Addiction aftercare is an important part of drug treatment, with programs designed to reduce relapse rates and ensure long-term recovery. While intervention and detox mark the start of many successful drug treatment programs, behavioral therapy, group counseling and addiction aftercare also have an important role to play. Relapse rates are very high for drug addiction, with comprehensive addiction aftercare programs enabling patients to break the bonds of addiction and change their lives for the better.
Addiction aftercare programs are designed to support patients during the recovery process. Aftercare programs are concerned with the psychological and practical aspects of recovery. Patients are given the skills and support they need to change their behaviors and their life.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), relapse prevention is just as important to recovery as medical detox, medication therapy and behavioral therapy. Mindfulness programs may be used in the context of aftercare treatment, with techniques designed to teach recovering addicts the links between thoughts, emotions and behavior. Practical support may also be offered, with counselors helping patients to develop new skills and find stable accommodation. Common aftercare programs include SMART recovery, group counseling, family therapy and conventional 12-step programs.
Successful aftercare programs should aim to support every aspect of the recovery process. Family therapy often plays an important role, with fighting and tension within families one of the major triggers leading to relapse. Family therapy differs widely depending on the individual and institution, with one-on-one counseling, group therapy, educational programs and 12-step programs all involving family members in the treatment process. Multidimensional family therapy is also available from some treatment centers, with this form of behavioral therapy designed to engage and support patients directly by improving family functioning.
Conventional 12-step programs are designed to support patients once they have left formal treatment, with groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) offering guidance and counseling on a continual basis. Originally designed to support recovering alcoholics, 12-step programs have expanded in recent years to also include programs for other substances. Cocaine Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous and Marijuana Anonymous are just some of the available groups, with each program using the disease model of addiction to support recovery. Alternative approaches like SMART recovery are also available for people who don't wish to engage with the spiritual-religious nature of these programs.
Emotion regulation and mindfulness are incredibly important in drug treatment, with these programs helping patients to understand the intricate links between thoughts, emotions and behavior patterns. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is one example of this treatment, with other approaches based on eastern meditation and spirituality practices. The concept of mindfulness is very similar to the concepts used in behavioral therapy, with patients taught how to avoid impulsive and compulsive responses by focusing on their internal thoughts and feelings. This is a critical concept in relapse prevention, because it enables patients to develop new habits and break the bonds of addiction.