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What Are Aftercare Services in Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Treatment?

The time following treatment is one of the riskiest and most challenging times for individuals trying to build lives in recovery. During treatment, individuals are provided with a strong support system consisting of therapists, sober peers, and skilled support staff. Due to being housed in a safe and secure environment, they are better equipped to manage triggers and difficult emotions in a healthy way. However, after formal treatment has concluded, individuals may be unprepared to face stressful situations and temptations in the outside world. 

While the recovery tools and emotional coping skills clients learn in treatment are very effective, the practical application of those skills in the real world is more challenging than in a treatment setting. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease, and it is not uncommon for individuals to continue battling cravings and urges produced by a brain that is not fully healed.

All these factors combined mean that a thorough aftercare plan is critical for ongoing recovery. At Guardian Recovery, our aftercare services help our clients stay strong in the first year after treatment.

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The Role of Aftercare Services in Maintaining Long-Term Sobriety

Aftercare services play a vital role in sustaining long-lasting recovery for people who’ve completed formal treatment programs. These services are intended to provide ongoing support and resources to help them navigate the difficulties of early recovery and establish a solid foundation for a lifetime of sobriety.

Roles of Aftercare in Sobriety Maintenance Include:

  • Continuation of support.
  • Ongoing therapy and medication management.
  • Relapse prevention.
  • Accountability.
  • Lifestyle transitions.
  • Development of coping mechanisms.
  • Peer support.
  • Family involvement
  • Education and resources.
  • Progress monitoring.

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Why Is Aftercare Important in Mental Health & Substance Addiction Recovery?

Aftercare is paramount to mental wellness and recovery from addiction because it provides individuals with the tools they need to successfully transition from formal treatment back to their normal lives. 

Ways Aftercare Is Crucial for Recovery Include:

  • Providing continued care.
  • Preventing treatment gaps.
  • Offering emotional support.
  • Addressing co-occurring disorders.
  • Fostering empowerment and self-sufficiency.

By providing these benefits, aftercare can significantly increase the likelihood of success in long-term mental well-being and substance use challenges.

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What Types of Aftercare Programs Exist for Alcohol & Drug Use Rehab

Various types of aftercare programs are available to satisfy the unique needs of individuals in early recovery. Aftercare Programs for Rehab Include:
  • Ongoing behavioral therapy or counseling following formal treatment.
  • Outpatient programs, which are flexible alternatives to treatment with sessions that meet regularly.
  • Family therapy, which improves communication and provides education and support to both individuals and their families.
  • Educational workshops that provide individuals with information and skills to support recovery.
  • Support groups, to connect with peers and share similar experiences in a safe and welcoming environment.
  • Alumni programs, which offer various recovery-oriented activities and events that are regularly scheduled.
  • Online support, to provide recovery resources that can be accessed remotely by phone or over the Internet.
The specific aftercare programs most appropriate for a person’s needs depend on factors such as the severity of addiction, the necessary level of support, and individual preferences.

Aftercare Programs Help Prevent Relapse

Aftercare programs consist of helpful services and strategies vital for relapse prevention. These provide continuous support to help individuals handle cravings and triggers that lead to a return to drug or alcohol use.

Ways Aftercare Helps Individuals Prevent Relapse Include:

  • Providing relapse prevention techniques.
  • Encouraging accountability.
  • Offering positive reinforcement.
  • Providing education on warning signs and triggers.
  • Promoting the development of coping skills.
  • Fostering improved resilience.

Rehab Aftercare Planning & Individualized Treatment Plans

When a person enters a rehab program, they will undergo an assessment to help the clinical team devise an individualized treatment plan that includes a full continuum of care, including aftercare planning. These plans are designed to tailor the client’s treatment process to meet their unique needs and goals.

Ways Aftercare and Individualized Plans Facilitate Recovery Include:

  • Offering continued, customized treatment and support.
  • Addressing co-occurring disorders.
  • Identifying resources for support.
  • Promoting relapse prevention strategies.
  • Incorporating targeted therapeutic interventions.
  • Setting realistic goals.
  • Offering flexibility and adjustability.
  • Collaboration among therapists and other support staff.
  • Building life skills.
  • Enabling long-term sustainability.

Individualized plans that include aftercare are integral components of recovery. They aim to provide ongoing support, personalized strategies, and a focus on the client’s individual needs.

Career Counseling & Vocational Training

Career counseling and vocational training are services devised to help individuals rebuild their lives, gain independence, and foster stable, satisfying careers after completing formal treatment. (1)

The main goal of career counseling is to assist clients in identifying their interests, skills, and strengths, and aligning them with appropriate career paths. Career counselors can help individuals develop desired skills, prepare resumes and job applications, and navigate the process of transitioning to a field.

Vocational training is designed to help individuals develop the practical skills, knowledge, and competencies required for a specific trade or occupation. They are provided with training that closely aligns with the needs of industries and job market demands. 

Sober Living Home & Transitioning from Treatment to Independent Living

Sober living homes and transitional living facilities provide a safe, structured, and supportive environment for individuals after they’ve completed formal treatment. They typically include “house rules” and guidelines to support recovery and accountability. These living spaces offer critically-needed peer support among others who can share experiences and encourage each other to stay sober during this very important transition. 

Transitional housing also allows flexibility to pursue employment or educational opportunities and continue learning and practicing healthy coping skills and relapse prevention strategies.

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Aftercare Options & Elements of Treatment

Various options may be included in an aftercare treatment program, including counseling, outpatient programs, family therapy, and more.

Options Include:

  • Outpatient counseling.
  • Intensive outpatient programs.
  • Family therapy.
  • Support groups.
  • Sober living residences.
  • Alumni programs.
  • Online support.
  • Employment assistance.
  • Holistic therapies.
  • Medication management.

By combining multiple aftercare options, individuals are provided with a comprehensive and personalized approach to continuing care and support as they navigate recovery. Within these options are various elements intended to facilitate a comprehensive approach.

Elements of an Aftercare Plan Include:

Case Management

During the months after rehab, clients face challenges that could lead to relapse. The case managers at Guardian Recovery help minimize this risk with progress calls and coordinated communication between clients, families, therapists, and other treatment providers.

Individual Therapy or Addiction Counseling

Therapeutic care does not need to end because clinical treatment has been completed. Many of our clients choose to stay with their individual therapist long-term, visiting their private practice once a week and continuing to work through underlying issues and early recovery-related challenges.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Several beneficial medications can help reduce drug and alcohol cravings and prevent relapse. Our medical professionals can help clients determine if one of these medications might be helpful. Additionally, psychiatric professionals can help clients manage any mental health medications they might need.

Recovery Support Networks

There are hundreds of recovery-related groups. We help our clients find support groups that meet their unique needs. These include 12-Step groupsSmart Recovery, spiritual support groups, and mental health support groups. (2)(3)

Relapse Prevention Training

Learning the skills to stay sober in real-life situations is critical. Early recovery can be challenging to navigate, and we ensure that clients have access to the support they need as they face new, uncharted challenges.

Outpatient Treatment

Many clients who go to either a medical detox or residential inpatient treatment program continue treatment a few days a week at one of our outpatient programs. These programs enable participants to work, attend school, and carry out daily responsibilities while receiving support from licensed substance use professionals and peers. Our outpatient programs have both daytime and nighttime tracks to make them convenient for different lifestyles. 

Relapse Prevention Strategies & Life After Rehab

Relapse prevention strategies are designed to help individuals identify potential triggers and risky situations, manage stress and cravings, and build a solid foundation for a successful recovery. Relapse tends to happen in progressive stages, so implementing effective strategies is vital for sustaining sobriety. (4)

Relapse Prevention Strategies Include:

  • Identifying triggers, including stress, negative emotions, boredom, and certain high-risk situations.
  • Using coping skills, such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and engaging in hobbies.
  • Seeking support from friends, family, a sponsor, or a support group.
  • Adopting a healthy lifestyle, including exercise and a healthy diet.
  • Staying connected with a treatment team to discuss concerns and challenges.

Our Alumni Program

Guardian Recovery has developed an alumni program that fosters ongoing connections with peers and helps past clients avoid relapse. Once an individual has completed their treatment program, they can request to be a part of our alumni program, which offers a range of recovery-oriented activities and events throughout the year.

Events We Regularly Organize Include:

  • Group volunteer activities, usually with a local non-profit or charity.
  • Regular peer support group meetings exclusively for alumni.
  • Enjoyable activities, such as annual picnics and beach outings.
  • Ongoing support through social media groups specifically designed for alumni.

Our alumni program was developed to offer past clients an ongoing level of accountability and support as they navigate early recovery. In fact, many former clients who graduated from our program years ago are still heavily involved in the Guardian Recovery community.

Our Simple Admissions Process

At Guardian Recovery, we have developed a straightforward admissions process. We understand that receiving quality clinical care is a time-sensitive subject, so when you decide to seek professional help, we are available to get started. During your initial call, we will conduct a brief pre-assessment, which generally takes less than 15 minutes. This will consist of a series of short questions to help our clinical team determine which level of care is most appropriate for you. 

At this time, we can also perform a free, no-obligation health insurance benefit check. We work closely with most major regional and national providers, making our comprehensive program as accessible as possible. If you or your loved one is currently underinsured or entirely uninsured, we offer additional coverage options, including self-pay. 

Contact Us Today To Learn More

Aftercare planning is an essential final stage of a comprehensive, multi-staged addiction treatment program. At Guardian Recovery, we aim to stay actively engaged in the lives of our former clients, checking in regularly to ensure they have everything they need to succeed long-term. To learn more about the aftercare planning services we provide or to begin your own personal journey of lifelong healing, contact us today.

Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

A Two-Pronged Approach
Evidence-Based Therapy & 12-Step Immersion

At Guardian Recovery, some of our facilities utilize a two-prong approach to addiction recovery. Firstly, these designated centers utilize research-based clinical therapeutic methods. Secondly, they utilize what Guardian calls 12-step Immersion.

Not all our centers utilize 12-Step Immersion, but if you or a loved one are interested in this method, it can be very effective for many individuals.

Evidence-Based Clinical Methods

At Guardian Recovery we have a world-class team of doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and case managers who all help our clients heal using the best research-based methodologies available in their respective fields. Some of these methodologies include: medication assisted treatment (MAT); cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT); dialectical behavior therapy (BDT); dual-diagnosis treatmenteye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR); holistic treatments such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness; and intensive individualfamily and group therapy.

12-Step Immersion

In addition to these therapeutic methods, some of our treatment centers offer what we call 12-Step Immersion — which is a way to introduce clients to working the 12-Steps of recovery. Many individuals seeking treatment have tried the 12-Step method before without success. However, working the 12-Steps in a structured environment with professional support while simultaneously participating in therapy can be a powerful method to treat addiction.

What is Guardian’s 12 Step Immersion Approach & Why Is It Important?

The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) have helped more individuals get and stay sober than any other recovery program in the world. According to a recent study published by Stanford Medicine, Alcoholics Anonymous was found to be “the most effective path to abstinence” and up to 60 percent more effective than other methods of intervention. AA currently has an estimated 2 million recognized members in 180 nations and more than 118,000 groups across the globe. The “big book” of AA — the main text book for the program — has been translated into 70 languages; and AA literature has been translated into more than 100. Numerous offshoots of AA  — including Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and Sex Addicts Anonymous —  utilize AA’s 12 steps. Considering AA started in only 1935, this type of rapid worldwide growth is truly remarkable.

So why has AA had such success? The obvious answer is that it works. As AA’ers put it — “It works if you work it.” Unfortunately AA’s program is  often pre-judged and pre-dismissed by many individuals who have either tried AA before without success, or have a misunderstanding of what AA really is. Many think AA is just about going to meetings and griping endlessly about alcohol. But the program is really about working, in an intense and heartfelt way, the 12 steps of recovery while in fellowship with other sober people where an individual can be of service to others. 

The AA Triple Threat

There are three main components to the AA program — three arms of the AA triangle — all equally important. The first is unity — the fellowship of AA. This is where the meetings come in. In AA we build a sense of community, belonging and friendship. The second is service — this is about being of service to other human beings, which grows one sense of purpose, meaning and self esteem. Addiction drives us to ugly forms of selfishness, but in recovery we find out how rewarding being of service to others is — it feeds our souls in a way no drug or drink every could. 

And the third is recovery  — which is about the transformation that comes by working the 12 steps. The 12 steps are a process of transformation which require honesty with oneself and others, a willingness to right wrongs from the past and an openness to finding our own sense of spirituality. By working the 12 steps, a person undergoes the personal transformation essential to maintaining long-lasting recovery.

The AA triangle also represents the idea that alcoholism and addiction is a three-part malady — spiritual, mental and physical. Without addressing all three — the mind, the body and the spirit — an addict or alcoholic has little chance of long-term recovery. The 12 steps address all three.

Traditionally in AA an individual finds what is called a “sponsor.” A sponsor simply put is just a mentor or guide to take you through the process of working the 12 steps as laid out in the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous. At some of Guardian Recovery’s select 12-Step based facilities, our clients get what we call “a 12 step contact.” This person is kind of like a professional sponsor. Our 12 step contacts are compassionate, caring individuals in recovery themselves who have extensive experience guiding people through the 12 steps. When an individual seeks treatment at one of Guardian’s 12-Step immersion programs, not only do they work extensively with a therapist and doctor, they also work intensively with their 12-Step contact to help them work the steps. By working the steps in a treatment setting, our clients have the accountability, support and community they need to help them persevere through the rough spots. 

Why Should I Be in a 12 Step Immersion Treatment Program Rather Than Just Going to AA Myself?

Many individuals have tried to do AA on their own and not completed the steps. When we try to do AA on our own, life often gets in the way. We get distracted by work, family, school and life. Or emotions crop up that are too overwhelming to deal with so we bail. Or we just don’t have the accountability to stick with it. There are many reasons why individuals sometimes have trouble completing the 12 Steps while going to AA on their own. Guardian Recovery’s select 12-Step Immersion facilities help individuals get through the bulk of the steps in a structured environment while being supported by psychiatrists, therapists, counselors and other clients. We have found that working the steps this way before an individual has completely free reign of their life in the real world is extremely beneficial. Many of our clients have said that they tried to complete the 12 Steps and go to AA numerous times with no success. It’s not that AA didn’t work for them — it was just they needed a little extra help to follow through with working the steps of the program. That’s exactly what Guardian Recovery’s 12-Step Immersion process does. In addition to helping clients get through the steps, we also encourage 12-step involvement in the outside world as a vital part of continuing care. This is because the “rooms of AA” are going to be the ongoing support network for our clients as they transition back into full, abundant lives outside of treatment. An article published by the National Library of Medicine found that men and women who remained actively engaged in Alcoholics Anonymous 18 months after their initial treatment programs had concluded had rates of abstinence that were more than twice as high as men and women who failed to continue with AA after treatment. This is just one of many scientific studies that point toward the efficacy of AA as part of a more comprehensive treatment plan.

To learn more about the 12-Steps, you can read our 12-Steps Explained guide here.

Begin Your Personal Recovery Journey

If you or someone you love has been suffering from an untreated substance abuse disorder or has struggled to stay sober in the past, Guardian Recovery is available to help. Our comprehensive continuum of clinical care provides several stages of treatment including medically monitored detox, inpatient treatment and intensive outpatient treatment. Beginning your personal journey of addiction recovery — or helping your loved one get started on his or hers — is as simple as picking up the phone and contacting us today. The moment you do we begin developing a plan for intake, which includes completing a brief pre-assessment over the phone in order to determine which level of care best meets your personal needs. Once the pre-assessment is complete we go over potential coverage options. At Guardian Recovery we work closely with most major regional and national health insurance providers and offer free no obligation health insurance benefit checks. Finally we set a date for intake and arrange reliable transportation.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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