Relapsing (also known as lapsing) happens to roughly 40-60% of clients who struggle with a substance use disorder (SUD). The most vulnerable time in your client’s recovery process is the first few months of the post-treatment phase.
Moreover, clients with a fragile adaptive capacity, legal trouble, and unstable or non-existent support systems are especially at risk for an increase in regressive behavior or even decompensation.
Without the assistance of early recovery and relapse prevention support, clients are more likely to stop participating in therapeutic activities, taking medication, and neglecting their mental and physical health needs. The National Institute of Health states, “there is convincing evidence that continuing care can be effective in sustaining the positive effects of the initial phase of care”.
Therefore, you must identify resources and activities that focus on ongoing care so that your clients can significantly reduce the risk of experiencing a lapse in recovery. One of the most effective and widely-used methods of implementing this type of treatment is an aftercare plan.
What is Aftercare?
Aftercare (sometimes referred to as continued or ongoing care), is the post-treatment stage of recovery where your clients transition from one level of care to a step down level of care. For example a client completing a residential or inpatient program transitions to a partial hospitalization program (PHP) and then to an intensive outpatient program (IOP). During an aftercare program like PHP or IOP, coordination of aftercare outpatient therapy and psychiatry appointments are coordinated for clients to have a smooth transition after a more intensive treatment program ends. An aftercare program allows your clients to continue to receive direct services that continue treatment for drug or alcohol use and co-occurring disorders in a way that allows them to slowly and safely transition back to their everyday lives at home and work.
The goal of such programs is to provide your clients with support that prevents relapses and encourages clients to stay focused on ongoing recovery.
Setting Clients Up For Long-Term Success in Recovery
An aftercare program is an all-encompassing method of treatment, meaning it fosters lifestyle changes by addressing all of your client’s psychological, emotional, and physical needs. It is important that both the content in the aftercare plan, as well as the frequency and nature of the contact, should be determined based on your client’s individual needs. In essence, aftercare plans should be as unique as your clients they are written for.
Tips for Creating a Successful Aftercare Plan
As a mental health provider, you have a unique responsibility to build an aftercare plan that, oftentimes, can mean the difference between your client thriving in recovery or experiencing a regression in treatment. The following tips can be useful to not only help your clients thrive during and after ongoing care but also provide a safety plan in the event of a relapse.
#1. Start Aftercare Immediately After Treatment
As stated above, most people relapse within the first few months of the post-treatment phase, making it imperative to avoid large gaps in between services. Developing and employing your client’s aftercare plan directly after treatment can be immensely comforting, especially if they rely on therapy to support their everyday functioning and sobriety.
#2. Lay the Foundation
There are five major components that you should include in an aftercare plan: relapse prevention, continued therapy, setting goals, coping strategies, and establishing a sober life. When you create an aftercare plan, you should create it to help your client identify cognitive lenses that influence behaviors and emotions.
Write the plan in a way that is systematic, individualized, includes well-defined goals, and addresses the following:
#1. Who is involved with or responsible for the various components in the plan?
#2. What services, modalities, and treatment methods will be used?
#3. When, where, and for how long will each component take place?
#3. For Your Consideration
Important details about your client’s everyday life should be taken into consideration when you create an aftercare plan. Not only do these details help with crafting an individualized plan, but they also give you insight into possible barriers during aftercare.
To create a plan that has a greater chance of being successful, you should consider your client’s:
- Level of independence, motivation, and commitment.
- Support system and family dynamic.
- Access to resources.
- Housing and occupational status.
- Culture and identity.
- Day-to-day responsibilities, such as work, school, and family obligations.
- Co-occurring mental health conditions.
There Is No “I” in Aftercare
#4. When it comes to aftercare, collaboration is key. Addiction tends to make clients feel alone and isolated. However, long-term success in the recovery process depends on a solid support system. An “aftercare team” will be responsible for planning, developing, and implementing the plan. Clients in an treatment program should have access to a network of individuals including mental health providers, physicians, sponsors, and loved ones that you can collaborate with you to execute an aftercare plan to support your client.
#5. Make the Client the Priority
One of the most important tips, as it relates to aftercare planning, is putting your client’s health, safety, and success first. An aftercare plan is designed to improve the lives and health of individuals by changing the thoughts and behaviors that are most strongly related to addiction, relapse, and psychiatric distress.
Your aftercare plans should address the major concerns your client brings to treatment, be consistent with diagnoses, be culturally relevant, and include interventions that target your client’s thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and social relationships. The most effective treatment plans are ones that are consistent with the client’s desires.
Clients that receive ongoing care tend to be more successful in long-term recovery because it allows them to take accountability and responsibility for their treatment, while also receiving continued support from mental health professionals, peers, and loved ones. An aftercare plan offers clients a blueprint on how to overcome addiction by making healthy choices and fostering healthy behaviors, habits, relationships, and environmental factors that can reduce the risk of relapsing. The plan should include structure, customized interventions and activities, a cognitive theoretical framework, and resources that foster behavioral, emotional, mental, and physical health. At Casa Recovery, we offer clients a multitude of aftercare programs and services that are all-encompassing, practical transitions from or alternatives to more intensive residential or inpatient programs. Our outpatient treatment services include one-on-one therapy, one-on-one psychiatry, nursing, holistic treatment, group therapy, nutrition and medication management. If you know someone that has completed residential or inpatient treatment and is in need of aftercare services, contact us today at (888) 928-2272.