The journey of recovery can take many forms, but there are certain elements of recovery that tend to be present for most people. Besides actual addiction treatment, aftercare is often an essential part of a person’s success in maintaining sobriety for the long-term. Furthermore, an alumni program can be another useful resource that invites individuals who have completed treatment to a network of peers who are understanding of recovery.

What is Aftercare?

Among the many misconceptions that people have about addiction recovery, there’s the common view that recovery is a process that you start and complete. With the view, the implication is that an individual who suffers from addiction can simply seek and complete treatment to fully overcome his or her addiction; however, that’s not exactly the case and is quite misleading. Rather than being a task or even a chore that one simply completes, recovery is a journey. In fact, many rehabilitation professionals would agree that recovery is a lifestyle one maintains for the remainder of one’s life. To an extent, being in recovery is a state of mind and an ongoing strategy for remaining sober and healthy.

Of course, there are numerous ways to achieve recovery. We tend to associate rehab — especially inpatient and residential-style rehab — with recovery, but numerous individuals have experienced lasting success in recovery after completing outpatient treatment or even joining one of the numerous recovery fellowships that exist. But whether a person completes inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, or joins something like Alcoholics Anonymous, it’s important to remember that recovery isn’t over with the completion of treatment. Instead, a person who has completed treatment transitions into a phase of recovery wherein he or she utilizes a combination of different resources in an effort to safeguard and maintain his or her sobriety. One particular resource that’s actually intended for this purpose is called aftercare.

In short, aftercare refers to the treatments and other recovery-related resources an individual receives or participates in once he or she has completed primary care and, thus, achieved sobriety. But even after successfully completing a treatment program, it’s important to remember that the newfound sobriety is very delicate and even tenuous. If a person were to complete treatment and simply return home with no plans for aftercare, there’s a strong chance that he or she would be ill-equipped and unprepared when confronted with relapse triggers and the temptation to use again. In other words, without aftercare, there’s a significant chance that an individual could relapse and begin using alcohol or drugs again.

What to Expect from Aftercare

Much like an addiction treatment program, aftercare is highly individualized, consisting of various types of rehabilitative resources that will give a person the highest chances to remain sober indefinitely. Thus, aftercare could be seen as a plan for continuing recovery that is made on a case-by-case basis, ensuring that an individual’s relapse triggers are accounted for via a selection of useful resources and support.

For many individuals who have completed addiction treatment, aftercare usually includes psychotherapy and/or individual counseling with a therapist who specializes in support for substance abuse and addiction. Although the therapy an individual receives as part of treatment is instrumental in his or her ability to achieve sobriety, it’s insufficient when it comes to making that newfound sobriety last indefinitely. Therefore, continuing to participate in counseling and one-on-one therapy ensures that an individual is provided with the resources necessary to overcome or address many of the circumstantial and/or psychological factors that contributed to the development of his or her addiction.

Beyond counseling, there are numerous other forms of treatment that can prove to be very helpful in fortifying an individual’s newfound sobriety. For instance, holistic therapies — which can play an important role in the rehabilitation process — can likewise be employed as part of a person’s aftercare regimen. For example, experiential therapies like art therapy, music therapy, and other expressive forms of therapy can provide individuals with an outlet for their emotions; since many individuals turn to substance abuse as a means of coping with stress, anxiety, and adversity, having these expressive experiential therapies as part of one’s aftercare will minimize the likelihood that an individual would return to using alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms.

Another element that’s common in aftercare is support groups. Of course, many of us associate support groups with Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and the numerous other twelve-step support groups, but there are many other types of support groups available, appealing to individuals from all walks of life. For instance, if someone would prefer a support group that doesn’t have a religious or spiritual focus, there are surely nondenominational support groups available. Additionally, the incorporation of a support group into one’s aftercare ensures that the individual has numerous opportunities to forge relationships with peers who are both supportive of and experience in recovery.

Benefits of an Alumni Program

As you saw above, we’ve just discussed aftercare as well as some of the most common components of an aftercare regimen. However, one of the most popular elements of aftercare is an alumni program.

Having completed a treatment program, a patient will often be invited to the alumni program of that particular treatment center. In short, an alumni program is a social group reserved for individuals who have successfully completed their respective addiction treatment programs. Although there’s an inherently social nature to alumni programs, they’re also known to be highly beneficial for individuals who have achieved sobriety and are currently working on developing strategies for maintaining and safeguarding that sobriety for the long-term. As part of an alumni program, individuals can take advantage of a variety of social events that are scheduled throughout the calendar year. Additionally, alumni programs provide individuals who have completed treatment with a variety of unique resources. For instance, many alumni program members will have access to things like financial planning services, job placement services, and other similar resources that offer individuals stability as they return to and get acclimated in their communities.