Importance of Aftercare Programs in Addiction Recovery

importance of aftercare programs in addiction recovery

Importance of Aftercare Programs in Addiction Recovery

Breaking the cycle of addiction and dependence can undoubtedly be one of the most difficult experiences many people undergo in their lifetime. Taking part in this process, or watching a loved one or someone close to us do so, can be straining both physically and mentally. The first step in any successful drug or alcohol treatment center program is entering into an inpatient facility.

In this setting, a patient can be monitored around the clock to ensure they are physically comfortable, and safe, while they detox. Inpatient facilities also importantly provide individual and group therapy, life coaching, and an assortment of other classes and programs that are tailored to help create the structures that will give the patient the best chances of a successful recovery.  

Although choosing the right inpatient facility for you or your loved one is a critical step towards recovery, equally important is looking at the types of continued care offered after an inpatient drug treatment program is completed. This step, often overlooked, is essential to charting a course towards lifelong recovery.

In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of aftercare programs, and the key role that they play in addiction recovery. Aftercare programs should not be an afterthought in any addiction recovery path. Instead, choosing the right aftercare programs for you or your loved one can mean the difference between lifelong recovery and relapse.




Simply put, the presence of a properly structured and customized aftercare plan is an essential part of any recovery path. Detox and recovery in an inpatient facility usually takes place over a period of 30, 60, or 90 days. Throughout this time, patients will receive close monitoring and care to ensure they are healthy, adjusting well, and receiving the tools and skills they will need to transition successfully to sobriety.

However, once this period of time is over, patients must leave the security and safety of the facility to begin their life of sobriety. At this critical juncture, there exist many forces that can have a profound effect on their chances of continued success.

Transitioning to a Life of Sobriety

The first, and most obvious, of these forces is a return to their previous life. Many people do not have the resources to completely uproot their life following the completion of a recovery program. Although changing their living situation and location can sometimes be the best course of action by allowing them a fresh start absent pressure to return to their previous lifestyle, this is not realistic for most people. Instead, many people must return to their home, job, and social connections and families.

With a return to their previous situation they must confront the pressures that gave rise to their addiction while navigating their new life of sobriety. At this point, the value of seamless integration between inpatient facilities and outpatient aftercare programs is immense. Importantly, aftercare programs offer an extra level of structure and stability. Aftercare programs can become a valuable safe haven from the pressures of daily life, allowing recovering addicts to ground themselves back in their recovery program during difficult times.  

12-Steps and Beyond

One of the reasons that aftercare programs are so helpful is that they often place a recovering addict alongside others that are at the same or different points in their own journey. This is one important level of support that aftercare programs offer those recovering from addiction. By placing a recovering addict alongside others that know what they are going through, and are indeed facing their own challenges, aftercare programs allow those recovering from addiction to share their experiences and offer strength and guidance with one another.  

Aftercare programs that bring a recovering addicts together with their peers not only allow and encourage the sharing of experiences, but also create important bonds between members of the group. These bonds encourage members to remain accountable for their actions and decisions, to stick to their recovery during difficult times, and to both lean on others for support while offering their support when needed.

Aftercare programs such as this build a strong sense of community. This is incredibly important as a recovering addict begins to navigate life outside of an inpatient facility. It gives them access to others that know exactly what they are going through, how they are feeling, and demonstrates that whatever challenges they face there will be others who will be alongside them throughout the journey.

One important example of a group-centered aftercare program is known as the 12-step program. This program, or process, has helped millions of people around the world live long sober, and productive lives. Founded in the 1930’s, the 12-step program is a demonstrated method of forming a new, healthier, and sober lifestyle. This program functions through group meetings, whereby a recovering addict can join others at different points in their recovery process to share their experiences, successes, and the difficulties that they are facing.  

What makes the 12-step process so effective is its reliance on building a sense of community to offer peer support, while also stressing personal accountability and discipline. Often members of a 12-step program attend weekly meetings that are led by a non-professional peer that guides the meeting. Additionally, some may take on mentors in the 12-step program, which are usually recovering addicts later in their journey that can offer individual support and personal guidance.

While the 12-step program is a valuable tool in helping with long-term addiction recovery, it is important to note that it is not for everyone. One of the fundamental principles of the 12-step program founded by Alcoholics Anonymous is that recovering addicts must surrender themselves to a higher power in order to break their chains of addiction.

For millions around the world, this emphasis on a religious foundation to drug addiction recovery has worked. For many others, due to secular beliefs, lifestyle differences, or a variety of other reasons, they may feel that the traditional 12-step program is not for them. In these cases, it is important that recovering addicts that have little desire to enter a traditional 12-step program are instead given other options.  

The HARP Method

As discussed, aftercare programs offer access to a community of peers, professional resources, and structures that stress accountability and discipline that are crucial to those seeking long-term recovery from addiction. As such, there are a number of alternatives to the traditional 12-step program that offer these benefits and that may prove a better fit for yourself or the recovering addict in your life. One such program, pioneered at HARP, has been used since the 1970’s as an alternative form of support and addiction treatment with great success.  

The HARP method was created by a team of doctors, clinicians, and 12-step advocates that recognized the need to develop a comprehensive treatment option that could be used in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Since its inception, the HARP modality of treatment has been used to provide a continuum of care for patients from the moment they enter a facility for detoxing, until long after they have left the treatment facility and have reentered their daily lives.

Founded on the principle that no treatment program is a “one-size-fits-all” solution, the HARP method incorporates the flexibility to tailor and adapt an aftercare program to an individual’s specific needs and lifestyle constraints. Aside from this flexibility, one of the characteristics that distinguishes the HARP modality of treatment from the traditional 12-step program is that unlike traditional 12-step programs, the HARP method is led by a licensed mental health counselor.

Within a traditional 12-step program, group meetings are led by an established peer that often has no formal training in mental health or addiction counseling. Rather than utilizing therapy as a tool, traditional 12-step programs rely on mentoring and the formation of a recovery lifestyle. In contrast to this, the HARP method of treatment incorporates a therapeutic model into their alternative 12-step program.

Through therapy, trained clinicians can help those in recovery uncover and work through the underlying issues that have led to and contributed to their addiction. By utilizing a medical professional trained in mental health counseling and addiction treatment, this method is able to offer an extra level of support. By creating a structure that includes support, guidance, and therapy work that begins in an inpatient setting and transitions to outpatient treatment, the HARP model is a longstanding alternative to traditional 12-step programs that has helped many people achieve lifelong recovery.

Importance of Aftercare Programs

Both the traditional 12-step program and non-traditional alternatives have been very successful in helping people who are undergoing addiction recovery to attain positive outcomes from their treatment. This highlights the important role that aftercare programs have in addiction recovery treatment.

Treatment doesn’t stop once a person leaves an inpatient facility. In some cases, this is where the real work begins. It is at the point that a person intersects with their past patterns and behaviors, whether it be through their job, where they live, or who they come in contact with, that some of the most poignant challenges to maintaining their sobriety arise.  

Confronting these challenges and moving forward with sobriety can be an extremely difficult process. The support, structure, and accountability that aftercare programs offer are extremely beneficial in these situations. At the same time, aftercare programs offer a chance to build a new community for recovery addicts that is based on sobriety and success in their program. By forging new bonds of friendship, recovering addicts can meet these challenges with the support they need to overcome them.

Determining the right aftercare program for you or the addict in your life is just as important as finding the right inpatient drug rehab facility to meet your needs. Every person has unique needs, goals, and lifestyles that impact their treatment options and help to determine the right treatment path for them.

It is important for prospective patients and their families to critically assess not only the inpatient facility, but also the options offered for aftercare programs.  Ensuring that an aftercare program will mesh with their lifestyle, beliefs, and personality is incredibly important to determining the long-term success of their addiction recovery.  

Equally important is determining exactly what resources recovering addicts will have once they leave a facility. Access to licensed medical professionals such as therapists and clinicians is essential. Inpatient treatment doesn’t encompass enough time to delve into the underlying issues that contribute to addiction, nor is it possible to completely work through these issues by the time someone leaves the facility. Instead, these underlying issues and patterns must be addressed over a period of time to make lasting and substantive progress.  




Entering an inpatient facility is but one step in addiction recovery. In order to have the highest chances of success, it is important for addicts and their loved ones to meet with a medical professional to craft a treatment plan that encompasses both their inpatient and outpatient treatment. Drug rehab centers that have the resources to tailor a unique treatment plan that seamlessly transitions between inpatient and outpatient care will offer the greatest chances of successful recovery.

Because aftercare treatment plans have such a profound effect on the chances of a successful recovery, special attention should be paid to the resources available to patients in an outpatient setting. By taking the time to create a unique, customized aftercare program, recovering addicts and their loved ones will be able to ensure that they are positioned to have a successful and healthy recovery.  

As with any addiction treatment, recovery takes time, hard work, and dedication. By having the resources available to complement the unique personal needs of someone suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, a comprehensive aftercare treatment plan will help alleviate some of the stress that comes with transitioning to outpatient care. At the same time, it will help create the structure and support systems that are necessary to help them through the challenges they will face. At HARP, we offer support and guidance along every step of the journey towards lifelong sobriety.

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