Aftercare is a process that allows addicts to continue to benefit from a support group led by a counselor or other longer-sober member of a treatment program. This can be provided by the program that the addict attended for treatment, or another agency closer to home.
Aftercare: How It Works
Most aftercare programs allow for weekly attendance in support groups for at least a year, some have an open-ended time frame, allowing addicts to attend until they decide to stop or move to another type of aftercare.
There are general rules for members in the group, such as requirements for maintaining recovery or abstinence from drugs, alcohol and other addictions (i.e., gambling), depending on the program. Many groups require concurrent attendance at 12-step program meetings, and have a minimum number of meetings required for attendance by the recovering addict. Support group members who relapse usually have to wait for a specific time to pass without another relapse before they can begin attending group again.
Why Go to Aftercare?
Addicts new to recovery have many issues to work through and overcome. They have often created problematic financial, social, family and work situations during their addiction, and these situations require some work to clean up. Relationships may be difficult to navigate, jobs may be lost, families broken up, and addicts need all the support they can get to learn how to repair their lives on a sober and clean footing.
Aftercare provides support in a different format than other support group meetings, because aftercare support groups will most often be run by a trained counselor or therapist. Insurance benefits may cover the cost of aftercare, but some programs provide this service free to alumni who have completed treatment in their program. Other programs may offer aftercare to people outside their program alumni. Charges are usually minimal.
The aftercare group is a peer-oriented group. This means that the members who come to the group are going to participate and discuss topics they bring up themselves. Counselors and group leaders are there for minimal input and for direction of the conversation only. They do not lead the group discussion. They might introduce a topic and discuss it for a moment, but most often the group members are going to run the show.
Different Types of Aftercare
Support Groups: Some treatment programs will refer addicts directly back into their community with instruction to attend 12-Step or alternative group meetings. These are run completely by the group, with leaders chosen from within the group. These meetings are a great source of support and help to the newly recovering addict. Members of the group are also in various stages of recovery from addiction and teach newer members the methods that have helped them stay abstinent and recover from the ravages of addiction.
A person with several years (or more) of recovery can become a guide to a newer member, leading them through the recovery process that the group supports. This person is called a sponsor. Sponsors are not therapists or counselors, but offer the benefit of their experience with recovery for the newer member. This relationship can become very close as the new member and sponsor discuss matters that are deeply personal. Sponsors are advisors who recommend ways to remain abstinent and follow a higher path to recovery. They seldom tell addicts what to do and do not assume that type of role. Sponsors draw from their own experiences as recovering addicts to guide and advise.
Sober Coaches or Sober Companions: These are paid mentors who are trained to provide a service, such as escorting a new member to treatment and home again, or being someone they can call and talk to when they need help getting over tough hurdles. Many addicts early in recovery have not yet formed a relationship with a sponsor and may substitute a paid professional to guide them until they have developed a support system for staying abstinent.
Counselors/Therapists: These are professionals who are paid to provide guidance in treatment. Some addicts will continue to seek help from counselors or therapists after leaving treatment to work through issues that block them from abstinence or require extra work.
Group Counseling/Group Therapy: This is a different setting from aftercare groups, but can be beneficial for addicts who cannot find aftercare groups or who need to work through issues. Some addicts have had traumatic experiences or family problems that require more skilled work than they can cover in 12-step meetings or aftercare.
Most often, these types of group counseling or group therapy do NOT focus on issues of early recovery from addiction. They are most often formed to work on emotional issues, personal relationships , anger management, and sometimes health issues or grief work.
Sober Living: These are homes, apartments or other living situations where those in early recovery can live in order to be in a supportive living environment. Sober living homes are run by individuals with established recovery and have rules that addicts must comply with to remain in the home.
There are many types of sober living homes available. Addicts receive additional support through living with other recovering addicts. Some homes provide groups for processing early recovery issues. Others will provide services to addicts who are going through difficult family problems. Other homes may house addicts with court issues who are sentenced to live in this type of environment.
How to Decide What Is Best for You
You can discuss options for aftercare with the Counselor at the addiction treatment program you are leaving. Most of the time, aftercare programs require completion of a treatment program to be eligible for attendance. Some programs may waive this requirement in certain situations.
Aftercare programs usually offer several options to accommodate different schedules, such as morning, afternoon or evening groups. Some have groups on weekends or other options. Most groups will have a number limit so that the size of the group does not become too big to allow members to participate.
If you do not have a referral to an aftercare program, go online to look for any addiction aftercare support groups or programs that may exist in your area. If you are not living in the same town as your treatment program, look for a treatment program close to your home. They may have information about aftercare services in your home location. Gather as much information as possible to find the aftercare program that is the best fit for you and your needs.
Depending on your personal situation, aftercare is structured to meet the needs of the group as best it can. Some individuals are not going to find an aftercare program that is accessible for them. They may need to use some of the other options available (including online meetings and support groups, for example) to assist them in maintaining early recovery.
If you or someone you know is seeking assistance with maintaining long-term recovery, please visit our directory of outpatient treatment centers or call 800-772-8219 to start the path to recovery today.