Congratulations on completing your addiction treatment program! You have an opportunity to start fresh at a new life. Your therapist recommends you enroll in a continuing care program, but you thought you were finished with therapy. Perhaps, you’re wondering what is continuing care and why is it important after treatment? You are not alone.
Many of our clients experience the same sense of gratitude and peace after they’ve completed a residential addiction treatment program, which is a great start, but it’s a different world out there now. You may have started to change your behaviour, but the rest of the world has remained the same since you’ve been gone. For some people, it can be daunting and overwhelming to realize that perhaps you’ve hurt people and caused some strain in your work relationships as a result of your addiction. It’s important that you continue to work on your newly acquired life skills and use the coping tools you learned in treatment to help you work through these challenges. Having the proper support network can also be a positive influence and reminder of why you are in recovery and how to use those new life skills to stay sober.
As part of the Continuing Care Plan at Edgewood Health Network, group therapy, online aftercare, sober living houses and outpatient services are the many ways people can experience continuing care. The strength of continuing care comes strongly from participating in group therapy. This can help you work through and develop a plan on how to handle real, high-risk situations so that you stay on your recovery path. We sat down with one of our addiction counsellor’s from EHN’s Bellwood Health Services, Susan Barnes, who is a part of the Continuing Care Program, to get a better understanding on what it looks like and the benefits it can offer to people who have completed a residential treatment program.
According to Susan, “continuing care is crucial in maintaining sobriety. In treatment, people gain awareness, perspective, knowledge, raise their self-esteem, sense of self-worth and efficacy. However, once back in their familiar surroundings with the same stressors as before – lacking the constant support of the treatment team and co-clients as well as the structure to their daily life that inpatient treatment provides, the gains could easily slip and people often find themselves back in the same old way of thinking.”
With the help of Susan Barnes, we developed a list of five reasons why you need continuing care after completing an addiction residential treatment program:
- 1. Support: A continuing care program can provide you with a safe and supportive environment to discuss the challenges and benefits of being in recovery in a non-judgmental setting because the people listening to you are in recovery themselves.
- 2. Hope: Continuing care is an encouraging maintenance strategy that can give you the hope and motivation to keep going and stay positive when times get tough. Listening to other people’s stories can be a positive experience for you and a reminder of why you chose recovery in the first place.
- 3. Accountability: For many people, continuing care can be seen as a step down program from their previous structured schedule they followed while in treatment. It’s a transition from treatment to everyday living that will help you stay successful in your recovery. It provides you with a support network that keeps you accountable and honest with yourself. At the Edgewood Health Network, the Continuing Care Program has an addiction counselor and other people who are in recovery meet weekly for group therapy and random drug testing. The dynamics of the group setting is what keeps people inspired, honest and self-aware of how you feel and how you’re coping with life’s daily challenges. These are people that will also call you on your bluff and tell you like it is when they think you are being dishonest. Your sober friends can provide insight and help you understand the behavioural patterns that are red-flags for slip- ups.
- 4. Increase in Self-Efficacy: Participating in a regular continuing care program will give you the confidence and a stronger sense of commitment to remain sober and practice a healthier lifestyle. When you witness other people in recovery cope successfully in difficult situations, it gives you the courage and self-assurance to believe that you too can stay strong. Every week when you go back to meet with your group, you’re acknowledging how much you’ve accomplished, how much stronger you are becoming in your recovery and how much more determination you have to quickly recover from any setbacks you encounter.
- 5. Tools & Strategies for High-Risk Situations: Understanding your behavioural patterns to help you make better choices was something you learned while in treatment, but will be practiced more so in continuing care. Continuing care teaches you how to identify and handle situations to prevent you from relapsing. Divorce, health problems, and work-related issues can all be triggers for stress, mood swings, and fatigue. Having a healthy and thorough plan on how to manage those triggers will help you to be mindful of your emotions and feel prepared for the future.