Post-Treatment Help


Getting help after treatment:

Many people with addiction disorders find motivation to change while in treatment. Upon discharge, this motivation should continue (see the “Family/Friends” section for what to look for when a person comes home). However, a person’s vulnerability to relapse is very high within the first few months following treatment. I often recommend that patients focus on their recovery by attending 90 12-step meetings in 90 days,  obtaining a sponsor (and calling that sponsor regularly), and trying to stay as stable as possible in their life, one day at a time for as long as possible first.

Oftentimes people with addiction disorders believe that they should immediately seek out individual counseling for themselves so that they can begin to look at all of the problems in their life. I don’t recommend this. If a person continues to have suicidal thoughts or serious symptoms such as seeing things or hearing things that aren’t there, then it would be a good idea to see a mental health or medical professional that specializes in addiction. However, individual psychotherapy is something that should be considered risky early on in the recovery process, unless it is with a therapist who is VERY knowledgable about addiction and they are willing to work with the person with the specific purpose of helping them focus on how to stay in recovery one day at a time – and NOT delve into deeply rooted issues. Deep issues such as childhood trauma, sexual abuse, grief, depression, shame, sexuality, etc. should be very carefully avoided until the person has established a solid foundation of recovery under their feet. By that I mean, it would be best if a person has a sponsor, has attended at least 90 meetings in 90 days, is emotionally ready to begin to dig up old feelings from the past, has established good coping skills (such as exercising, journaling, meditation/relaxation) and has a very strong support-system around them in their life.

Why not to see a therapist immediately after treatment:

A person who has been suffering from an addiction disorder is suffering from a “broken brain” – their brain’s neurochemistry is going to take a long time to heal (most of the latest research states that the brain STARTS to heal after 90-days of abstinence). This means that the person is still very likely to experience symptoms mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually as a result of the damage caused by the addiction disorder.  Depression, mood wings, trouble sleeping, anxiety problems, cravings that can, at times, be very intense, and other post-acute withdrawal symptoms can last up to a year or longer (depending on how long the person was struggling with addiction and what they were addicted to). It is important to remember that recovery is a PROCESS that takes time. It took a long time for the person to become addict and seek help, it didn’t happen overnight – and recovery is going to take a long time as well. Actually, recovery should be ongoing for the rest of the person’s life.

Also, many major life issues will be thoroughly addressed through the process of working the 12-step program. This is what the program is there for and sometimes a person can become distracted and confused by working with an individual therapist. The therapist will likely tell them one thing, while their recovering friends tell them another. This is another reason for the person to become oriented with the process of working the steps of the 12-step program first, so that they go into the therapy with a working knowledge of how their individual therapy work can supplement their 12-step process.

Once the person is ready to start working hard on other life issues of importance, picking the right therapist is extremely important. Again, I would recommend calling your local reputable treatment center and asking for a referral or talk to other individuals who are living a serious recovery lifestyle and have been for at least 5 years or more and have worked with a therapist themselves. Then tread very carefully.

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