“Aftercare” is a general term for activities and other resources that behavioral health and addiction treatment patients receive after being discharged from a primary care facility. Aftercare answers the question of “Now what?” once your child has completed a behavioral health program.

This aftercare can help keep patients on track and prevent issues such as relapse and hospital readmission. When it comes to young adults with behavioral health needs, parents should be aware of the importance of aftercare.

What does aftercare involve?

Each patient’s needs are different, so aftercare depends on the individual. The type of aftercare your child receives will depend on the kind of program they were in, their goals, and their specific behavioral health concerns.

Aftercare may include any one or a combination of the following:

  • Residential treatment offers less structure than inpatient and does not typically include on-site medical services
  • Outpatient programs vary and offer anywhere between 12 – 20 hours of therapeutic services a week
  • Sober living houses
  • Ongoing behavioral therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Diet and exercise programs to maintain healthy living
  • Follow-up medical evaluations
  • Follow-up weekly or monthly counseling appointments
  • Ongoing support groups, including 12-step programs

For young adults completing an inpatient program, the recommendation should consider whether or not it is conducive to be close to the family home. The primary decision, however, should be based on the needs of the patient and which resources can best meet those needs.

How long should behavioral health aftercare last?

Young adults who enter an inpatient program tend to need fairly intense care. For most patients, an aftercare strategy of at least 90 days is recommended. Ideally, aftercare can last 6-12 months for maximum effectiveness.

Because recovery is a long-term process, however, some type of aftercare may last many years.

Patients who have struggled with addiction may participate in 12-step programs and other support groups their entire lives. Patients with mental illness may take medication for years, and so they will need regular check-up appointments so their healthcare providers can monitor their ongoing health needs.

Why is aftercare important?

One of the primary purposes of an aftercare program is to prevent a patient from relapse and continued substance use. However, this is not the only purpose.

Aftercare, in general, helps patients who have completed a behavioral health program transition more smoothly back to daily life. The aftercare program helps solidify the strategies they learned in therapy and encourages them to keep making healthy choices for a more fulfilling life.

  • Research indicates that patients who enter residential treatment for substance use do better when they have access to aftercare services.
  • Other studies have found that aftercare also can help keep patients with severe mental disorders from being readmitted to hospitals.
  • Housing assistance and other aftercare services can improve treatment outcomes for patients with co-occurring disorders who received drug treatment.

“Even with the most motivated client, the complexity of their problems is such we recognize 45 days is a very short period of time in which to make life changes,” says Claudia Black, Ph.D., primary architect of the Claudia Black Young Adult Center. “Their young brains have only begun to heal allowing them to think clearly.”

“I am most optimistic if I know that they’re following through with a continuing care program where they are in a safe environment to practice the many skills they have learned. It’s a safety container during reentry to their daily lives, available to help them problem solve and handle triggers without engaging in self-defeating thinking and behavior,” Dr. Black adds. “By the time a patient leave us my hope is they genuinely know that they can live their life differently, that they feel hope, and have many more skills in which to make that happen.”

How do I get aftercare for my child? 

A patient’s aftercare program should start immediately after they complete their previous inpatient or other behavioral health program. Any delay increases the risk of relapse and other setbacks.

At the Claudia Black Young Adult Center, our continuing care coordinator works hand-in-hand with each young adult’s primary therapist and his or her family or primary caregiver to identify what type of aftercare program is best. Our continuing care coordinator will be able to discuss the details of your child’s needs and consider the benefits of different options.

The Claudia Black Young Adult Center is dedicated to creating an environment that focuses on healing and recovery. Our goal is for our patients to gain the courage to face difficult issues, heal from emotional trauma, and become accountable for their own feelings, behaviors, and recovery. Visit us here or feel free to call 855-333-6075.