What is aftercare anyway?
Aftercare is like physical therapy for your mental health.
Following through with your aftercare treatment plans can be one way to ensure you reach your goals of avoiding a relapse.
Aftercare simply means the treatments you receive after being discharged from the hospital. In mental health, aftercare programs are recommended once you have completed intense treatment programs as well as hospitalization.
Aftercare is a time where you will continue your education to learn all about you.
You will learn your triggers and how to avoid them.
You will learn about avoiding relapsing.
You will do both through the programs you join during the aftercare journey.
Insurance companies usually pay for aftercare services but occasionally you can receive free aftercare services through certain county or state programs.
How to Pay for Aftercare
If you have insurance, most likely your insurance will have mental health coverage to pay for much of the fees associated with individual and group counseling services.
You may have to pay a copay and may be limited on the amount of sessions you can receive but this is still a great place to start.
If you do not have insurance, there are free ways to receive aftercare.
Many county and state agencies provide financial assistance for those in need of counseling. Some counseling organizations receive grants to provide services to those who cannot afford it on their own.
Support groups are usually free for anyone who attends.
They may ask you to bring snacks or coffee every occasionally, but other than that, they are typically free to attend. If you are a student, schools and universities have counselors on staff who can help you.
It may take a little bit of research but in every county, there are beneficial aftercare programs.
Benefits of Aftercare
The larger amount of treatment you have, the better chances of your full recovery.
Readmission rates to mental health hospitals is lower in patients who attend aftercare programs.
Think about it, if you break your hand and don’t get it treated, you will have limited amount of use with that hand and increase the chances of it re-breaking. However, if you break you hand and immediately go to the hospital and they put it in a cast until it heals.
Then once the cast is off, you attend physical therapy with a trained professional for several weeks until they train you to use your hand again, strengthening your hand muscles and bones. Then they discharge you back into your life with a fully healed hand, maybe even stronger than the hand you had before treatment.
Attending aftercare is like this, only the focus is a broken, and healing, mental health.
Why not do the same for your mental health breaks?
You would rarely let a bone break go untreated. Do the same for your emotions.
Being in treatment, especially inpatient, is a lot easier than being back in your home environment with triggers surrounding you just waiting to pounce. Hospitalization is a haven, where you are protected from all the mental health obstacles.
Aftercare can help you deal with these triggers properly so you can avoid relapse once you are back in the “real world”. Choosing the right type of aftercare program for you is an important decision.
You may even want to try multiple programs until you find just the right one.
Types of Aftercare
There are many types of aftercare.
You can attend one or two or more of these types of programs to help you transition back into your life from the more intensive treatment you have accomplished.
Individual out-patient therapy is a popular type of aftercare among both mental health and substance abuse recoverees.
In out-patient therapy you can meet once or twice a week with a counselor who is specialized in the area you need. If you are recovering from severe depression, you want to meet with a mental health specialist in depression. If you are recovering from an eating disorder you will also go to a mental health professional. However, they will have a specialty area of practice in the field of eating disorders.
You may also choose to attend group therapy or support groups. In groups, you will choose a group that focuses solely on your recovery issues. You do not want to attend a group for hoarders if you are in recovery for sexual abuse.
Choose your groups wisely.
Group therapy sessions are usually lead by trained mental health professionals, inside a mental health facility.
Support groups can be held anywhere and lead by a community member, pastor, or another person in recovery.
Both types of groups are fantastic Just know which type you want before you sign up. Another reason to choose your groups wisely is because there may be other people attending these groups who are not in recovery. While this should not be the case because leaders are supposed to recognize and screen for those appropriate for a group, this does not always happen. Depending on the extra steps the leader has taken to ensure all group members are on the same page, some members may slip through the cracks. There may be attendees at an alcoholics anonymous group who are still drinking daily. There may be a person suffering from bipolar disorder who has not been medicated or been to treatment at all. This can sometimes be a trigger for some people in recovery.
Intensive aftercare includes a combination of both individual counseling and group counseling. This is a great way to transition back into life after inpatient treatment. It gives you the most attention, with the most supports, with the most reward for a temporary amount of time.
Do not be afraid to leave an aftercare program if you find it is not benefiting you. During aftercare, this is the time to continue taking care of you. And taking care of you means picking the right programs.
Finding the right aftercare program is important for both you and your loved ones.
Aftercare for Family Members
Family members can benefit from aftercare services.
Attending one-on-one counseling, group therapy or educational programs that teach them how to deal with your mental health issues is a vital part of your recovery. Because your mental health has affected them too, they need to learn how to change and heal and provide an appropriate environment for you upon your return.
There are five main actions a family can take to help someone they love in recovery. Families need to educate themselves on the aftercare and recovery processes. Seek therapy for themselves, learn boundaries and be ready to properly intervene if a relapse happens.
This is the time to start putting your needs first. After being hospitalized, treated and released, you can sometimes feel like you are on a high. Your confidence is soaring and you are ready to take on the world. This period can last for several weeks after discharge from a hospital. Then you get back into your old environment, old friends (bad friends) start contacting you and you notice you are headed in a downward spiral. This can be normal for people who do not attend aftercare programs.
Aftercare can help you avoid that spiral and keep you on the right track. You have worked too hard to jeopardize your recovery. So, enroll in aftercare today and keep up the good work.