Due of the chronic nature of drug and alcohol addiction, relapse after treatment, 40 to 60 percent by some estimates, is an unfortunate reality for many people. Before someone enters a rehab facility, they should already be thinking about their aftercare plan, or what they are going to do to maintain sobriety after leaving treatment.

A partial hospitalization program (PHP) typically lasts for about 30 days. Beth Hayes, Discharge Coordinator for Transformations Treatment Center (TTC) says, “30 days in treatment isn’t long enough to guarantee sobriety. It’s important that each client has a plan to step down to a lower level of care so they can continue to focus on their recovery process.”

Does Your Treatment Center Offer Continuing Care?

One of the first things to ask when choosing a treatment center is about their continuum of care after treatment. A successful aftercare program should include things like referral to sober living and transition to an intensive outpatient (IOP) or outpatient program (OP).

Jamie Salsberg, Assistant Clinical Director at TTC emphasizes the importance of finding appropriate housing after leaving treatment, “With all of the misleading activities and vulnerable people being taken advantage of in the halfway house industry, it is more important than ever that our discharge planning team works diligently to seek a safe and reputable supportive housing option for all our clients transitioning to aftercare.”

Discharge coordinators typically handle all referrals and paperwork for clients transitioning to aftercare including referral to certified supportive housing, enrollment in an intensive outpatient program and the times and locations of 12-step meetings (AA, NA, CA). The discharge planning team also works closely with the alumni department who follow-up with assigned clients to make sure they make their first IOP meeting thereby assuring continuity of care.

Creating a Successful Aftercare Plan 

When a client is transitioning out of treatment, a member of the discharge planning team meets with them about 1 week before they leave the center to complete their aftercare plan. The plan takes into account if they are transitioning to a local IOP/OP program or traveling back home. The discharge coordinator assigned to the case takes direction from the client’s therapist and listens to what their clinical recommendations are for aftercare.

When discussing the importance of continuing care after treatment Megan Garvey, Clinical Director for TTC says, “Intensive outpatient and outpatient treatment is not designed to be cheaper and better than higher levels of care, it is designed to be an adjunct and a piece of a transitional care program to support recovery. In other words, treatment works best when clients begin with high levels of counseling and clinical support, and then slowly step down and transition into having some freedom and independence.”

The Transition to Supportive Housing

If the client is transitioning to supportive care housing, it’s very helpful if the treatment center can arrange for a tour of the facility. Many centers reach out to local certified supportive housing managers who will send someone to pick up the client, take them to the facility, then transport them back to the treatment center at the conclusion of the tour. The discharge planning team may even give the client a list of questions to ask during the supportive housing tour, “What’s the curfew, what are my responsibilities while I’m there, do I have to do chores, do I have to go to meetings?”

If the client comes back from the tour and says they didn’t like the facility then the discharge team can work with the admissions team for referral to another IOP program with supportive housing. This gives the client the ability to feel like they have some control over the aftercare process which can ease some of the stress and anxiety associated with what happens after they leave PHP treatment.

Salsberg mentions the difficulties many people face after leaving a residential treatment facility, “While people may be powerless over drugs and alcohol and the outside world, they are certainly not powerless over their perceptions, interpretations and experiences of what goes on around them. The choice to be responsible for one’s own experience in life, while somewhat new and scary for many people, is also empowering and freeing for most.”

Choosing a Caring and Helpful Transition Team

Whatever treatment center you are working with – there should be a smooth hand off from one department to the next – from the initial phone screening to admissions, orientation, clinical care, family programs, alumni department to discharge.

Thomas Hasson, Discharge Coordinator for Transformations says, “We have an incredible team, Beth and I are both in recovery so our clients can relate to us because we’ve been through what they’ve been through. Anyone that’s on the fence about doing IOP, or any kind of aftercare, we can tell them about some of our own experiences, so that lets us nurture our clients on a very human level.”

Hayes says, “We take the time to figure out what’s going to happen after they leave treatment at Transformations. We have an extremely devoted, empathetic and non-judgmental staff. We all really care about what’s going to happen to each client once they leave our center. The client knows exactly where they are going after treatment and we do everything we possibly can to make sure the continuum of care is being met by setting up a great aftercare plan.”