Innovative Discharge Planning for Addiction Treatment Aftercare

In reality, life after treatment is when a person’s addiction recovery genuinely begins. Innovative ideas on how to plan for treatment discharge here.

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Harold C. Urschell III, MD, MMA – Chief Medical Strategist at Enterhealth

Successful Solutions to Long-Term Recovery

Treatment for drug or alcohol addiction isn’t finished when a patient leaves a residential or outpatient treatment program. In reality, life after treatment is when a person’s recovery genuinely begins. After all, this is when the skills learned in recovery are really put to the test.

At Enterhealth, our individualized programs are designed to teach our patients the skills necessary to stay cognizant of their own behaviors (the good and the bad), better recognize and regulate their emotions and, ultimately, prevent relapses before they occur so that the person can live a healthy, fulfilling and independent life in recovery.
So, what should an innovative addiction treatment discharge plan include? Ideas here. Then, we invite your feedback or comments at the end.

When does discharge planning start?

Discharge planning begins early in the beginning of treatment and is a critical component of a patient’s personalized treatment plan. It’s basically a roadmap for how they are going to live life after inpatient or outpatient treatment, and it includes things such as:

  • Additional or ongoing therapies
  • Ongoing medication management
  • Drug testing
  • Support groups

…and more. Due to the fact that each patient will have their own individualized treatment plan, Enterhealth’s discharge plans are also unique to each patient.

But even more, treatment needs to account for a person’s need for physical, emotional, and social support. In this light, some of the more successful lifecare (our version of aftercare) treatment components include:

Transitional Living or Sober Living

Transitional housing – also commonly referred to as “step-down housing” or “sober living” – is a type of living arrangement which helps patients (typically those who go through inpatient treatment) slowly ease back into life at home, school and/or work. With staff onsite 24 hours a day, patients are carefully monitored and must adhere to curfews and random drug testing. Transitional living homes also typically provide things such as emotional support, life coaching and other supportive elements and programs. patients are also required to re-engage with society again, whether through employment, volunteer work or education.

Medication Management

Many of those in recovery require maintenance doses of anti-addiction medications to help curb and control cravings both during and after treatment. These medications – when taken properly – are safe and effective. We have to remember that addiction is a lifelong disease of the brain, and many people will require medication to keep this disease under control. Others will have the ability to taper off their medication as their brain begins to heal over the course of many months/years.

Other patients take medications for psychological/behavioral issues such as anxiety, ADHD, insomnia or depression. It is critical that patients are taught the risks and benefits associated with any prescription medication, as well as ways to prevent misuse and abuse.

12-Step and Support Groups

In order to develop a robust support system and learn practices to improve and maintain their recovery, 12-step meeting and support groups are extremely helpful. Groups such as these provide a new sober group of peers, encouragement, and help individuals find the motivation to stay in recovery for the long term.

Some of the more popular 12-step meeting and support groups include Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery and SMART Recovery.

Whenever possible, family involvement should be a major component of a patient’s circle of support. Whether they are involved in family counseling through Enterhealth or another psychiatric treatment provider, or even with groups such as Al-Anon/Alateen and other Al-Anon Family Groups, family support can be a major component to a successful recovery.

Recovery Coaching and Sponsorship

Sponsors and recovery coaches are usually individuals who are in recovery themselves. Their primary function is to help people new to recovery transition to life after treatment. Not only are they a friend to lean on in recovery, but they’re also someone to hold the individual accountable and help them make wise choices, attend their outpatient treatment appointments and stay on their recovery plan. It is also common for recovery coaches or sponsors to attend various support meetings with the person they are mentoring in recovery.

How to Best Approach Discharge Planning

Enterhealth believes that an evidence-based holistic approach to drug and alcohol addiction treatment is the best way to ensure that patients receive the best care and get the best outcomes for recovery, and this approach extends to our discharge planning as well.

A successful recovery is most often the result of multiple components working together to treat not just the addiction, but also the underlying psychological issues, physical ailments and real-life stressors which may have shaped the addiction in the first place.

For this reason, board-certified psychiatrists and therapists should combine their expertise to create treatment and discharge plans that address each patient’s needs from start to finish. They should also try work closely with the family (when possible) to get them involved in the discharge process as soon as possible, as they can be instrumental in keeping a patient on the right track for recovery.

Your Questions

We hope to have provoked some thought about critical components of aftercare for addiction treatment. But you may still have questions. Please leave any questions or comments in the section below. We love to hear from our readers! And we’ll try to respond to you personally and promptly.

To learn more about drug and alcohol addiction treatment or to inquire about using Enterhealth’s services for you or a loved one, please be in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

About the author
Dr. Urschel is Co-Founder and Chief Medical Strategist for Enterhealth, one of the finest residential and outpatient treatment programs in the nation. Known as one of the country's foremost authorities on substance abuse and addiction, Dr. Harold Urschel is the author of the New York Times best seller, “Healing the Addicted Brain.” He is a coveted speaker on substance abuse and the latest treatments of the chronic brain disease of addiction on both the local and national stage.
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