The Purpose of Aftercare

In general, addiction treatment programs can’t be completed in just a few hours or even a few weeks. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that residential or outpatient programs for addiction should last for 90 days or more, as programs that are finished sooner are of little effectiveness. For people who are addicted, a three-month stretch can seem like an eternity. After all, many of these people are accustomed to measuring time in intervals of hours, which might be the amount of time that elapses between their hits of drugs. They might be even more dismayed to hear that they’ll be expected to spend time in aftercare programs, and they might even need to participate in some form of treatment for the rest of their lives. It can be depressing to contemplate, but in reality, these programs can be so beneficial that participation could mean the difference between success in sobriety and a return to a drug treatment program.

Forming New Habits

Treatment programs can encase people in a bubble of sobriety in which everyone around them:
  • Is sober
  • Wants to stay sober
  • Discusses sobriety
  • Supports the sobriety of others

purpose of aftercareReturning to the “real world” outside of the treatment facility can be a bit of a shock to people like this. When they’re not engaged in the treatment program, they may be surrounded by people who use substances casually, and who offer intoxicating substances to people without thinking about the consequences in any way. They may go to parties where everyone is using drugs. They may even live with people who use and abuse drugs.

Maintaining sobriety in the face of relentless pressure is possible, but it takes willpower and professional techniques. Many of these tools can be picked up in therapy sessions, but the addict in recovery needs to put those tools into use each day without fail until it becomes a habit. In a study of the length of time people need in order to form good habits like this, in the European Journal of Social Psychology, researchers found that some people need a whopping 254 days in order to do things automatically without thinking about them. For an addict, this is a time of danger. The habits that supported the addiction are easier to access than those that support sobriety. An aftercare program can allow people to process their feelings and continue to hone their sobriety skills, allowing them to maintain a connection with treatment as they continue to form good habits.

A Sense of Community

assertive community treatmentAs mentioned, a treatment facility can provide people with a network of others who also struggle with issues of addiction and compulsion. It can be difficult for people to find this kind of community on their own, but an aftercare program can make this group a little easier for a person in recovery to find and utilize. For example, many aftercare programs encourage people to participate in support group meetings. Here, people meet with others in recovery and they learn how these other people manage their cravings and hope to stay on the right path in the future. They share stories, support one another and learn together. They may even have social opportunities through groups like this.

Participating in support groups like this might be fun and amusing, but participation can also be transformative for people in recovery from addiction. For example, according to a study in the journal Addiction, participating in support group meetings is associated with abstinence. Those who participate are more likely to be sober, while those who go less than once per week are more likely to relapse. As studies like this make clear, support groups aren’t just fun. They can help people to move forward with life.

Stopping a Fall

HelpThe relapse rates for addiction are high, with some studies suggesting that 25 to 50 percent of users relapse to use within about two years of treatment. While a relapse like this could mark a complete loss of sobriety, for some, the relapse is only transient. In essence, it marks a point at which the user needs a little more help. If left alone, a user might simply give up on the idea of sobriety and that person might return to full-time drug use. In an aftercare program, however, that person might have people to call upon for additional help. Perhaps a few touch-up sessions with a counselor could help to arrest the downward spiral, or maybe a few days more in formal rehab might help. By staying connected with therapy, people might be able to learn from a slip, instead of falling right back into disaster.

At Axis, we believe that aftercare is a vital part of the healing process, and we provide our clients with detailed plans they can use to stay sober when they leave our care. Some need to learn about support group meetings in their community, while others benefit from touch-up calls and counseling meetings. We also provide a lifetime of help, at no charge, for our clients, ensuring that they have the support they need to make our lessons of recovery stick. If you’d like to learn more, please call us.