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Aftercare: What It Is, and Why It Matters

Healing is not linear. It is the beginning of a new book.

Healing is not linear. It’s a zigzag. It’s a mountain. It’s the loops of a roller coaster. Healing is a commitment. It’s the echo of the promise we make to ourselves — to the people we used to be, to the people we are and to the people we have the capacity to become.

Healing is recognition. Of our past. Of our broken parts. Of our lives — and the worthiness we hold within.

Healing is not linear. It is the beginning of a new book.

Addiction Treatment: A to Z

The first stage of treatment frequently involves a medical detoxification process, in addition to a residential program, which can last up to 90 days. When an individual spends such a significant period of their recovery in a residential treatment setting, the steps that follow can feel hazy and are likely to ignite fear of the unknown.

For this reason, aftercare, or stage two of recovery, must be made a priority. To ensure this, intensive outpatient programming, in addition to sober living options, should be brought up early on in an individual’s treatment. Finding a pro-gram that will facilitate an individual’s progress, while also instilling a renewed sense of independence and responsibility, is the key to creating a successful experience in aftercare.

An effective intensive outpatient program (IOP) should be designed to mirror the clinical structure of residential treatment to continue the client’s therapeutic growth. An IOP is also distinctive from a residential program as the client is tasked with increased accountability — both to self and to their community of staff and fellow residents.

In residential treatment, the client is immersed in the healing process with little room for outside influences. Living on the premises where treatment is conducted, the client learns the language of treatment very quickly and becomes accustomed to a daily routine of therapies.

Moving into stage two of recovery, the client is suddenly faced with an increased level of choice. Whether these choices involve pursuing meaningful employment or education, an IOP serves as a vehicle for the client to learn the coping skills they will need to make informed decisions during this crucial period of sobriety.

How IOP Works

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the relapse rates for drug addiction are between 40 and 60 percent. Of course, these rates increase when a person is left to face their addiction alone in the second stage of recovery. An intensive outpatient program works to guide an individual through this fragile period, providing tools to prevent relapse and to pave a path toward long-term sobriety.

In an intensive outpatient model, the client will typically attend clinical programming four to five days per week in addition to attending meetings and individual therapy sessions. During this time, the client will live in housing provided by the IOP facility or in a separate sober living residence.

Gaining independence from addiction during this stage will re-introduce responsibilities into the client’s life. The client will be responsible for finding employment, paying rent, and cooking meals — and will need to maintain accountability to ensure success. With instruction from IOP clinical staff, the client will gain skills in money management, résumé building and other practical tasks.

The programming offered by an IOP will likely include familiar therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, equine therapy, creative arts and yoga. As the client takes on increased responsibility at home and at work, the client’s associations with therapeutic programming take a new shape. Simply put, as the client evolves, the therapies they receive must evolve, too.

Without an IOP, an individual in stage two of recovery can be left with few options — and little support. The behind-the-scenes process of recovery is amplified in an IOP setting, though the structure also provides a built-in support system comprised of professionally trained staff and alumni of the program.

“The most difficult part of the recovery journey is when an individual decides to participate in aftercare,” says Christopher Pasquale, director of operations at RECO Intensive Outpatient Program. “During the transition period from residential treatment to sober living, it is crucial that the client learn the skills necessary to maintain sobriety and to become a successful participant in their lives.”

As the client moves through an intensive outpatient program, they will eventually step down to an outpatient level, attending less programming throughout the week and moving to a separate residence. The time that this process takes is determined by the individual’s progress and the clinical staff’s recommendations. Typically, an individual will spend anywhere from 30 to 90 days in an IOP.

Bridging the gap between inpatient rehabilitation and independent living, IOPs have served as an integral part of recovery for countless individuals. Aftercare sets the stage for a client’s future in long-term sobriety, and through the appropriate programming, success remains within reach.

“Aftercare is a great opportunity for individuals to be inspired and to begin to realize that the dreams they’ve had can actually come true,” Pasquale says. “The combination of structure and independence during aftercare is a perfect model to prepare clients for life outside of treatment.”

How to Move Forward

Healing is not linear — and recovery does not take place inside a box. Stage two of recovery involves the unknown, though with aftercare and intensive outpatient programs, the unknown becomes a beautiful possibility.

It becomes more than just what if—it becomes why and how and when.

It becomes the book you’ve known how to write all along.

Written by Kate Mills


Kate Mills is the analytics specialist for RECO Intensive Outpatient Program. An experienced copywriter and native Pittsburgher, she earned a degree in journalism and worked in several creative roles before joining team RECO in early 2016.


Founded by David Niknafs in 2012, RECO Intensive began as a group of residential housing facilities in Delray Beach, Florida. Today, RECO Intensive consists of an individualized clinical program that is paired with nine state-of-the-art RECO Residences. With more than 20 accreditations in the field, RECO upholds the highest standards in addiction treatment, allowing clients to create for themselves a brighter future in sobriety. Learn more about the team and the work that they do by visiting recointensive.com.

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