Life After Rehab: What Happens When You Get Out of Rehab

3 min read · 5 sections
Completing a treatment program is an incredible accomplishment. Addiction, however, is a complex, chronic disease, and recovery is a lifelong process.1 Challenges await, but addiction aftercare programs and other resources can help you transition back to everyday life while you continue to grow in recovery.
What you will learn:
What happens post rehab?
What is aftercare?
Types of aftercare

What Happens When You Finish a Rehab Program?

Substance use disorder, the clinical term for addiction, is a chronic, relapsing disease, characterized by the compulsive use of a substance despite the adverse consequences. It’s a brain disorder that functionally changes the brain, and those changes can last even after substance use stops.1

Like other chronic conditions—such as heart disease or diabetes—addiction treatment requires follow-up care to help you manage the disease and reduce the risk of relapse.1

What Is Rehab Aftercare?

Research indicates that over half of individuals who receive treatment for substance use disorders relapse within the first year after entering treatment , and they remain at a heightened risk of relapse throughout the early years of recovery.2

Aftercare, more commonly referred to as continuing care, that follows formal treatment, produces more positive treatment effects—meaning individuals tend to be more successful in their recovery.3 Thus, continuing care is widely believed to be an essential component of effective treatment for substance use disorder.4

Continuing care is a broad term that encompasses a period of less intensive treatment following a more intense initial treatment period. An individual in residential treatment continues in an intensive outpatient program following the residential treatment period, for instance.3 Continuing care reinforces the skills and progress made during the initial recovery and is generally recommended for the treatment of substance use disorders.2

Individuals may begin aftercare after the completion of detox, inpatient treatment, or an outpatient treatment program.

Types of Aftercare: Outpatient Programs

Ongoing care varies depending on the individual’s situation and the level of support they need after rehab. The transition from a residential or inpatient treatment setting to an outpatient program is often called a step-down plan as individuals reduce the intensity and amount of time they spend in treatment as they become more comfortable managing their sobriety.4

Aftercare treatment may include care that’s delivered in a variety of formats and modalities. They vary in terms of time in treatment, intensity, and duration.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)

A partial hospitalization program (PHP), or day treatment, is an intensive outpatient program that offers a combination of behavioral therapies and medical and non-medical support during the day but allows individuals to return home or to a sober living environment at night.5

The highly structured PHP delivers treatment for a minimum of 20 hours each week, though some programs may be longer and others may be less. The duration of PHPs also varies, but most last a minimum of 90 days. After treatment in a PHP, continuing care in a less structured outpatient program typically follows.

Many of our American Addiction Centers (AAC) facilities offer PHPs, which provide sessions that help individuals alter their thought patterns that aid in substance misuse through a combination of psychoeducation, evidence-based addiction therapies, medication management (when appropriate), and peer support. These AAC facilities include:

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs)

Similar to a PHP, an intensive outpatient program (IOP) typically provides counseling, medical assistance, and other services 3 days a week, for somewhere between 6 and 30 hours each week, depending on the individual’s needs. Some programs provide more sessions per week and/or longer sessions each day, and many programs become less intense over time. Most IOPs last a minimum of 90 days and are followed by continuing outpatient care. All IOPs allow individuals to return home or to their sober living communities at the end of each day.6,7

Many individuals step down from a residential or PHP treatment into an IOP. At AAC, IOPs may include individual and group therapy, life skills training, psychoeducation, medications for addiction treatment, and mutual-help meetings. The AAC treatment centers offering IOPs include:

Outpatient Treatment Programs

Standard outpatient rehab offers similar counseling and evidence-based therapies to those provided in PHPs and IOPs; however, the time spent in these sessions is less—1 to 3 days is typical. At the end of each day, individuals usually return home, so a stable living environment, reliable transportation, and a supportive network is key.8

At AAC, in outpatient programs, individual, group, and family therapy sessions, along with evidence-based therapies for addiction treatment, help individuals shift their negative thoughts and behavioral patterns, recognize and avoid triggers, and become motivated and invested in their sobriety as they progress in their recovery. The AAC treatment centers providing outpatient services include:

  • Greenhouse Treatment Center
  • Recovery First Treatment Center
  • River Oaks Treatment Center
  • Oxford Treatment Center
  • Desert Hope Treatment Center
  • AdCare Hospital
  • AdCare Rhode Island

Types of Aftercare: Sober Living Communities

Sober living communities provide a safe, temporary community for individuals in recovery to live. These homes provide a transition for individuals who would like to live independently but benefit from living in a substance-free environment first. They offer a balance between independence and structure. Residents must adhere to rules, remain sober, attend meetings, find a job, and support themselves financially. Many sober living communities offer employment and education programs to promote successful adjustments to life outside of rehab.8

AAC offers sober living environments that combine independence and freedom with a schedule and a network of supportive peers. The AAC facilities that have sober living environments include:

  • Greenhouse Treatment Center
  • River Oaks Treatment Center
  • Oxford Treatment Center
  • Desert Hope Treatment Center

Other Aftercare Programs

Other rehab aftercare programs may include:2-5,8

  • Individual therapy.
  • Group counseling.
  • 12-Step programs/mutual-help groups. Research indicates that support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), aimed at maintaining the gains accomplished in treatment and offering a space for encouragement and accountability, are highly valuable for sobriety maintenance.
  • Medication.
  • Alumni apps and SMS-based care.
  • Telehealth. Also referred to as telemedicine, telehealth delivers care over the phone or online to support treatment and recovery. It can be helpful for individuals who live farther away from a facility and are unable to get to a treatment center regularly.
  • Home visits.

Completing a drug and alcohol treatment program is a momentous achievement, but continued recovery maintenance is important for long-term sobriety.

For more information about starting treatment, types of treatment, or aftercare options, reach out to AAC by calling and speaking to one of our admissions navigators, who are available 24/7 to listen to your story, answer your questions, explain your options, verify your insurance, and help you begin your recovery journey.

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