The Importance of Aftercare

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Nobody ever intends to become addicted to alcohol or drugs. In fact, many people don’t realize they’ve even become addicted until they begin to experience withdrawal symptoms in the times between fixes. Unfortunately, by the time chemical dependency has occurred, it’s often too late to simply stop using mind-altering substances. By this point, some type of treatment, such as our Utah outpatient program for addiction, is required to help the individual regain his or her sobriety.

When it comes to addiction recovery, there are many misconceptions and misunderstandings. Many people who are less familiar or knowledgeable about the recovery process assume that all anyone needs to do to overcome an addiction is going to rehab for about a month; however, that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are many different recovery resources available because each individual who suffers from addiction has his or her own unique recovery needs. Further, many individuals will find that the optimal recovery experience entails mixing and matching different types and levels of recovery treatment, beginning with something like our Utah outpatient program for addiction and proceeding with aftercare.

But what exactly is aftercare? Why is it an important part of the recovery process and what role doesn’t it play in a person’s recovery journey?

What exactly is aftercare?

Typically, we associate addiction treatment with some type of inpatient or outpatient care. After all, overcoming addiction to alcohol or drugs requires extensive counseling as well as a combination of group therapies and complementary integrative treatment modalities. But the journey of recovery doesn’t end with the completion of an initial treatment program. In fact, it’s often said that the real work involved in the recovery process begins after an individual has completed his or her treatment program. Whether you’re in a twelve-step support group or our Utah outpatient program for addiction, there’s often a need for various recovery resources after sobriety has been achieved. This continued recovery support is what’s referred to as aftercare.

In the most straightforward sense, aftercare is a form of care that continues beyond the point of completing the initial treatment program. Although aftercare can consist of different treatments and resources for each person, the general idea is the same: The individual continues to utilize certain resources beyond the completion of treatment so as to reinforce and safeguard his or her newfound sobriety. As such, aftercare is often a crucial part of an individual’s recovery planning, which tends to occur during the initial intake process and involves creating a tentative outline or plan for one’s recovery journey. Much like a patient’s treatment curriculum is customized to accommodate his or her own needs and circumstances, a patient’s aftercare plan involves utilizing certain resources that will best mitigate any risk factors that might lead to relapse in the future.

Why aftercare is important

If recovery was as straightforward and simple as some people think, a person would simply complete a treatment program, go home, and have no problem staying sober. Unfortunately, that’s not usually how it works out. Many of the situational and circumstantial factors that serve to keep people in active addiction become potential contributors to relapse once they’ve completed treatment and gotten sober. For instance, peer group would be a major risk factor for relapse for someone who developed an addiction due to having lots of peers who abuse alcohol or drugs; in this case, the individual’s aftercare should reinforce his or her sobriety by providing strategies or resources that prevent substance-abusing peers from causing a relapse.

Research has shown that it’s quite common for individuals to require multiple attempts at recovery before sobriety becomes sustainable for the long-term. This means that relapse is a common occurrence. In most cases, relapse occurs when an individual is provoked in some way, whether that means he or she encounters a substance abuse trigger or is put in a situation that he or she has come to associate with alcohol or drug use. Whatever the situation might be, the individual should have certain strategies and resources available to him or her that will minimize or even eliminate the possibility that he or she would relapse. These resources are collectively referred to as aftercare and serve as an essential part of a person’s lasting success in recovery.

Options for aftercare

As mentioned above, aftercare is quite like an addiction treatment program in that it’s individualized and tailored to a person’s specific circumstances and needs. In fact, there are quite a variety of different resources that can be incorporated into a person’s aftercare plan for when he or she has completed our Utah outpatient program for addiction.

One of the most common resources that are incorporated into aftercare planning is support programs like twelve-step and other peer-led recovery groups. The reason that support groups are such a popular aftercare tool is due to the importance of social support. While peers can be a negative influence when it comes to the development of a substance abuse problem, peers can conversely be a positive influence on one’s recovery. By joining support groups or recovery fellowships, individuals who have completed treatment can make sure they’re surrounding themselves with peers who are not only understanding and sympathetic to recovery, they’ve personally experienced it and, therefore, can provide immense insight and support.

Another common resource individuals utilize as part of aftercare is counseling. Particularly for individuals who have completed our Utah outpatient program for addiction, it’s always a good idea to seek additional counseling. Beyond being beneficial for general mental wellness, outpatient programs afford a slightly lesser intensity of curriculum, so pursuing additional counseling as part of one’s aftercare plan will serve to reinforce much of what was learned and achieved as part of treatment.

There are many other forms of aftercare available besides support groups and counseling. Outreach programs have become a popular and highly-recommended form of aftercare since being of service to others can be a great way to derive a sense of purpose and fulfillment from life. Additionally, it simply feels good to be of value to others and help them overcome the obstacles they face. Further, many addiction treatment centers offer alumni programs that can also serve as aftercare by helping patients to remain in contact with one another.

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