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What is Aftercare Program? | Why is Aftercare Important for Addiction Recovery?

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Even with the increase in talking about drug and alcohol addiction and treatment, there are still many people who assume that once someone completes a stay in rehab, they are finished with treatment and on their own. However, there are numerous ways that patients can, and should, stay involved in recovery programs after completing a rehab program in California. One of the most important aspects of drug and alcohol addiction treatment is aftercare. While in their treatment programs, patients should complete an aftercare plan that details what types of programs and support they will utilize to maintain their sobriety and recovery long-term.

What is Addiction Treatment Aftercare? 

Addiction treatment aftercare is any service or treatment that is designed to help people who have completed an addiction program remain clean and sober. Aftercare is extremely important because early sobriety is a vulnerable time for most people who are in recovery. The chances of relapse are very high at the point when people are trying to re-enter their daily lives. The main goal of aftercare programs is to keep people firmly rooted in their recovery, to maintain all the life and coping skills they learned in rehab, as they transition back into home life. The services, which can range from alumni programs at treatment facilities to therapy to 12-step meetings, are viewed as continuing treatment, with no specific end date. With continuing treatment and an effective aftercare plan, an individual’s chances of relapsing decrease.

Who Needs a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Aftercare Program?

Anyone who attends a drug and alcohol addiction treatment program needs aftercare when they graduate from treatment. It doesn’t matter if they have attended an inpatient or outpatient program, as they transition back to daily life, continued support is needed to maintain their recovery. While in a treatment program, individuals will work with a counselor to determine what the best type of aftercare is for their personal situations. Some newly sober individuals may need to consider a sober living house while others may go home but continue therapy, it just depends on the individual and their circumstances. 

What Are the Elements of Aftercare Programs? 

There are various activities, meetings, and resources that can be helpful parts of an aftercare plan. Specific activities will vary by individual, as what works for one person in recovery, may not be as effective for another. Each person has individual needs, so every aftercare plan may be different. However, there are some common elements that may be used when developing an individualized plan. Some of those common components include:

  • Transitioning into a partial hospitalization program (PHP) or intensive outpatient program (IOP)
  • Participating in the alumni aftercare program at the rehab facility
  • Moving into a sober living facility for a period of time 
  • Attending group or individual therapy 
  • Attending support meetings, like 12-step or other recovery meetings
  • Finding a sponsor or sober mentor
  • Establishing a personal support system of family and friends

While your plan may not include all of the above items, they are good choices to consider. As you get close to completing your treatment program, you will likely work with a therapist or other addiction professional to come up with an aftercare plan that is a good fit for your needs. 

What Happens in an Aftercare Program? 

The purpose of aftercare programs is to help people in recovery maintain long-term sobriety. The main objectives for doing so include: 

  • Helping individuals make healthy choices outside of the rehab setting. Newly sober individuals often have developed skills that work within a rehab program but may not know how to make good decisions when they get back home. Maintaining a connection to the recovery process will help them establish better decision-making skills away from the structured and predictable setting of rehab. 
  • Reinforcing coping skills for dealing with anxiety and stress. Early sobriety is a stressful time, no matter how much support a person has. In rehab, individuals will learn coping skills, but they often need reinforcing when they transition back to home life. 
  • Helping individuals identify and deal with triggers. There are certain people, places, and things that may trigger individuals to want to use drugs or drink alcohol. For people who are newly sober, going home may present triggers from their past that can make staying sober very difficult. Identifying such triggers and discussing how to cope with them is crucial to ongoing sobriety. 
  • Preventing relapse. Relapse prevention techniques are taught in-depth during addiction treatment. However, those techniques are not put into practice until an individual leaves the treatment facility. Aftercare programs will help people apply the skills they’ve learned to maintain sobriety. 
  • Providing individuals with support. Whether it’s a private therapist, group counseling, 12-step program, or an alumni group, an aftercare program provides support for the newly sober individual.  

What is the Cost of an Addiction Treatment Aftercare Program?

Aftercare programs that are part of residential or outpatient treatment programs typically don’t have extra costs, they are included with the longer, more intensive treatments. When aftercare is sought at other locations or through support groups, there is often no charge (for example, 12-step meetings have no dues or fees). However, if part of the aftercare program involves group or individual therapy, there may be a charge per session. 

Paying for Drug and Alcohol Treatment with Insurance

Most people who go to drug and alcohol addiction treatment use their health insurance to cover part of the cost. Whether it pays for all or some of the cost of treatment depends on the specific policy. You can find out about your coverage by contacting your insurance provider and asking what your benefits cover. If it doesn’t cover all of the costs, you will be responsible for paying the balance. Some treatment facilities will allow you to set up a payment plan so you can pay off the balance over time.

Covering the Cost of Drug and Alcohol Treatment without Insurance

If you don’t have medical insurance to help with treatment, don’t be discouraged, you still have options. If you can’t afford to pay for rehab upfront, you can try to find a treatment center that offers sliding scale pricing, financial aid, or scholarships to cover the cost. You can also investigate the low-cost and no-cost rehabs. You may have to be put on a waiting list to get in, but that’s better than not seeking any help at all. It may also be a good idea to ask supportive friends and family if they are willing to help you with the cost. They would like to see you get healthy just as much as you do.

Final Thoughts about Addiction Treatment Aftercare

Completing an inpatient or outpatient drug and alcohol treatment program is a huge accomplishment, but the work shouldn’t stop there. People are at a vulnerable point when they first leave recovery centers, and their chances of relapsing are more significant than ever. Because of this, aftercare programs are important to help with the transition from an inpatient rehabilitation facility back to their lives outside of rehab.

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