Continuing care after treatment can be just as crucial to a client’s recovery as inpatient treatment, a fact that The River Source’s Lead Case Manager, Brenda Emerick, BHT, CLC, understands well. After beginning her recovery from alcohol addiction in 1986, without access to modern rehabilitation, she struggled with a sponsor to stay clean.
Today, Brenda has spent over ten years with The River Source and specializes in helping clients transition between levels of care, and eventually, out of rehab entirely. Below, you can hear from Brenda about how she and the rest of the continuing care staff at The River Source craft an effective, sustainable aftercare plan.
WHAT MAKES AN AFTERCARE PLAN STICK?
While it’s expected that the most effective aftercare involves a personalized treatment plan, what’s surprising to many clients is how much they are involved in the process from the start, to ensure that they’re prepared for — and believe in the importance of — their continued care. “There’s really two parts: getting them ready, and then meeting their individual needs,” Brenda pointed out.
Aftercare works best when the following conditions are met:
- The client and their loved ones understand the value of continuing care early
- The aftercare staff understands the client’s needs and reservations
- The client’s aftercare plan is truly personalized
- There are no cracks in the plan for a client to slip through
1) Get the Client’s “Buy In” as Early as Possible
The River Source starts aftercare planning during admissions because this continuing care dramatically increases the odds of a client staying sober. That’s why the first objective is getting skeptical clients to believe in the process, Brenda says. “It’s just as much about getting someone to be willing to [enter PHP and IOP] as it is about choosing the right services to address their needs,” Brenda explained.
“They’ll tell us, ‘I’ve got this, I know what I need to do,’ but we challenge them. If you know what you need to do, especially if you’ve been in treatment before, why are you here? Our goal is to get rid of the excuses and have them look at the severity of their addiction and what it has caused in their lives. That helps them see that recovery doesn’t end with inpatient.”
Families are also brought into the conversation right away. “Families may not be versed in addiction, and sometimes we find that the families are sicker than the client,” Brenda continued. “Their loved one may decide they’re ready to leave treatment, but unfortunately, we know they can’t stay sober on their own or they wouldn’t be in treatment. We want loved ones to enable recovery, not addiction, so we prepare the families to hold strong boundaries.”
2) Learn as Much as Possible About the Client and Their Experiences
Understanding a client’s unique case is crucial, starting with whether this is their first rehab experience. “If it’s their first time in treatment, they won’t understand their own addiction yet,” said Brenda. “If it’s not, we ask the tough questions: ‘Why are you back in treatment? What happened? Have you tried outpatient instead of trying to be sober on your own right away?’”
One of the best ways to understand the client is to ask their loved ones how addiction has affected them as a family unit. Brenda will sometimes have the family write an “intervention letter” that lays out the impacts of the client’s addiction for them in ways they haven’t considered. Brenda explained: “The client doesn’t really know the depth of how their addiction has affected their loved ones. All they can see is, ‘Well, I wasn’t there for them,” but they won’t look at the financial, emotional, or spiritual impact.”
“So when the families write these intervention letters, it’s all right there in black and white, and the clients have to confront it: ‘Yeah, I did cause a lot of problems and devastation to my family. And I don’t want to continue doing this, so things need to change.’ These letters have done wonders, in my experience.”
3) Tailor the Plan to The Individual
Every client is going to have different needs and timelines in treatment, and the goal is to provide them as many tools and options as possible. Brenda and her team generate a list of 12 Step meetings, potential sponsors, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other referral options for each client that are suited to their personality and location.
At the end of the day, though, there are some things that shouldn’t be outsourced or changed. “It takes longer than 30 days to change a behavior. Our treatment can and should be individualized, but we stress the value of our 120-day model of treatment,” Brenda emphasized. “We treat the mind, body, and spirit, and addressing all parts of the person while helping them build lasting connections doesn’t happen in a month.”
4) Leave No Gaps
It’s critical that the client doesn’t have a break between inpatient and outpatient, or go any length of time without attending aftercare programming like 12-Step groups. “Our goal is to transport them door-to-door,” Brenda said. “Otherwise, they’ll delay the process and find excuses to not go. It’s the same reason we ask each client to sign up for our alumni program well before discharge.”
During The River Source program, clients are continuously prepared for long-term treatment and care. They meet with their case managers weekly to discuss continuing care, and twice a week engage in meetings hosted by Alumni of The River Source. These are powerful experiences when current clients and former clients get to discuss the full 120-day program: everyone gets a chance to candidly talk about their experiences, why the full continuum of care was right for these alumni, and how their life in recovery is better for it. “It helps to hear it from a regular person, not a staff member,” Brenda asserted.
Continuing to meet with alumni during and after outpatient can help clients open up during 12-Step and more casual meetings. “Our clients need an outlet, a group setting, after inpatient,” Brenda explained. “When people know you and the causes of your addiction, you can get raw and uncomfortable without having to start from scratch. [Our alumni program] offers fellowship and reinforces the commitment our clients made to their own recovery.”
Aftercare Planning at The River Source
Brenda and the continuing care staff at The River Source have decades of experience crafting and personalizing aftercare plans to make sure the client has truly engaged with their addiction and has the support network necessary for a successful life in recovery. To learn more about Aftercare or Lifetime Alumni programming, please call The River Source at 866-370-6028 today.