Keeping a lapse from turning into a relapse: It is not uncommon for people to relapse after treatment because the risk is very high with substance abuse disorder. Aftercare is designed to support people who do lapse so that they don’t spiral back into addiction. Although recovering addicts aren’t encouraged to prepare for relapse when they’re in rehab, they are educated on the risks. Essentially, aftercare seeks to address lapses as and when they occur through various therapies like CBT, counseling, and meditation so that patients are able to cope better going forward.

If a person does relapse into addictive behaviors once they have left an inpatient treatment center, an aftercare program can help them understand and assess the situation. Understanding why a person has reverted back to substance abuse is a step in the right direction towards helping them overcome this more intense kind of relapse. The most important objective of aftercare is ensuring individuals have the support through any negative situations they find themselves in and to protect their sobriety above anything else.