The Necessary Components of an Aftercare Plan

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Addiction recovery is a process that looks different for each person. However, there are specific levels of care that every client in treatment will progress through as they work to achieve and sustain lasting recovery. Once a client establishes initial sobriety through a residential or outpatient treatment program, they must participate in continuing care opportunities to gain confidence and security as they transition back to life outside of treatment. Understanding the components of an aftercare plan is vital for ensuring that every client has the resources and tools that they need to not only survive but thrive in long-term recovery. 

At Pathways Recovery Center, we honor the value of creating aftercare plans for our clients while they receive treatment. We use the same approach to crafting aftercare plans as we do for treatment plans – ensuring that all plans are individualized to meet every client's unique needs and recovery goals. In addition, we ensure that our clients' aftercare plans are holistic to improve client's overall well-being in sobriety. 

From Treatment to Aftercare: A Lifelong Recovery Journey

Professional treatment is often the first step in healing for those seeking recovery from substance use disorder (SUD). Substance abuse deeply affects brain structure and functioning, making an individual increasingly vulnerable to continued substance use without professional intervention. In this way, addiction treatment can provide individuals with the tools, knowledge, and support they need to commit to lasting behavioral change. 

Some may wonder, however, if recovery is achieved once a treatment program is completed. Unfortunately, recovery is a lifelong journey that is not achieved once a treatment program is finished. Still, it is necessary to acknowledge that completing a treatment program is an incredible accomplishment and should be celebrated. 

The Value of an Aftercare Plan in Addiction Recovery

Meanwhile, recognizing that recovery is a lifelong journey requires an individual to acknowledge the role of aftercare in lasting sobriety. Also known as continuing care, aftercare is a long-term stage of treatment that follows an experience of initial or more intensive care. 

It is important to note that an aftercare plan is a living document that can be adjusted and changed as necessary and as one evolves throughout their recovery journey. Every client in treatment will work with their care team to develop a unique aftercare plan, addressing expectations for continued treatment engagement as well as other tools and resources that may be helpful in long-term recovery. An article in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment offers examples of the different formats and modalities that may be used in aftercare, including:

  • Group counseling
  • Individual therapy
  • Telephone or virtual counseling
  • Brief check-ups
  • Self-help meetings

The Goals of an Aftercare Plan

Moreover, according to an article in Alcohol Research, in the continuum of care model for substance abuse treatment, the main goals of aftercare include:

  • Solidifying and sustaining the gains made in the initial treatment program
  • Establishing abstinence if it was not achieved prior
  • Preventing subsequent releases from worsening or requiring participation in acute treatment services

The article also confirmed that “continuing care of longer duration that includes more active efforts to keep patients engaged may produce more consistently positive results.” In other words, the duration of time an individual participates in aftercare directly correlates with the success of their recovery outcome. 

What Is Included in an Aftercare Plan?

In addition to suggestions for continued treatment engagement mentioned earlier, many other components must be included in a successful aftercare plan. Consider the following components.

Opportunities for Sober Networking and Social Support

Social support is vital to sustained recovery. Thus, in an aftercare plan, it is crucial to acknowledge various opportunities for sober networking and social support. Examples of social networking opportunities include, but are not limited to:

  • Alumni events hosted by treatment facilities
  • Sober gatherings hosted by community health centers and local organizations
  • Support groups

In addition, a client can also address personal relationships with friends, family, and other loved ones that support their recovery journey in their aftercare plan. It can help to remind them of the ones they can reach out to for love and support, especially during tough times.

Resources for Stable Housing and Employment

Another component that is vital to include in an aftercare plan is reliable resources for stable housing and employment. An individual's living environment can make or break their motivation and commitment to recovery, especially if they live among others that continue to engage in alcohol and other drug use. 

Fortunately, treatment facilities can provide contact information and professional suggestions for stable housing and sober living homes, which can be especially useful in early recovery. In addition, employment opportunities must also be acknowledged in an aftercare plan so that an individual can prosper financially in sobriety. 

Useful Coping Skills

Lastly, an aftercare plan must highlight useful coping skills and mechanisms that an individual can turn to when struggling with emotional distress, cravings, and other obstacles during long-term recovery. These coping skills must be individualized for every client. While some may benefit from mindfulness skills, others may need to embrace healthy distractions or hobbies to keep them in the right headspace for sobriety. At Pathways Recovery Center, we ensure that once our clients leave treatment, they have knowledge of a plethora of coping skills to aid them on their journey to lasting healing. 

If you have recently completed a treatment program, you have likely already begun crafting an individualized aftercare plan. It is important to ensure that you not only acknowledge opportunities for continued treatment engagement but also for social support, sober networking, housing and employment, and coping skills. At Pathways Recovery Center, we offer a variety of different treatment programs to ensure that we meet the unique needs and recovery goals of every client we serve. During treatment, we work with our clients to craft useful aftercare plans that help them to stay engaged in treatment and prioritize their sobriety. To learn more about how we can best serve you, call us today at (888) 771-0966.

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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