Extended care is commonly used to refer to a patient staying at an inpatient drug and alcohol rehab center longer than a typical treatment cycle, thus extending their alcohol or drug rehabilitation. It is also used to refer to the host of other ways a person can extend treatment and care after one's time at an official program at a rehab center ends (including a dual diagnosis treatment center).
What are the different kinds of extended care?
There are 5 basic categories of extended care:
- Inpatient rehab treatment: Most inpatient facilities offer 30-, 60-, or 90-day substance abuse treatment programs. Extending inpatient drug and alcohol rehab programs is generally for those with very serious substance abuse problems. These patients are often particularly vulnerable to relapse, or might otherwise have trouble functioning in society. Inpatient rehab and residential care is sometimes a necessity for such extreme cases, since medical professionals as well as mental health professionals are on hand 24/7.
- Outpatient rehab treatment: After completing an inpatient drug and alcohol rehab program, some people are referred to outpatient centers, where they can continue getting oversight and support on a regular basis. Outpatient programs can involve regular check-ins, meetings with licensed mental health counselors and therapists, and group therapy. Outpatient programs and centers generally offer more open-ended care, meaning the substance abuse treatment at these centers ends when the person is ready (not on a strict timeline).
- One-on-one therapy: Steady contact with a mental health professional such as a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist is a good way to help one stay sober, especially when it comes to processing things that come up that could trigger relapse (for example, attending a mandatory event where there's drinking, such as a wedding, or seeing someone particularly triggering). One-on-one support provides important individualized attention and guidance that may not be available to the person elsewhere, and can be a meaningful part of preventing relapse and promoting growth and progress.
- Sober living, also known as sober concepts: Sober living programs give those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction the chance to live in a safe and structured environment as they transition from drug or alcohol treatment centers back into everyday life. Sober living houses (also known as halfway houses) are group homes with strict guidelines that encourage sobriety, clean living, and community. Structured environments like these can help recovering alcohol and drug addicts practice new skills, activities, and habits necessary to live a sober, healthy life. Halfway houses are a particularly good choice for those who would otherwise return to a chaotic or otherwise sobriety-threatening environment.
- 12-step programs or other peer-based support groups: Both inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment programs often advocate for recovering addicts to enroll in a 12-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Many times, a mentor (or "sponsor" as they're known within the context of 12-step groups) is assigned to the recovering addict to help integrate them into the program. 12-step programs can play a very important role in extended care, since meetings are either free or very low-cost, available constantly, and give the recovering addict access to a strong community. Feeling isolated or alone is often a big trigger for those overcoming drug and alcohol addiction, and belonging to a safe and supportive community can instead have the person feel connected, uplifted, and part of something greater than him/herself.
The process of staying sober is just that - a process. It involves not only the initial drug and alcohol rehab treatment, but everything that comes after. Forming a strong network of both professional assistance and peer-based support is part of what builds a healthy and lasting foundation for sobriety and success.