The road to recovery from any mental health issue or disorder can be long and difficult. It places a huge amount of stress and strain on individuals and their families but is life-saving and life-changing. While a treatment plan is necessary for a person suffering to learn coping mechanisms to help them manage their disorder, recovery does not end when the treatment plan is over.
Like all chronic illnesses requiring ongoing support, management, and possibly medication, a person’s mental health also requires maintenance and aftercare. Achieving this level of sobriety, stability, and control is a huge accomplishment but one that can quickly and easily be erased if not managed properly and given the attention that it needs.
Unfortunately, many people leave a treatment facility or the care of trained professionals and are disillusioned by the belief that they are “cured”. The truth of the matter is, although many people who are faced with mental health challenges do recover to live healthy, productive lives, they must do so with the guidance and support of an aftercare program or regimen.
Life has a way of throwing curveballs at all of us. We all experience stress, anxiety, and sadness at some point in our lives and those with a mental health disorder may be triggered more easily by certain life situations than others. John, who struggled with alcoholism, may be tempted to drink when he is at a wedding or a party. Yolanda’s eating disorder may be triggered after pregnancy and the birth of her first child. Sara’s depression may resurface after the loss of her job due to the recent pandemic. An addiction to drugs may be rekindled when Leroy feels inadequate and unworthy in his marriage. The pressure for fame and fortune in Southern California may be the trigger that pushes Charlotte deeper into her anxiety and depression.
Some people believe that when they complete a treatment plan, they simply step right back into their lives where they left off. They erroneously think that life stood still as they were taking care of their mental health and they can simply walk back into their former life. While it is possible to return to normal life, that life may look very different from what it did before. Diagnosis and treatment for some may have completely altered their life and for many, stepping back into their old way of life may put them right back into the throes of their mental health disorder with temptations and triggers all around.
Whether you have experienced a mental health challenge or not, self-care is always a priority to maintain overall health and well-being. For someone who has received a diagnosis and has gone through treatment, it is even more critical. But what does this term ‘aftercare’ mean and why is it helpful?
Treatment aftercare is an ongoing treatment service and can take the form of inpatient rehab or outpatient services once the primary treatment is complete. An aftercare plan is designed specifically around a person’s diagnosis and treatment plan to ensure continued success in recovery. It supports ongoing recovery and maintenance through a range of services to help a person stay motivated, to remain focused, and utilize their coping mechanisms to continue making progress once treatment has been completed.
5 Reasons Why Aftercare helps
First and foremost, aftercare helps to prevent relapse which is a recurrence of a past situation. In other words, just because you may have walked out of a treatment facility with a renewed sense of self and a new perception of your mental health state, it does not mean that at any moment it could not slip back into an unhealthy state. Thoughts, triggers, and the reality of this new life could easily bring on negative thoughts and feelings forcing a person right back into their disorder if they do not have the support and resources available to them. Treatment aftercare enables a person who has suffered from mental health challenges to lean on a support system to prevent relapse and to encourage them to continue with their progress, providing motivation and guidance when necessary. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), more than 50% of patients with a diagnosed mental health disorder risk relapse of symptoms without an aftercare plan in place.
Treatment aftercare dramatically improves the chances of long-term successful recovery. Those who have gone through a treatment plan have also gone through the intense process of self-discovery and evaluation. They have discovered the underlying roots of the disorder, those things that may cause them to relapse, or tempt the negative thoughts to creep back in. Although it is normal for people to slip up and temporarily relapse, a treatment aftercare plan will prevent them from entertaining those thoughts and behaviors which could put them in a downward spiral of negativity, risky behaviors, giving in to the disorder once again. Aftercare provides the support and resources that they can rely on if those slip-ups occur or if the mental disorder threatens to once again take over their thought processes and actions.
Mental health disorders not only impact the individual but relationships may suffer as well. Parents, children, spouses, and even friends may be impacted by a diagnosis and some may feel that the relationship may be irrecoverable. During treatment, the support of these people is critical to a person’s successful navigation through the treatment plan on the road to recovery but it does not end there. Like a chronic illness or mental health disorder, relationships require constant maintenance and nurturing both during and after treatment. An aftercare plan may include therapy or consultation to continue developing these relationships in a healthy and supportive environment.
Mental health issues are not only disruptive to a person’s mental condition but it can have a significant impact on school performance, employment, housing, and finances. Although they may have a handle on their mental well-being, life itself may pose additional stresses and threats. Again, no one can expect to jump right back into life as normal and in many cases, no one would want to. But there is a reality to the interruption that treatment brings. A treatment aftercare plan can assist with facing some of these challenges. Many programs offer assistance in vocational rehabilitation to improve one’s chances of successful employment, educational assistance to return to school or college, and legal and/or financial assistance where necessary. Aftercare allows a person to ease back into life knowing that they have the support of trusted advisors and counselors along the way to guide them toward successful design and integration into their lives.
Lastly, treatment aftercare offers ongoing monitoring of a person’s mental and physical state. Treatment and recovery are not easy and yet it may be easy for a person to slip back into bad habits unknowingly. An aftercare plan will include therapists, counselors, and others who may have walked in their shoes who have a bird’s eye view of changes in patterns and behaviors that may not be visible to family and close friends. They can offer reassurance, provide direction, and reinforce coping mechanisms to ensure that the sufferer remains on the road to successful recovery from their disorder.
Treatment aftercare services are offered by trained professionals like those at Beachside Treatment Center in a variety of settings. For anyone who has experienced the challenges of mental health, they are already familiar with the many benefits that treatment itself and the experience mental professionals bring to the treatment plan and thus see the value in continuing with an aftercare plan.
Just as difficult as it is for a person with an addiction to drugs or alcohol to go “cold turkey”, it is equally as hard for a person who has been through a treatment plan to go “cold turkey” and try to assimilate back into their old way of life. Without the proper support, guidance, and encouragement of a support system, unfortunately, both are susceptible to failure, backsliding, and relapse.
If you have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, it is critical to engage in the treatment aftercare to maintain and reinforce the coping mechanisms and skills that were learned and the milestones achieved during the primary treatment plan. For further information about an aftercare plan, reach out to the trained mental health professionals at Beachside Treatment Center to successfully stay on the road to recovery.