In general, aftercare refers to the services a treatment center provides to its graduates. Typically these services attempt to meet a broad spectrum of needs that include various clinical services as well as providing some form of social networking. Data indicates that the more treatment one undergoes, the better chances they have of staying sober. Naturally, services must be tailored to meet the needs of each individual.
Graduation from an inpatient facility is an enormous step, fraught with a variety of concerns and stressors, and it is, therefore, necessary to select a drug treatment program whose services encompass every aspect of the treatment process. Aftercare services are comprehensive and take into account the entirety of our clients’ needs, which means that in addition to the ongoing therapeutic services they receive, graduates also receive referral services to outside agencies and resources, access to weekly alumni meetings, continued oversight of medications, continued one-on-one and family therapy, and sober living resources.
Of importance too is the nature of the community with which the graduating client participates. For most newly graduating residents it is important to establish relationships with individuals who are sober and who share both a common bond and a common goal. This element of treatment cannot be manufactured and is in some ways a reflection of the nature of the inpatient treatment they receive. Aftercare services are inextricably bound to the inpatient services they complement, and its broader community of recovering people is an organic outgrowth of the intimacy and care that is provided during primary care treatment.
An essential feature of aftercare services is aftercare planning. This is the clinical process that we apply to people who are transitioning from residential treatment into sober living. The purpose of the plan is to address issues that might infringe on the individual’s ability to stay in recovery. The program also includes strategies to continue addressing both psychiatric issues and dual diagnosis issues.
How Aftercare Planning Works
During residential treatment, each person is assigned a primary clinician and a primary substance abuse counselor. The primary clinician designs a personalized treatment plan, which is flexible but also defines specific treatment goals and what measures should be implemented to achieve these objectives. During day-to-day treatment, the assigned substance abuse counselor works with the individual to meet these goals while the primary clinician works to identify and resolve the underlying clinical issues that have contributed to the addictive process.
Near the end of treatment (Usually 1-2 weeks before discharge), the primary clinician begins to draft an aftercare plan for the client. This plan takes into consideration the following issues:
- Legal issues
- Social issues
- Housing needs
- Personal issues
- Financial needs
- 12-step proximity
- Family relationships
- Inter-relational issues
- Physical and psychiatric needs
- Vocational/educational issues
- Future accessibility to community resources
- Outline of anticipated problems and recommendations to deal with them
Input is gathered from physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, family therapists and substance abuse counselors, to create a comprehensive, individualized aftercare plan to accommodate the graduating resident. Once the treatment plan has been drafted, the primary clinician reviews the plan with the client, and recommendations for the future are made to address their unique continuing needs.
Why is Aftercare Important?
The reasons aftercare is so important include
- A study conducted by NIDA in 2003 determined that 30-day treatment centers were approximately 22-25% successful in treating addictions. The same recent study found that if clients transitioned from residential care into some form of aftercare for six months or more than the success rates increased to 65-70%.
- Most of the contributing factors that have played a role in each individual’s addictive process are waiting outside of the drug rehab center, untouched and largely unaffected by the personal progress that has taken place during the drug treatment process. If not properly addressed, these elements frequently derail the newly sober individual from the pathway of recovery.
- Many individuals enjoy a phase of euphoria during their first 60 or 90 days of sobriety. New philosophies, new ideas, and new goals seem readily accessible. However, assembling resources to achieve these goals often takes patience and time. Tasks as simple as filling out job applications, enrolling for classes, or greeting old friends can work collectively to discourage individuals in early recovery. This is a critical juncture of early recovery, and surmounting these hurdles requires both social support and clinical resources.
What we know about addiction is that physiological and psychological dependence identifies it. Drug treatment programs work first to establish a sober baseline and then impart coping mechanisms for dealing with the emotional crutch that addiction generates. To accomplish this, treatment centers provide new information about trigger identification and corresponding coping techniques so each individual can successfully navigate an array of life’s experiences without relying on drugs and alcohol to “carry them through.” However, these new coping strategies and techniques take practice and time to implement successfully. During this period of growth and experimentation, aftercare services provide the necessary assistance to bridge the gap between inpatient care and life outside of the treatment facility.