Most addicts need to undergo an inpatient medical detox process to slowly and safely wean their bodies off their drug (or drugs) of abuse. However, addiction aftercare is just as important as any stage of a treatment program, as it involves detailed planning for life after leaving the rehab facility.
The goal of addiction aftercare is to carefully examine an individual’s underlying reasons for becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. This involves not only in-depth therapeutic work but also educational components that help clients see addiction as a chronic disease. In addition, aftercare often progresses to outpatient treatment or to residency in a sober living community.
Of those who enter an addiction treatment program, around half will suffer a relapse at some point. However, the risk is greatest within the first couple of months after detox, so aftercare is scheduled around just the time when the person is most likely to relapse. Research on long-term sobriety shows a clear correlation between the increasing quality and availability of aftercare and the increasingly encouraging recovery rates of those who enter treatment programs.
Individual therapy involves systematic, careful examination of the addict’s past and how it relates to both present and future. For example, deeper reasons for abusing drugs or alcohol are explored, and the recovering addict is encouraged to find new coping mechanisms that help to reduce negative emotional experiences without the abuse of addictive substances.
Relapse triggers will also be discussed, and the therapist will help the addict build up a plan for coping with those triggers. Group therapy can also be very helpful, building supportive bonds and increasing accountability.
After the inpatient treatment stage, the recovering addict has several good options. For one thing, they may choose to move to a sober living community where they can have more freedom but still feel supported by others who are working to abstain from drugs or alcohol. Other people feel ready to move back to their home environment, but make a commitment to ongoing outpatient care (returning to the rehab center for further therapy, classes or educational programs).
Regardless of the route chosen in addiction aftercare, it is vital to enter into a lifelong commitment to AA or NA. With the help of a sponsor and regular meetings, recovering addicts know that they always have a place to discuss life’s stresses and an associated temptation to relapse.
Relapse prevention does not end when a person goes back to using drugs or alcohol. If someone you love is clearly struggling with an addiction after they return from treatment, you can plan an effective intervention in various ways. The intervention might be direct, indirect or forcible.
Direct confrontations involve friends or family directly talking to the addict about their substance abuse.
Indirect confrontations involve enlisting further help (e.g. a professional interventionist) to confront the addict.
Forcible interventions deny the civil liberties of the addict by getting someone like a doctor so admit the person to a treatment facility.
In addition, any of these intervention approaches can be tackled using a range of modalities. For example, the motivational interviewing process involves asking open-ended questions that lead the addict to recognize the negative consequences of their substance abuse pattern.
ARISE (A Relational Intervention Sequence of Engagement) advocates a three-phase program that begins with intervention meetings that detail the consequences of refusing treatment, moves on to the treatment process, then focuses on relapse prevention.