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A Guide to Drug Rehab Discharge Planning


A Guide to Drug Rehab Discharge Planning

When you seek out drug rehab for yourself or for a loved one, there is some comfort in knowing that, whatever treatment center and program you choose, you will have professional guidance and support throughout the initial stages of recovery. But what happens when inpatient treatment ends? What happens after residential treatment?

Recovery doesn’t end with the conclusion of this or that treatment plan. Recovery is an ongoing journey, and the more aftercare support available, the easier it will be to continue that journey successfully.

So who is responsible for drug rehab discharge planning, and what should be considered when creating a post-treatment strategy?

Who Is Responsible for Aftercare Planning in Recovery?

All too often, drug rehab discharge planning is left entirely up to patients and their families. This sudden reintegration into society can be intimidating, even frightening, for someone who may not yet feel fully stable standing on their own two feet. This may be particularly true if their treatment program involved extended isolation from the world outside of their treatment center.

Even for those whose stay was relatively brief, the subsequent stress of trying to pave a way forward alone can push many right back into the addiction they worked so hard to be free of. As many as 40–60% of people struggling with addiction will experience a relapse at some point during their recovery. It’s important to note that relapse is not indicative of failure. But those who lack a good aftercare support system may find their ability to cope with and recover from a relapse extremely limited, making long-term recovery difficult to maintain.

This is why, when selecting a treatment center, it’s vital to look for one that offers programs that include discharge planning as a core consideration within the context of a comprehensive treatment program. Aftercare support should be considered every bit as important as any other stage of addiction treatment, and the responsibility of aftercare planning should never rest solely on your or your loved one’s shoulders. The right treatment facility will work with you and your family to provide structure and support for recovery long after discharge. This should include facilitating communication between you and any external sources of support that may be involved in aftercare, such as physicians, therapists, or local support groups.

Drug Rehab Discharge Planning: Key Considerations

One reason why treatment facilities should always be involved in drug rehab discharge planning is that recovery is complicated. The specifics of an aftercare plan are always unique to a person’s experiences and goals, and there are many elements to consider when determining the best path forward. These include:

  • Outpatient Therapy and Counseling: Many individuals find it helpful to continue addiction therapy even after the conclusion of an inpatient or residential program. Clinicians often recommend continued counseling or even an intensive outpatient therapy program and should offer referrals if such programs are not offered within their own facility.
  • Family Support: It is hard to overemphasize the importance of support from family and other loved ones when it comes to long-term recovery. Family support groups, education programs, or therapy sessions offer safe spaces in which families can learn together how best to cope with a loved one’s addiction and promote recovery.
  • Support Groups: Support groups can provide yet another important source of companionship and encouragement during addiction recovery. Many 12-step programs exist to fulfill this purpose; however, alternatives such as continuing care programs and even online support forums offer viable alternatives. Facility-sponsored alumni groups may be especially effective, as the familiar faces and surroundings can help newly discharged patients stay grounded as they work to rebuild their lives or build new ones outside of the facility.
  • Medication: Medical supervision should be provided—either by the facility’s faculty or by external medical professionals to which they can refer you—for any medications related to the recovery process, including prescriptions for co-occurring mental health disorders. Random drug tests may also come into play, especially as many employers require them.
  • Living Accommodations: Environment plays a major role in addiction and recovery. Especially if a recovering individual’s home environment has been deemed unsafe or significantly triggering, discharge planning should involve either a strategy for improving that environment or recommendations for a new living arrangement, such as a sober living facility.
  • Life Skills and Coping Methods: Regardless of how long someone has been participating in inpatient or residential treatment, returning to “regular” life afterward can be a disorienting experience. Educational programs for life skills related to work, finances, or parenting can help break down larger life goals into smaller, more manageable steps, while mindfulness classes on yoga, exercise, or meditation offer powerful tools for coping with cravings and other challenges.
  • Relapse Plan: While relapse is not inevitable, more often than not, relapse is part of the recovery process. As such, it is important to have a relapse plan in place so that, should it occur, you and your loved ones will already know exactly what to do to address it safely and effectively. The idea here is to minimize the effects of a potential relapse so that it will only be a speed bump on the road to recovery, rather than a roadblock.
  • Recreation: Recreation is an important part of the human experience. We all need time and space in which to broaden our horizons, satisfy curiosities, and enjoy ourselves. As such, a successful discharge plan will always leave some room for fun, sober activities that speak to an individual’s interests and values. Going to the gym, volunteering, or joining a club with a positive focus (such as a gardening or book club) can foster healthy interpersonal connections and replace old, negative habits with new, healthier ones.

Whatever any individual plan may look like, the overall key to success is structure. Working with clinicians to create a reasonable schedule that is suited to a patient’s unique recovery needs, personal goals, and ideal lifestyle maximizes the probability of long-term success.

Building a Foundation for Lasting Recovery

Discharge, despite taking place at the end of a treatment program, should be a core consideration from the very beginning of addiction treatment. Effective drug rehab discharge planning can be the difference between long-term recovery vs. short-lived success followed by a return to old addictions.

Whereas most discharge plans focus on reintegration after an extended period of “retreat” from the outside world, at New Choices Treatment Centers, we strive to help our clients build and maintain connections not only within our facility, but with the community at large as well. This promotes healing during treatment, but just as importantly, it also smoothes the transition from inpatient to outpatient and aftercare support. Returning to everyday life, after all, is much less jarring if you never fully leave it behind in the first place.

In addition, we will work with you and your loved ones to create a discharge plan that fully addresses all aspects of your long-term recovery goals. We’re happy to help in any way we can, including providing recovery resources, recommendations, referrals, and arranging anything from doctor appointments and counseling sessions to meetings with parole officers, union representatives, and former employers to pave a clear path forward.

Discharge isn’t an ending but, rather, the beginning of a new chapter in your recovery story. What you write in it will, ultimately, be up to you—but we’ll be here to help whenever you need us.

New Choices Treatment Centers offers a continuum of care that includes discharge planning and long-term aftercare support, including an alumni program. Contact us online, or call us at (726) 888-7003 today to learn more!