Understanding Continuing Care Addiction Treatment

For many people, alcohol and drug treatment programs are only the first step of their journeys towards sobriety. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for the diseases of drug abuse and alcoholism. Recovery is an ongoing process, and the skills one learns during rehabilitation treatment must be integrated into everyday life, a process which takes time.

Participating in continuing care after residential treatment offers a number of advantages for individuals who are seeking sobriety. Some of these advantages include:

  • Gradual transition back into everyday life

A residential treatment center is an excellent place for a person to take the first steps towards overcoming a long-running substance abuse problem, but residential treatment is, by necessity, different from everyday life. During residential treatment, a person lives in a secure location without access to substances of abuse, removing the temptation to relapse. Every day, a person in residential treatment participates in individual therapy, groups, and other activities that are designed to build his or her ability to live a healthy and substance-free life. The combination of a secure, drug free environment, along with daily groups and frequent support, provides fertile soil where a person can plant the seeds of long-term sobriety. However, a person cannot live in residential treatment forever. The goal of residential treatment is to allow a person to learn how to function well in his or her everyday life and so, at some point, a person must transition out of residential care.

Continuing care options are designed to allow a person to transition gradually out of residential care while ensuring that he or she has the support needed to build upon the progress he or she made during residential treatment. A gradual return to the individual’s everyday life gives him or her the best possible chance of not relapsing once residential treatment has come to an end.

  • Ongoing social and emotional support

One of the greatest assets of a residential treatment program is social support from professionals and peers. The support of trained substance abuse treatment experts, coupled with the social support of other individuals seeking sobriety, is a winning formula for helping individuals overcome drug and alcohol abuse. While these supports are readily available during residential treatment, if the person immediately returns to his or her everyday life without these supports, he or she is much more likely to fall back into his or her old ways and is at a much greater risk of relapse.

Continuing care allows individuals to maintain the social supports from which they benefited during residential treatment while they build new social networks and new supportive relationships in their everyday lives. By gradually easing a person back into his or her everyday life, these continuing care options allow individuals the best possible chance to achieve long-term sobriety.

Many high-quality substance abuse treatment programs offer a range of continuing care options. The best centers recognize that residential treatment is only one step in the process, and so they offer options for continuing care. Some of these options for continuing care include:

  • Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)

PHPs are most often intended as a step-down option of care for people who are either coming out of an inpatient or residential treatment program or as a step-up program for people who need more support than an intensive outpatient program (IOP) or traditional outpatient care. Many PHP programs provide care five days per week for up to eight hours per day. Unlike with inpatient or residential care, people in a partial hospitalization program generally do not live at the treatment center, but instead commute to and from their homes each day. Individuals receiving PHP care benefit from individual therapy, groups, experiential therapy, family therapy, and other interventions that are all designed to facilitate their long-term progress in treatment.

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)

An IOP generally acts as step-up care from traditional outpatient treatment or step-down care from inpatient, residential, or PHP treatment. Intensive outpatient programs generally occur a few days per week for 3 to 4 hours each day. Many IOP programs have both morning and evening sessions so that individuals engaged in them can also maintain school, work, and family commitments while attending IOP. During IOP, individuals often receive individual therapy, group therapy, experiential therapy, family therapy, and other interventions designed to help them build upon their progress.

Because a gradual transition from residential treatment back into everyday life is often helpful for individuals seeking treatment for substance abuse, many treatment programs allow individuals to progress from residential care to PHP to IOP before they are discharged into the care of providers in their communities for traditional outpatient services.

Although substance use disorders are dangerous disorders that can feel all but impossible to overcome, the truth is that help and hope are available. By finding a substance abuse treatment program that offers not only residential care but also effective continuing care options, people struggling with substance abuse can give themselves the best possible chance at a life of long-term sobriety.

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