aftercare program

Do I Need An Aftercare Program?

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Addiction treatment is a process. For many people, staying in recovery means they have to continue to work it, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In addiction treatment programs, a continuum of care is frequently ideal, including an aftercare program.

Not everyone will participate in an aftercare program, but it’s an incredibly important step in recovery for some people.

Below, we talk about what we mean by a continuum of care, what an aftercare program is, and how it could fit into your treatment plan.

What is a Continuum of Care?

In substance abuse treatment, there is a term, continuum of care, which is important. In substance abuse treatment, a continuum of care references offers a wide variety of treatments to meet the particular needs of people in recovery.

The idea of levels of care isn’t exclusive to addiction treatment. It can refer to any situation where patients are guided and tracked through a period of time as they receive comprehensive services in varying intensities.

For example, someone with a chronic health condition like diabetes might receive a continuum of care.

  • The services that are most generally included in a continuum of care for all health conditions and not just addiction treatment include extended, hospital, ambulatory, and home care, outreach, wellness, and housing.
  • You can also break down a continuum of care into four larger categories—planning and management, coordination of care, care-based financing, and integrated information systems.
  • Another way to look at the continuum of care is as a philosophy where you’re getting a patient from a state of illness to well-being. The patient might be gradually transitioning to a healthier state of being over time. 

It’s incredibly important when we’re specifically looking at the continuum of care in treating addiction. Addiction is chronic and progressive; the longer it goes untreated, the more severe it becomes.

  • With addiction treatment, you could begin at the detox phase of treatment, then begin more intensive therapy where you learn about potential triggers and how to overcome them through group and individual counseling. 
  • Treatment might, at that point, begin to include aftercare plans and connections with a recovery support network. 
  • Addiction is not only a chronic illness but also one with high relapse rates. The longer-term a treatment program, and the more it follows an in-depth continuum of care, the more likelihood of positive outcomes.

ASAM Criteria

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has criteria to define a continuum of care. The goal of this criteria is to provide outcome-driven results in treating addiction.

Under the ASAM criteria, there are five primary levels of treatment making up a continuum of care, and decimal numbers are used to show the intensity for each sub-level of service.

These include:

  • Level 0.5 Early Intervention: At this point in the continuum, individuals might receive interventions based on their risk of developing substance abuse problems. They might not meet the criteria for a substance use disorder diagnosis but could have risk factors predisposing them to this potential. The early intervention relies on helping patients understand their risk factors, so they can adjust their behaviors accordingly.
  • Level 1 Outpatient Treatment: At this level, according to ASAM criteria, patients attend meetings that are regularly scheduled. Patients can keep up with their daily routines but still receive professional addiction treatment services. Level 1 can be a bridge for someone who’s not ready to accept a higher level of care, or it can be a transition following the first level of treatment. Level 1 treatment most often focuses on counseling sessions. 
  • Level 2 Intensive Outpatient/Partial Hospitalization: This category has two intensity levels. Level 2.1, the intensive outpatient program (IOP), and Level 2.5, a partial hospitalization program (PHP). At this level, someone might receive psychiatric and medical care, medication management, and crisis services. They might also receive links to other support services like transportation or vocational training.
  • Level 3 Inpatient Rehab/Residential Treatment: Residential treatment is where people will most likely benefit from a stable living environment for recovery. There are several levels of intensity. For example, Level 3.1 refers to a low-intensity but clinically managed residential rehab.
  • Level 4 Medically-Managed Intensive Inpatient Treatment: This is the most intense type of treatment. Someone at this level will receive medical care 24 hours a day, including daily meetings with a doctor. Someone receiving this level of care may also receive treatment for co-occurring disorders.

What is an Aftercare Program?

Regarding intensity, an aftercare program is usually considered Level 1 on the ASAM criteria scale, but it can also be more intensive.  

  • Once someone can achieve sobriety after a period of detox and withdrawal, they must continually work to maintain recovery. Recovery in addiction is similar to remission in chronic disease.
  • Aftercare is an ongoing approach to treatment that you participate in after achieving sobriety.
  • Depending on your needs and treatment plan, an aftercare program can take many forms.

Two of the most common aftercare programs are 12-step groups and outpatient treatment.

  • A 12-step program involves a group setting where you spend time with others in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. 
  • You voluntarily share what you’re comfortable talking about and encourage others in a format similar to a support group during 12-step meetings. 
  • The environment is safe and confidential, and participating in 12-step programs is a good way to build relationships with other sober people and deal with stress healthily.
  • There is a spiritual component to 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, so some prefer alternatives such as SMART Recovery.

Another type of aftercare can be an outpatient treatment program. 

  • Outpatient treatment might be something that you begin after you receive treatment in a residential setting. 
  • Someone with a less severe addiction could move directly from detox to outpatient rehab.
  • You might participate in individual therapy and group counseling. You could also receive care for co-occurring conditions in ongoing therapy. 
  • Aftercare programs might also be a way to provide resources to people who are dealing with the fallout from their addiction as they return to their daily lives. For example, you may have difficulty finding a job or a safe and secure home when you’re in recovery. It’s tough to navigate life after addiction for some people, which can lead to a higher relapse rate.

Aftercare programs may provide access to long-term support through major life transitions, career counseling, and legal support. 

  • These programs might include coaching, community building, case management, and substance monitoring. 
  • An aftercare program can help provide information resources and connections to affordable housing for a person in recovery, upping their likelihood of long-term abstinence from addictive behavior. 
  • For people with the most severe addictions, aftercare might include time spent in sober living homes, also known as halfway houses. 
  • Sober living homes provide a supportive environment once someone leaves a rehab facility. On the road to recovery, a person may not immediately be ready for re-entry into everyday life after leaving treatment facilities. 
  • Treatment centers might include an alumni program as an effective aftercare program. Alumni programs help you stay connected. 

There’s no one answer as to whether or not you need an aftercare program, but most treatment plans will include aftercare in some way.

Aftercare Program Options in the Bay Area, CA

Aftercare programs are an important way to navigate what your sober life will look like and build a life you can be proud of and thrive in. If you’d like to learn more about addiction treatment, please contact Silicon Valley Recovery at 408-547-4089 when you feel comfortable doing so. Treatment for substance abuse needs to put your needs at the forefront of everything, which is what we focus on.