With so many deep changes made to the mind, body, and spirit throughout your stay at an inpatient addiction treatment facility, it’s easy to leave feeling like your whole life has been transformed. Unfortunately, the carefully curated environment at inpatient rehab doesn’t reflect the challenges of the outside world, and these positive changes won’t last if you return to your previous destructive behaviors.
Instead of leaving your recovery up to chance, it’s imperative that you engage fully in an aftercare plan to maintain your sobriety – especially in the fragile beginning stages of recovery. Aftercare planning and long-term case management not only provides valuable support, but they will also help you stay on track to meet your recovery goals, build healthy relationships and minimize the risk of relapse.
What Is Aftercare Planning In Addiction Treatment?
Addiction treatment does not stop once your time at inpatient treatment ends. In order to succeed in long-term recovery, you must take the things you learned in treatment and use them to build a more fulfilling and sober life. All of the work you put into your recovery after treatment is part of your aftercare.
Although you may not engage in your aftercare plan until you’ve completed inpatient treatment, aftercare planning begins as soon as you enter rehab. Throughout your stay at an inpatient rehab, your treatment team will identify and teach you the skills that will best serve your long-term recovery. Some of the most common skills you’ll learn to use in your recovery are:
- Relapse prevention
- Stress management
- Relationship building
- Coping skills
- Avoiding high-risk situations
Incorporating these skills into your recovery will help you better manage your life after treatment and avoid falling back into old habits.
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What Is Included In An Aftercare Plan?
As you get close to the end of your stay at inpatient rehab, aftercare planning will become more concrete. You’ll meet with your treatment team to determine thing such as:
- Therapy: Therapy is integral to making emotional progress in recovery. An aftercare plan should include what therapist you will see outside of treatment and how frequently you will be seeing them.
- Sober Living: Sober living homes are safe and supportive environments that will help you maintain your sobriety after treatment. If you’re entering a sober living facility, your aftercare plan will include this.
- Intensive Outpatient Therapy (IOP): IOP provides a lot of the same resources inpatient treatment provides, like the group and individual therapy. Your treatment team will help you decide if IOP is the next best step for you.
- Support Groups: You will work with your team to determine which support groups you’ll benefit the most from and how often you should be attending.
- Primary Care Physician: After years of drug or alcohol abuse, your health is likely suffering. You’ll need to check in with a primary care doctor to ensure that you’re health is on track.
Building a thorough and specific plan with a team of treatment providers that you trust will give you the best chance at long-term recovery.
What Are The Goals Of Aftercare?
While aftercare is often seen as a tool to keep you from returning to drugs or alcohol after addiction treatment, it can be so much more than that. Aftercare planning keeps you committed to your recovery as you transition from inpatient treatment to real life and will prepare you to overcome challenges along the way.
Although everyone faces different challenges in recovery, aftercare planning will help you work through these obstacles by:
- Helping you identify triggers to prevent relapse
- Encouraging healthy relationships and choices, including exercise and proper diet
- Reiterating the skills you learned in treatment in your recovery
- Teaching you to avoid high-stress situations
- Helping you build a network of support
- Including personal coping techniques in your aftercare plan
These skills will help you build a meaningful and successful life in recovery.
However, the transition from inpatient rehab to the real world is easier said than done. Despite having a plan in place and the skills to manage triggering situations, life after treatment can be hard. Whether you’re returning to a toxic environment or struggling to make amends with family and friends, dealing with these stressors without the support of your treatment team in rehab can be challenging – even if you have the best aftercare plan. This is where long-term case management steps in.
What Is Long-Term Case Management?
Long-term case management picks up where your treatment team left off. Often affiliated with the treatment program you attended, long-term case management will assist you outside of rehab by monitoring your progress, providing help when necessary and keeping you on track to meet your recovery goals. Your long-term case manager will serve as a link between you and the treatment facility.
“The goal of long-term case management is to build a foundation so that our patient’s ongoing recovery will be more stable,” starts Valerie Hardison, a long-term case manager at Vertava Health. With this goal always at the forefront of her mind, Valerie acts as a sounding board and guiding lights for many of her patients taking their tentative first steps into recovery.
“What we often see is that patients go to treatment for 30 days, get out and barely remember anything they were taught or don’t know how to apply the skills they learned in treatment in real life,” she says. “As long-term case managers, my team and I work with them for a year to provide extra support and guidance.”
Although Valerie and her team aren’t able to meet most of their clients face-to-face, they make themselves available via text, email, phone call, video chat or any other means of communication that’s comfortable for the patient. The long-term case management team works hard to connect with each person in a way that’s most convenient and helpful for them, providing a completely patient-centric program.
The number of times patients speak with their long-term case manager is also dictated by the clients. Valerie notes that she has some patients that are doing so well, she only talks to them every other week, while others have scheduled calls with her as many as three times a week.
“When a patient comes to me with a problem, the first thing I do is ask them to take me back to when the issue started and how it is now,” she begins. “By doing this with them, I can help my patients develop the skills they learned in treatment. The more they apply these skills to real-life problems, the better they get at using them.”
Just like any other recovery program, patients get out of long-term case management what they put into it. While Valerie and the long-term management team work hard, she says that her patients always work harder.
Addiction recovery isn’t a process that ends after treatment. It’s a lifelong journey that requires continual support, compassion and guidance from those around you. In order to lay a strong foundation for recovery, you need to commit yourself to your aftercare and consider seeking the help of a long-term case management.