Top 5 Aspects of an Effective Aftercare Plan for Early Recovery

Authored by Elliott Redwine, | Medically Reviewed by Dr. Elizabeth Drew, MD
Last Updated: November 18, 2021

Recovery is so much more than quitting drugs and alcohol. Many landmarks indicate important stops on the path to recovery and putting down substances is only the starting point. The first day of drug and alcohol rehab is one step along the path. Transitioning into inpatient or outpatient treatment is another. But even these are only the beginning.

Treatment programs are designed to foster a recovery-focused environment. Your days are scheduled out and centered around laying a solid foundation for your recovery. Even as you progress through your program, though, you’re still at the beginning of your journey.

The first test of your sobriety starts on the day you finish your alcohol and drug rehab program. You shift from a recovery-centered schedule to one that includes more real-life responsibility. The adjustment can be overwhelming at first but aftercare is an important support system during this shift.

Aftercare programs are a vital part of any effective treatment program. Drug and alcohol rehab is only as good as the aftercare it provides. You have slimmer chances of making it through early recovery if you’re left to handle things on your own from the moment you leave treatment.

These are the top 5 aspects you should include in your aftercare program to help you prevent relapse during early recovery.

Aftercare programs

1. Sober Living

Not all facilities suggest you stay in sober living after leaving treatment. If you’re able to stay at a sober living house once you finish your program, though, it’s a great idea. Sober livings are houses that rent rooms to people who live a clean and sober lifestyle. Some homes are associated with a treatment facility while others are standalone residences.

Sober living keeps you in a sober environment but offers far more freedom than an inpatient facility. You’re surrounded by peers who are also working to stay alcohol and drug-free. There is usually no set schedule aside from curfew and most allow you to come and go as you please. It’s a sober home base to live in while you adjust to life without drugs and alcohol.

There are usually daily or weekly house meetings to keep everyone on the same page. Most have chore rotations that require everyone to pitch in and keep the house clean. Some offer outings or other activities to help you re-engage with life and keep early recovery enjoyable.

2. Intensive Outpatient Program

An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is another important component of effective aftercare. It serves as a halfway point between the full-time care of inpatient treatment and returning to everyday life. IOP typically takes place 3 days per week for 3 to 5 hours per day. The main focus of outpatient is how to maintain your newfound sobriety while navigating life.

IOP allows more free time during the week compared to higher levels of care. This allows you to get a job or go back to school. You can attend outside meetings or find activities they enjoy. It lets you get back to the real world for a few days per week while still having a support system to return to.

You check in with your therapist during the week to discuss particular problems that arise as you get back into life. They teach you to track the emotions and situations that trigger you and help you learn to walk through them without using drugs or alcohol.

Group therapy in IOP centers on the difficulties of returning to everyday responsibilities. The people in your group therapy sessions understand exactly what you’re going through. You have space and support to process the challenges of getting back to work, school, or your family alongside your peers.

Sobriety Journey

3. Alumni Programs

Some drug and alcohol rehabs offer alumni programs as part of their aftercare plan. Alumni programs include ongoing support from your case manager or therapist once you finish treatment. Sometimes facilities offer alumni meetings which are a mix of people currently in treatment and those who finished the program.

Alumni programs are a great way to stay connected with a recovery support system after you graduate alcohol and drug rehab. They also keep you in touch with others who are earlier in their recovery journey to whom you can offer guidance and support.

4. 12-Step or Other Recovery Meetings

12-step meetings or other support groups like SMART Recovery or Refuge Recovery are another important part of an aftercare program. They are a free way to continue keeping your recovery at the center of your life after treatment is over.

Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other 12-step Anonymous programs are a few of the most popular recovery support groups. There are millions of members and hundreds of groups that meet regularly around the world. No matter where you go you’re likely to find at least one accessible 12-step meeting during the week.

SMART Recovery, Refuge Recovery, and other programs offer an alternative to the 12-step recovery model. Some struggle with the spiritual aspect of the Anonymous programs so SMART and Refuge offer alternative approaches.

The important part is finding a recovery group that meets regularly, regardless of the specific type of support you settle into. It gives you another place to call your home base and the support of other individuals who understand your struggle.

5. Building Your Recovery Community

A strong recovery community is likely the most important aspect of aftercare and early recovery. Your community can include both people who are sober themselves as well as those who support your sobriety. The goal of building a recovery community is having a group to turn to encourage you when the challenging aspects of life get to you.

Your recovery community may include people you went through treatment with or people you go to meetings with. Family and friends who watched your entire process from addiction and alcoholism into drug- and alcohol-free are another key addition to your recovery community. The more people you have looking out for you, the better your chances of long-term sobriety.

If you’re looking for a treatment facility that understands the importance of effective aftercare, Peace Valley Recovery should be on your list. Call us at to learn more about the options we offer for treatment. Peace Valley Recovery aims to equip you with the tools you need to live a life of long-term recovery. Reach out to us today to find out how!

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