The Importance of Aftercare in Alcohol & Drug Addiction Recovery

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The journey to recovery from substance abuse differs from one individual to the next, and can follow distinctly different paths. From how long substance abuse has persisted to the individual’s resilience, multiple factors make rehabilitation a very personal process. Still, all journeys can benefit from ending with aftercare; continuous care that helps to ensure sobriety and abstinence. As a distinguished rehab center Boynton Beach trusts, here at Bright Futures, we’re firm believers in the sheer value of aftercare in alcohol & drug addiction recovery. To explain this stance, today we’d like to explore aftercare programs, their benefits, and their place in the rehabilitation process.

A motivational sign that reads “difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations”.
Aftercare will offer continuous care throughout your journey to recovery, letting you reclaim the life you deserve.

What is aftercare?

Let’s start with the fundamentals then, and define aftercare.

“Aftercare” typically refers to a range of therapeutic and supportive practices that take place after a successful rehabilitation. American Addiction Centers (AAC) defines it as follows:

“Aftercare is any type of ongoing care you receive after you leave rehab. […]

Aftercare is a plan to support someone in their early recovery, prevent relapse, and help them as they work toward their life goals.”

They then continue to note that:

“An aftercare plan includes activities, interventions, and resources to help a recovering person cope with triggers, stress, and cravings that they may face when treatment is over. Each person’s aftercare plan will vary based upon their own needs.”

Finally, they cite Derek Patton, M.S., MBA, LADC/MAC, and Terry McDowell, B.S., CADC, who also make a crucial distinction:

“Despite the name, aftercare planning starts when referral for residential treatment begins. [It is] a continuum of care[.]”

As you can see, aftercare is both an early plan and post-rehab support – which point we will also support below. It does not begin after rehab, but right when the journey to recovery begins. Finally, it does include specific support practices, but it remains strictly personal.

Types of aftercare and their goals

For another introductory note, here we may explore the types of aftercare before delving into aftercare in alcohol & drug addiction recovery specifically.

Exact aftercare types and their related Alumni programs will vary quite significantly, depending on such factors as:

  • Individual needs
  • Addiction severity
  • Co-occurring disorders

However, while aftercare programs will typically be very personalized, they frequently follow specific tried-and-tested models. AAC’s Recovery identifies the following 5 as the primary types of aftercare.

#1 Mutual Support Groups

Following group therapy, a staple of rehab programs, mutual support groups offer emotional and psychological support from one’s peers. Trained professionals will typically lead such groups, although recovered individuals may also establish support groups of their own.

A close-up of a person opening up during a group therapy session.
Support groups are a crucial part of aftercare in alcohol & drug addiction recovery.

Notable examples of mutual support groups include:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • SMART Recovery

Notably, much like group therapy sessions during rehab, most support groups will typically be based on AA’s Twelve Steps. They will of course adjust to meet the exact needs of each group, and may not have a spiritual foundation, but they will always share the same ultimate goal of continued support and relapse prevention.

#2 Support for Co-occurring Disorders

Another crucial type of aftercare is support for co-occurring disorders, following the principle of dual diagnosis. This is defined as the co-occurrence of a substance use disorder (SUD) and a mental health disorder (MHD).

This type of aftercare in alcohol & drug addiction recovery specifically focuses on addressing both such disorder types at once. To meet this goal, Recovery notes that:

“Care for co-occurring disorders may include medication, therapy, mutual support groups, or regular appointments with medical and mental health professionals.”

The reason why this type is so significant is unfortunate, but also a very pressing concern. SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health  found that “17 million U.S. adults experienced both mental illness and a substance use disorder in 2020”. To address this, accurate dual diagnosis and appropriate aftercare are crucial for ensuring both proper rehabilitation and effective relapse prevention.

A close-up of a psychotherapist’s notes on a glass table.
Co-occurring disorders will have to inform aftercare plans from the earliest stages of treatment.

#3 Medication Management

Whether in the context of dual diagnosis aftercare or otherwise, medication management also remains a common part of rehabilitation. From the initial detox phase to post-rehab treatment, medication offers invaluable assistance to those who need it. Notably, it’s often especially useful to those who need trauma therapy.

This type of aftercare is also necessarily handled by medical professionals but will vary across rehabilitation stages. In aftercare specifically, it needs to include regular follow-ups with prescription providers and therapists where present. It helps manage symptoms, cravings, and side effects, and further cements relapse prevention.

A person holding a blister pack containing blue medicinal pills.
Medication management is very often essential toward ensuring a successful recovery.

#4 Recovery Housing

Another organized form of aftercare in alcohol & drug addiction recovery comes in recovery housing. This aftercare type is also known as “sober living homes” or “halfway housing”, and offers excellent versatility. Recovery explains this type of care as follows:

“Sober living homes […] offer supervised housing for people recovering from substance use disorders. […] In these homes, substance use is not allowed, which provides a sober living environment in which to continue recovery.”

As regards versatility and personalization, it helpfully notes that:

“Sober living is typically short-term, but the duration may depend on what you and your treatment team feel is the appropriate level of care. […] Recovery housing can be an important transitional step after inpatient residential treatment[.] Some sober living residences may serve people with specific needs such as veterans, people with co-occurring disorders, or women who have children.”

In the context of aftercare specifically, recovery housing primarily serves as continuous care toward reintegration into everyday life. It reinforces the rules of abstinence and sobriety the individual has followed, and can include such services as:

  • Clinical services, like psychiatric support
  • Counseling services
  • Vocational services

As it does, its group dynamics also facilitate socialization and bonding with one’s peers, further empowering the individual.

A close-up of two people holding hands.
Social bonds strengthen the individual and boost their resolve.

#5 Therapy

The final primary type of aftercare in alcohol & drug addiction recovery comes in therapy. Depending on the individual’s journey to recovery, this can be a focal point of aftercare or a discreet addition. It is often particularly easy to implement in aftercare if the individual has already been working with therapists throughout rehabilitation.

Therapy includes a broader set of practices, such as:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Contingency Management
  • Motivational Interviewing

All such means of therapy can also be accompanied by any of the above types of aftercare, such as mutual support groups and medication management. A wide range of therapeutic activities can also further assist the individual physically, psychologically, and emotionally, like:

  • Outings and gatherings with one’s peers
  • Individual recreational activities, such as art therapy and journaling
  • Individual or team sports

In all cases, continuous therapy often provides the most robust type of aftercare framework. As AAC explains:

“Therapy can help you process your emotions, resolve conflicts, and address potential triggers to misuse substances.”

Naturally, these kinds of benefits offer another safeguard against relapse.

Aftercare across alcohol & drug addiction recovery programs

Having outlined how aftercare typically works, here we may substantiate a previous point. That is, aftercare follows the individual throughout rehabilitation. The final phase of rehabilitation may bear the name and most of the weight, but aftercare entails continuous, persistent care.

This we may explain by briefly exploring the structures of drug rehab Florida offers, and pinpointing where aftercare in alcohol & drug addiction recovery can take hold and inform the rest of the journey.

#1 MAT

After admission, many SUDs may require Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT). This phase of rehabilitation takes place in clinical settings, and helps guarantee a safe and effective detoxification.

During this phase, the individual may already begin to build the foundations for their aftercare plan. This phase will typically entail:

  • Medication management and supervision
  • Psychological support and counseling
  • Therapy and psychiatric care where needed

From these fundamental steps, treatment providers can start crafting the personalized plan the individual needs to rehabilitate. They can already steer the program toward dual diagnosis support, medication management, and therapy, among the 5 aforementioned types.

A close-up of a person spilling pills into their hand.
Medically assisted treatment, where necessary, will help deal with withdrawal symptoms during detoxification.

#2 Inpatient programs

The next phase will typically entail an inpatient program, where the individual remains in clinical settings and receives intensive care. Here, too, the fundamentals of aftercare can see expansions, as programs for inpatient rehab Boynton Beach offers typically follow this structure:

  • Admission
  • Initial assessment
  • Detoxification
  • Therapy
  • Therapeutic activities

Thus, as a natural extension of MAT and detoxification, inpatient programs also offer ample room for aftercare plans. Therapists can continue to build toward the final stage of post-rehab aftercare, by focusing on therapy and risk management.

A therapist keeping notes during a session.
As early as during inpatient programs, therapy will become a key focus of rehabilitation.

#3 Outpatient programs

Subsequently, aftercare in alcohol & drug addiction recovery can truly begin to shine during outpatient programs. Any intensive outpatient program Florida treatment centers offer will strongly focus on:

  • Relapse Prevention
  • Stress Management
  • Psychological Healing & Adjustment
  • Trigger Identification & High-Risk Situation Management

How exactly outpatient programs will focus on these goals will differ, but they typically stress appropriate forms of therapy. Here, between individualized and group therapy, the individual can continue to establish connections with their treatment providers, solidifying aftercare plans.

People discussing during a group therapy session.
During outpatient programs, group therapy takes center stage and paves the way for aftercare.

#4 Aftercare programs

The final phase of recovery carries the titular focus on aftercare. Aftercare programs will leverage all the plans made thus far, letting the individual maintain sobriety and reclaim their life.

During this phase, the individual will ideally maintain communication with their treatment providers. Through alumni programs and mutual support groups, they will continue to strengthen their social bonds and hone risk management skills. They will attend 12-step meetings, often find a sponsor in their peers, and work toward reintegration. This is where all the work across all stages of addiction treatment will pay off, and help cement recovery.

A man standing on a rock by a waterfall.
Aftercare programs will signify the victorious end of the journey to recovery.

The importance of aftercare in alcohol & drug addiction recovery programs

Having touched on all of the above, the importance of aftercare in alcohol rehab and drug addiction treatment should now be clear. Still, let us explore these benefits in specific terms to leave no room for uncertainty.

Goals of aftercare in alcohol & drug addiction recovery

First, let us consolidate the goals of aftercare in this context, as AAC defines them:

  • Relapse prevention.
  • Continuing to engage in the recovery process.
  • Developing new, healthy behavior patterns.
  • Connecting people with uplifting and accountable support systems.
  • Assistance with challenges related to recovery like employment, housing, and relationships.

How one phrases these goals may differ, but the end goal remains the same. Aftercare seeks to uplift the individual psychologically, support them emotionally, and let them build social bonds to safeguard recovery. From the first signs it’s time to get help to the final day in rehab, these goals remain paramount.

A circle of friends holding hands outdoors.
Aftercare programs seek to create a strong support network, helping prevent relapse.

Benefits of aftercare in alcohol & drug addiction recovery

Goals aside, aftercare also yields demonstrable benefits. Here we may cite the most substantial ones, namely:

  • Relapse prevention. The ever-present risk of relapse has, unfortunately, earned many mentions throughout this article. Many rehabilitated individuals return to drug or alcohol abuse within the first year, which makes relapse prevention a very worthy goal. As AAC notes in the aforelinked article, studies have consistently shown that aftercare substantially lowers the risk of relapse.
  • Psychological support. A crucial element of relapse which also harms the individual in other ways is poor mental health. Intense withdrawal symptoms and cravings can put the individual at risk, and so can social isolation and depression. To address these risk factors, aftercare focuses on psychological support, which NIH also finds immensely valuable toward rehabilitation.
  • Health risk reduction. Finally, by helping ensure a successful rehabilitation, aftercare also helps reduce various health risks. Among drug-abusing individuals specifically, NIDA finds an “increased risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and other infectious diseases”. By reducing these risks, aftercare programs help ensure a better quality of life, allowing individuals to safely grow and thrive.

Additional benefits may be found across different rehabilitation cases as well. We have ample success stories to share, where diligent care across all stages and a robust aftercare program made all the difference.

A silhouette of a man playing basketball.
Proper, diligent aftercare helps cement rehabilitation success.

Does insurance cover rehab or aftercare in alcohol & drug addiction recovery?

Before concluding, here we may also touch on an understandably frequent concern; does insurance cover alcohol rehab or aftercare?

This will strictly depend on your own insurance provider and plan. The exact coverage will also depend on other factors like rehab program needs and prior addiction history. That said, most major insurance providers will typically cover alcohol rehab.

Bright Futures specifically accepts the following health insurance:

  • AETNA Insurance
  • Ambetter of Arkansas
  • Ambetter of Peach State Georgia
  • Amerigroup
  • AmeriHealth Insurance
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Rehab Centers
  • Cigna Insurance
  • ComPsych Insurance
  • CoreSource Insurance
  • Concentric Health Care
  • First Choice Health Insurance
  • Harvard Pilgrim Insurance
  • Medical Mutual
  • Qualcare Insurance
  • Qual Choice of Arkansas
  • UnitedHealthcare Group Insurance

If you do not see yours listed here, or do not have health insurance, please contact one of our Addiction Specialists at (844) SOBER00 to explore your billing options.

Showing up is half the battle

To conclude, aftercare in alcohol & drug addiction recovery begins at the very first stage of treatment, culminating into post-rehabilitation. The journey to recovery can be very challenging, which makes holistic aftercare principles all the more vital.

A man with his hand raised under fireworks.
The road to recovery is difficult, but freedom from addiction is a prize worth fighting for.

That said, the hardest step is always the first. If you now feel confident in seeking help, for you or a loved one, please don’t hesitate to contact us today. At Bright Futures, it is our moral mission to help you achieve the freedom from addiction you deserve. Our continued, unwavering support will help pave your way to recovery, and our aftercare programs will ensure you can always treat your Bright Futures peers as family.



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