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The Importance of Rehab Aftercare

Drug rehab aftercare refers to continuing treatment offered to the recovering addict after the completion of residential rehab. Aftercare programming can vary greatly depending on the needs of the addict in recovery, but at least some participation in aftercare must be considered a priority, and families should be very wary of considering a rehab facility that does not offer continuing care after release.

The initial period after release from a facility, and back into an environment of temptation and access to drugs and alcohol, is fraught with the risk of relapse, and continuing case management helps to guide addicts through this initially very dangerous period, and throughout the very risky first year of sobriety.

Drug rehab aftercare may mean 2 or 3 weekly group sessions within the rehab environment with other recovering addicts newly released into temptation, and it may also include weekly sessions with a psychologist or therapist to continue working through a recovery and relapse prevention plan, and to develop plans to best apply the lessons of rehab to the realities of life on the outside.

Some recovering addicts may have a need for more intensive and intrusive drug rehab aftercare programming, and for some, aftercare may mean access to safe and sober housing and some form of supervision and management in this housing (halfway house), it may mean work release or supervised employment opportunities or other forms of social assistance designed to minimize the life stresses that can increases the probability of relapse.

At the most intensive level, aftercare may mean a continuing live in presence within the rehab facility, and some patients have the opportunity to work as recovery guides within the facility; in exchange for room and board, a nominal salary, and continuing access to the therapeutic and safe environment of rehab.

Patients with dual mental health diagnosis' have the greatest need for continuing case management, and often the above described rehab aftercare programming will be combined with the efforts of a public health case worker, who checks in on the recovering addict to ensure compliance with medications, and to intervene should any problems arise.

What Type of Aftercare Is Needed?

The severity and length of the addiction that preceded recovery, as well as the mental health of the patient and the degree of family and other support networks in place determine the level of aftercare programming required.

While obviously a recovering addict needs and wants to move forwards with their life, the participation in continuing aftercare recovery programs is the best way to increase the probability of long term success.

At a minimum, recovering addicts should continue to attend peer group recovery sessions and intermittent therapy sessions with an addictions professional or psychologist. These need not take place with the residential rehab environment, but many recovering addicts prefer to continue working with the people who have already earned their trust, and with whom they have developed a comfortable working relationship.

These group and private sessions allow addicts to continue to express their recovery needs amongst like minded recovering addicts, and to discuss how best to integrate the lessons of rehab into their newly drug and alcohol free lives. Private sessions are very beneficial, and recovering addicts can continue to develop and modify a recovery plan in response to newly emerging stresses and challenges to recovery, and develop recovery plans modified to meet the current and changing realities of their recovery. The lessons of rehab need continual reinforcement, and for many addicts, a life free from use means a completely changed existence on all levels of their personal and professional lives. Recovering addicts undergoing a life disruption of this magnitude benefit from continuing care and guidance.

For recovering addicts with a dual diagnosis of mental health issues, aftercare programming is particularly vital. Depending on the severity of the mental illness, standard aftercare programming may or may not be sufficient. Patients with serious mental health challenges often benefit from participation in normal aftercare proceedings, but with the inclusion of a community case worker who helps the transition back into the environment, ensures pharmaceutical compliance, and intervenes when relapse occurs or seems imminent. Patients with mental health challenges need continuing medical care as they continue their recovery from addiction.

The Advantages of Comprehensive Aftercare

Some recovering addicts may benefit from more comprehensive aftercare services. Patients without access to sober or secure housing may need to enroll within a program that provides access to safe, supervised and secure housing.

These halfway style houses ease the transition out of the rehab environment by allowing the recovering addict to participate in work and social environments, but allowing for continued access to safe and sober housing, and continued access to the support services they need.

The most comprehensive aftercare sometimes comes in the form of continuing to reside within the rehab facility but with freedom of access outside of the facility. Some addicts may be allowed to continue to participate within the community and take on recovery supervisory and other work roles in exchange for room and board within the facility, and often a nominal salary. The greatest benefit of a work stay program is continued and regular access to the therapy as offered and continued residence in a safe and sober environment.

The degree of aftercare required will depend on the individual needs of the addict in recovery, but all recovering addicts benefit from aftercare, and the longer and more intense the participation in aftercare, the better the prognosis for long term sobriety. Aftercare starts with the development of a recovery plan while in residential rehab, and through working with the addictions professionals within the facility, the relative need for aftercare can best be assessed, and the safest options recommended.

Although many addicts emerge from rehab full of hope and optimism, the recidivism rates demand inclusion in aftercare to sustain that optimism into a reality of sober living.

Rehab is a giant step towards recovery, but recovery remains an ongoing process, and never ends when a patient walks out of a month of rehab. Aftercare in drug rehab provides the continuing support needed to increase the likelihood of success and sobriety. The degree of aftercare support offered should be a consideration when evaluating the relative merits of prospective drug rehab environments.

Aftercare Begins while in Rehab

The initial basis of an aftercare plan begins while the recovering addict still remains in residential treatment. The first days and weeks of release are the period of greatest risk for relapse, and while rehab is considered a transitional period, part of this transition is the development of an effective and comprehensive plan of action for release.

Recovering addicts leaving as facility need to have a recovery plan at the ready with locations of meetings, sober environments and phone numbers of sober people and councilors on hand, and must have a comprehensive plan of action that includes how best to fill free time and when to attend after care meetings and other support based organizations.

Longer term planning for release should include the continuing participation in aftercare therapy, the plan for employment and housing, safe recreational activities and relationship planning, including an awareness of those relationships that need to be severed as they present too great a risk of relapse.

Without a comprehensive plan of action and schedule of activities, both therapeutic and otherwise, the initial period of release is far too dangerous, and relapse is unacceptably likely.

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