Aftercare Programs for People in Addiction Recovery

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Continued Support After Rehab

  • Aftercare is follow-up treatment you receive after being in a drug or alcohol rehab program.
  • Aftercare programs can help prevent relapse and help you stay focused on your recovery.
  • These programs can include 12-Step programs, support groups, sober living, or individual or group counseling.
  • Just like rehab, there is no one-size-fits-all aftercare program. The right program should meet your individual needs.
  • Aftercare programs for teens need to offer special support, help them connect with their families, and build their self-esteem.

What Is Post-Rehab Aftercare?

Post-rehab aftercare is any treatment a person receives after participating in a drug or alcohol rehab program. This treatment has been shown to be extremely effective in helping people in recovery stay on track. It decreases the probability they will relapse and return to their addictive behavior.

Drug treatment aftercare frequently involves one or more of the following programs:

  • Continued appointments with an addiction treatment professional(s) for ongoing individual counseling.
  • Attendance or participation in 12-Step program(s) or other group support settings.
  • Education on new skills or coping strategies and success stories from others.1
  • Regularly scheduled group counseling sessions.

How Long and How Frequently Will You Need It?

The time needed for any drug treatment aftercare depends on the person. It could be months, years, or even a lifetime.

The frequency of meeting or counseling sessions also depends on the person. It could be daily, weekly, or less often. It can also vary depending on the amount of stress or trouble one is having at a particular time.

Importance of Aftercare

Committing to an addiction aftercare program greatly decreases the likelihood of relapse.2 It helps the individual learn coping skills and other ways they can return to “normal life” without feeling the need to engage in addictive behavior. In rehab aftercare, people in recovery also learn how to involve their families in their recovery – which can give much needed support.

Do I Need Aftercare?

Participating in any type of aftercare can greatly increase the likelihood that an individual will remain clean or sober. People also learn the best way to cope in the world. They gain things such as job skills, anger management skills, and the support needed to help them see that they can control their addiction. They find out that they have the power and skills to thrive without falling back into their addiction.

Risks of Not Having Aftercare

At least half of all people who enter recovery will relapse. Since most of these relapses occur within the first 90 days following treatment, the risks of not having a rehab aftercare program or complying with one are great.3

Also, people in recovery who do not participate in relapse prevention programs miss out on the support and confidence building that occurs. The lack of support can also cause them to relapse—a discouraging setback for much of the hard work they did to make it through the recovery process.

Read more about aftercare

Types of Long-Term Treatment

A wide variety of aftercare programs are available for both long-term aftercare and aftercare that only lasts for a short time or can be done on a less scheduled basis. Prescribing appropriate aftercare should be part of the discharge process from a rehabilitation program.

The types of aftercare that are available include:

12-Step programs

Local meetings focused on spiritual steps to recovery while connecting with other recovering addicts.

Support groups

Local support groups that cater to your specific addiction. These groups foster an encouraging and helpful environment.

Dual-diagnosis support (integrated aftercare)

Necessary when someone in recovery also suffers from a mental health condition. If mental health issues are not addressed, relapse can easily occur.

Counseling (1-on-1 and group)

Discuss any problems or roadblocks you run into during recovery as well as address any underlying issues that may have contributed to your addiction.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that’s focused on problem-solving and changing patterns of thinking and behavior.

Booster sessions

Therapy sessions offered post-treatment and designed to hone new coping skills and to renew motivation.

Emotion regulation

Learn the skills necessary to assess your emotions, positively respond to stressful situations, and resist urges.

Pharmaceutical treatment

Receive medication in combination with other aftercare treatments.

Sober living houses

Live with other recovering addicts who understand what you’re going through. They help to relieve the stress of everyday life while fostering a safe, supportive and substance-free environment.

Choosing an Aftercare Program

A good aftercare program will address the individual’s needs by providing a wide variety of service options. Some examples include:

  • Job placement.
  • Anger management courses.
  • Activities.
  • Support groups.
  • Visits from alumni for encouragement.
  • Educational lectures and social times.

Only the individual, with help from counselors and family members, can determine which type of aftercare method is most suitable for them. The programs all have pros and cons, and choosing the right program can directly affect their success.

Long-Term Treatment for Teens

Aftercare can help teens build self-esteem and manage their emotions.

Rehab aftercare programs for teens will be different than those for adults since teenagers are facing their own unique set of circumstances that include many changes: physical, mental, and hormonal. The addiction aftercare offered to them must be able to meet those needs.4

What Additional Support Do You Need as a Teenager?

Teenagers with addictions frequently need to learn that they are responsible for their actions. Once they take responsibility, recovery can become easier.

They also need extra support to:

  • Develop better self-esteem.
  • Learn relapse prevention skills.
  • Gain the ability to talk with their families.
  • Learn how to regulate their emotional responses.

Learn more about rehab aftercare programs:


1. Jason LA, Davis MI, Ferrari JR. The need for substance abuse after-care: longitudinal analysis of Oxford House. Addict Behav. 2007 Apr;32(4):803-18. Epub 2006 Jul 14. PubMed PMID: 16843612.

2. Weisner C, Matzger H, Kaskutas LA. How important is treatment? One-year outcomes of treated and untreated alcohol-dependent individuals. Addiction. 2003 Jul;98(7):901-11. PubMed PMID: 12814496.

3. Moos RH, Moos BS. Rates and predictors of relapse after natural and treated remission from alcohol use disorders. Addiction (Abingdon, England). 2006;101(2):212-222. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2006.01310.x.

4. Van der Westhuizen MA. Relapse prevention for chemically addicted adolescents in recovery: so which model works? J Evid Inf Soc Work. 2015;12(4):400-11. Epub 2015 Mar 2. PubMed PMID: 25730131.

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