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After Continuing Care: A New Option to Help You Evolve in Your Long Term Recovery

By: Nelson Sacristan, MA, CSAT, Clinical Manager- EHN Vancouver

Over the years, we have watched our clients successfully complete Continuing Care (formerly aftercare) and set off on the next stage of their journey in recovery. For some, this means stronger commitments in 12 step recovery, while for others it means therapy or a support group. Some folks leave the Continuing Care program and are fine with maintaining their recovery lifestyle using a variety of sources. Others ask us, “What comes next?”

This question was posed to me about a year ago by some of our most committed and motivated clients who were coming to the end of their year in the Continuing Care program at EHN Vancouver. Coincidentally, we were already looking at expanding our services and starting a ‘post-Continuing Care’ group seemed like the right step, at the right time.

This group, which really has no name but is sometimes referred to as ‘second stage’ around the office, is quite different from our regular groups:

1. Membership is open to anyone who completed an aftercare program, no matter which treatment program they came from. This includes inpatient, IOP or our family programs.

2. We accept folks who are not affiliated with Edgewood but are in recovery.

3. Our members are steadfast in their commitment to recovery. All clients have abstinence under their belts and are active in working a meaningful recovery.

4. This group is united by its commitment to ‘going deeper’, their curiousity to learn, and willingness to take risks towards greater intimacy with each other and with the people in their lives.

5. In early recovery, a fear of relapse and being ‘sick and tired of feeling sick and tired” is often what motivates compliance and successful abstinence. “What comes next?” is about understanding and growth: How am I perceived by others? What do I need to change to be more real, more authentic? Where does my stuff originate? What am I willing to do to really change, to grow, and to be more fully who I am?

‘Second-stage is a process group, which means that it can be as much about the members of the group as it is about what goes on outside the meeting, in the members’ lives. We have a structure that includes checking in with each other, being available for issues that arise within the meeting, and applying what is learned to other parts of life. Emphasis is placed on applying the knowledge gained from experiencing intimacy in the group to other meaningful relationships.

EHN Vancouver uses processes and activities which reflect the interests of the group. Some of the topics covered include the similarities between the “The Hero’s Journey” and Recovery and Triangulation in Relationships. The philosophy of the group focuses on manifestation. Often what happens in group therapy is a reflection of what a person experiences in their real life. Therefore, what is learned in group can be applied to resolve issues on the outside.

What happens during group therapy is a “microcosm”-  a snapshot of other issues. An analogy using the idea of ‘holograms’ can help explain the process. Holograms, from the Greek “whole message” are images of an object burned onto photographic plates. A hologram uses lasers set in an array that can capture the 3 dimensions of the object. When you look at  a hologram, you can see how similar the view the dimensionality of the original object is in 3 dimensions. When a hologram breaks, each piece reflects the whole image of the hologram! Similarly, the group interaction is a piece, a ‘reflection’ of what the member brings to the group from the outside.

Along with recovery and curiosity, members of the group share a willingness to introspect, to be willing to sit with feedback and the desire to be accountable, knowing that accountability is the check on behavior and a mirror to how we make choices in life.

Are you looking for a new way to support your long-term recovery? This post continuing care group may be right for you. It takes place on Thursday mornings from 10AM to noon at our Vancouver office. Contact me – Nelson Sacristan, Clinical Manager – at 604-734-1100 for more details about registration.

Nelson Sacristan, MA, CSAT, Clinical Manager of EHN Vancouver holds a Master’s Degree in Counselling Psychology as well as certification in substance abuse counseling. He has been working in the addictions field for 20 years. Nelson sees his role as helping our clients and their families to understand the nature of addictions, and to facilitate discovery of their inner strengths and integrity. As a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, he is also available to help men and women struggling with compulsive sexual behaviours

5 Reasons Why You Need Continuing Care After You’ve Completed a Drug Rehab Program

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.