Recovery Aftercare: What You Should Know

January 10, 2023

7 mins

Jackie Rosu


Addiction is a complex disease to treat, but it’s not without hope. In fact, recovery isn’t a possibility – it’s the norm. 

Addiction is a complex disease to treat, but it’s not without hope. In fact, recovery isn’t a possibility – it’s the norm

More than 70% of adults who have struggled with substance use now consider themselves as recovered or recovering, and most people who have faced addictions go on to live healthy and full lives.

One thing that many who are recovered have in common is that they participated in some form of treatment program, whether it was residential, rehab, a support group, or outpatient therapy. Considering positive outcomes of treatment depend on the amount of time an individual spends in treatment, recovery aftercare programs can play a critical role in a successful recovery.

In this article, we:

  • Define addiction recovery aftercare
  • Discuss types of aftercare programs
  • Share the benefits of aftercare
  • Inform you on how to find the right aftercare plan 

What Is an Aftercare Plan?

An aftercare plan is an ongoing treatment plan that helps those who have achieved initial sobriety stay sober. These plans are created after patients are discharged from intensive inpatient or residential care to help them readjust to everyday life.

Research confirms that people who participate in recovery aftercare – also called continuing care – are more likely to stay sober and maintain other positive outcomes achieved during the initial treatment period.

Types of Aftercare Programs

Recovery aftercare refers to a broad spectrum of treatment programs that differ in intensity and goals. The results of each program type vary by person and depend on: 

  • Length of treatment 
  • Intensity of treatment received
  • Severity of the individual’s substance use disorder
  • Mental health disorders that may have been diagnosed alongside substance use disorder
  • The individual’s motivation 
  • How the treatment was delivered

There is no one-size-fits-all recovery plan, so it’s important not to give up if one program doesn’t work out. The success of the aftercare program may depend on the person delivering care. You always have the option to switch therapists, psychiatrists, or groups until you find one that fits your needs.

Here are 6 common types of aftercare programs for people in recovery.

Facility-Based Programs

Many institutions that provide inpatient, residential, or drug rehab care also offer outpatient aftercare programs to help individuals ease back into society. There are 2 types of facility-based programs:

  • Partial hospitalization programs
  • Intensive outpatient programs 

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)

Partial hospitalization programs act as step-down programs for those receiving inpatient treatment. These programs require the individual to come to the facility for treatment between 4 and 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. PHPs provide a high level of therapy without the need for 24/7 monitoring.

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) 

Similar to PHPs, intensive outpatient programs act as an alternative for people who need intensive care but don’t require 24-hour supervision. IOPs are less time-consuming than PHPs, as they only require a minimum of 6 treatment hours per week for adolescents and 9 treatment hours per week for adults.

Behavioral Therapies

Often referred to as individual therapy, behavioral therapy is a type of aftercare program that helps people with substance use disorder change behaviors around substance use. It also teaches them life skills to manage any triggers or lingering symptoms.

There are several types of behavioral therapies used in addiction treatment, including:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): helps individuals identify the connections between their thoughts, feelings, and actions and how each can affect their recovery. Goals may include increasing motivation, preventing relapse, and stopping problematic behaviors.
  • Contingency management: This therapy focuses on rewarding an individual when there is evidence of positive behavioral changes. This type of behavioral therapy isn’t as widely used as CBT, but research shows it can be significantly effective.
  • Couples and family therapy: These sessions help to heal relationships that may have been affected by the person’s substance use and teaches family and friends how they can best support their loved one.

Sober Living Homes

A sober living house is a place of transition for those who have recently completed inpatient treatment but are concerned about their ability to stay sober outside of an institutional environment. These programs have the following characteristics:

  • Individuals pay monthly rent to reserve an individual room 
  • Individuals live with other people who are also in recovery for additional support
  • Sober living homes can be completely peer-run or managed by a clinical team
  • Each house will have its own set of rules, which include restrictions on having substances on the premises, being active in treatment, and being willing to help with communal chores

Sober living programs are great for people who have achieved sobriety but want to practice their coping skills before being surrounded by triggers in their home environment.

Support Groups

Support groups involve talk therapy, among others who struggle with substance use and addiction. These groups may be led by a 12-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous or may be less structured meetings for when peer support is needed. 

Never Alone Recovery offers a free online support group that meets every Wednesday for people with addictions and their spouses, families, and friends. Feel free to join us anytime!

Case Management Programs

Case managers help with recovery aftercare by connecting individuals to resources that are both clinical and non-clinical, such as:

  • Housing
  • Employment
  • Relationships
  • Community programs
  • Logistical concerns about leaving intensive treatment

Case managers can also help refer you to treatment providers and assist in overcoming any barriers to care.

Alumni Programs

Many treatment facilities offer alumni programs for those who have “graduated” from inpatient treatment and want to connect with others in recovery for encouragement and fun. These groups provide a network of individuals trained in the same coping skills and can offer advice or support when needed.

Benefits of Addiction Aftercare Programs

Recovery aftercare programs are highly effective in helping patients remain sober. Here are some advantages individuals can gain from participating in an aftercare plan.

Peer-Based Support

Addiction may require a person to create new social circles of people who are also sober, and aftercare programs are a great place to find them. You can connect with like-minded individuals who share the same struggles via support groups, sober living homes, and more.

Mixing peer support with individual counseling and case management is highly effective in managing challenges related to addiction.

Lowered Risk of Relapse

Roughly 40-60% of individuals who are treated for substance use disorder relapse, and this typically happens within the first 30 days following treatment. 

Research has shown that people who participated in aftercare programs such as sober living homes were more likely to remain sober following intensive treatment.

Insufficient coping skills, lack of peer support, and low motivation are risk factors for relapse. Because recovery aftercare programs work to provide individuals with the resources, management techniques, and emotional support they need, those who participate in aftercare are better equipped to avoid relapse.

Greater Adherence to Outpatient Care

According to a 2021 study, people who choose to live in sober housing following their discharges are more likely to stay in outpatient treatment long-term, which is associated with more positive outcomes.

Employment & Social Help

Moving back to your home environment following intensive addiction care is not easy, especially when there are:

  • Financial barriers
  • Family factors
  • Challenges due to unemployment
  • A lack of emotional support

Engaging with a case manager or therapist can provide the support you may not receive otherwise.

Long-Term Recovery Toolbox

Inpatient treatment programs are focused on stabilizing people until they are well enough not to need 24-hour monitoring. But just because someone has gone through rehab or medical detox doesn’t mean they’re equipped with the tools they need to succeed.

Recovery aftercare programs are designed to help individuals add to their toolbox and practice coping skills that can be used throughout life. This gives you more weapons against your addiction for when you hit a rough day.

Who Should Consider Addiction Aftercare Programs?

Anyone who has substance use disorder or who recently graduated from a rehab, residential, or inpatient recovery program can benefit from addiction aftercare. 

Research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shows that addiction treatment lasting less than 90 days has limited effectiveness, and treatment that lasts significantly longer is recommended for achieving and maintaining positive outcomes. 

This is why addiction aftercare plans are so important, as they lead to lengthened care and reduce the risk of setbacks.

What Makes Aftercare Plans Successful?

Recovery is a highly personal journey that may involve medication, faith-based support, self-care, family support, and more. It’s a holistic approach that supports the whole person, their values, and their community.

According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 4 guiding principles help drive recovery aftercare success:

  • Health: Making healthy choices that support one’s physical and emotional health, including the management of addiction symptoms and cravings
  • Home: Having a stable place to live
  • Purpose: Participating in daily activities that support your purpose and values, such as employment, volunteering, caretaking, and creative passions
  • Community: Surrounding oneself with a social network of supportive, encouraging people who provide friendship and hope

Each piece works in tandem to create a well-rounded recovery environment that centers on individual growth and resiliency.

How to Develop the Right Aftercare Plan

Everyone is different, and some aftercare programs considered game-changers by some may not be helpful to others.

A great place to start is to ask for aftercare recommendations from your psychiatrist or clinical leader from your recent inpatient stay. Many facilities will do this automatically before you leave to help you transition.

Connecting with a case manager in your area is a great idea since their role is to connect you with local resources. Talk to them about your concerns or preferences for your aftercare plan so they can help develop a custom roadmap with you.

Call Never Alone Recovery for free help with treatment placement. It’s what we’re here for!

Get Addiction Recovery Support When You Need It Most

Never Alone Recovery was designed to help people take the next step in their addiction recovery journey. In addition to offering a free online support group, the Never Alone program offers free consultations to help match you with the best-fit programming.

Call us now at 866-788-8335 to develop an addiction recovery support plan you can feel good about.

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