What Recovery Looks Like with Aftercare

July 29, 2020

Deciding to seek therapy for a mental health disorder can be a life-saving decision. Unfortunately, the successes of treatment can lose their impact without proper aftercare. Aftercare is an essential part of the recovery process, and, for long term success to be realized, the value of aftercare cannot be overlooked.

What is Aftercare?

Aftercare is an individualized plan put into place after your teen completes their initial treatment at Hillcrest. Their aftercare plan is designed based on their specific needs to help ensure they remain on solid ground after returning home from treatment. Most aftercare programs are related to intensive outpatient treatment programs or residential treatment facilities; however, aftercare is essential in every treatment phase. Aftercare services are the most successful when tailored to meet the needs of the teen and their family. Teens who experience mental health issues often struggle with isolation. A strong aftercare program helps them to see they have resources available to aid in adjusting to life without mental illness.

Goals of Aftercare

Aftercare planning for mental health is similar to that utilized in the treatment of any chronic health condition. Think of an aftercare plan as a discharge plan from the hospital when you seek treatment for a medical issue. A strong aftercare plan for mental health conditions and behavioral disorders must include a few essential elements. First, it must address the severity of the mental health condition. The level of severity may determine the type of ongoing therapy your teen needs. The aftercare plan must also address any potential barriers to successful aftercare treatment. Will returning to their community expose them to triggers? Is their social circle part of their mental health difficulties? It is essential to answer these questions and others to help remove any barriers to ongoing recovery.  Finally, a successful aftercare plan also addresses what to do in the event things go south. Your teen’s plan should include a protection plan in the event of triggers, a realistic and sustainable self-management plan, and a regrouping plan in the event of relapse or recurrence of symptoms.

When your teen leaves treatment and enters the aftercare phase of recovery, there are three primary goals they should be looking to achieve.

Building Self-Responsibility

Aftercare programs should work to help your teen become a functioning and productive member of their community. They should also help your teen learn to hold themselves personally responsible for their mental health care.

Gain Stability

For your teen to successfully re-enter his or her community, they need to find stability. This means taking responsibility for themselves, keep their own schedule, and being able to set (and succeed at) long-term goals. Part of learning how to do this may involve turning to the stories of others. A story posted by “D” during recovery month helped explain how she looked to self-care, painting,  journaling, and local resources (such as the library) to find additional information on recovery and self-care.

Heal and Stabilize Family Relationships

When teens struggle with mental illness, family relationships often suffer. During recovery, the family is a vital element of the aftercare process. Part of aftercare therapy can involve attempting to heal broken relationships, rebuilding trust, reducing anger, and returning the family to a stable, functioning, and healthy dynamic.

Recovery and Continued Therapy

Aftercare treatment seeks to keep teens immersed in their programs to the greatest extent possible. This occurs through continuous support, guidance, and ongoing counseling. Aftercare programs such as therapy groups are also a great way to help your teen build a new social support circle of like-minded peers who have been in the same position and shared similar experiences.

The initial treatment process is just the beginning for your teen. Aftercare programs such as continued therapy can (and should) become a permanent part of a teen’s lifelong healthcare. Meeting with a therapist or counselor can give your teen a safe place to share their feelings, vent frustrations, and receive guidance around healthy problem-solving. If your teen has already completed a treatment program at a residential facility like Hillcrest, you can reach out to us for assistance even after their time here has ended.

One of the primary goals of continued therapy, whether psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy, is for your teen to work with their therapist to create short- and long-term goals. There are several different facets of therapy in which your teen may participate. These can include talk therapy, activities, skill development, and problem-solving. Continued treatment is a vital component to your teen’s long-term mental health and therefore, an essential part of their aftercare program.

Support Groups

When people think about support groups, they commonly think of traditionally recognized groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. But today, support groups are available for a wide variety of issues, including mental health diagnoses. Support groups are an essential aspect of an aftercare program that can supplement regularly scheduled therapy sessions. Attending a support group can help teens grow their skills when it comes to boundaries and help to improve their sense of self-respect. Many support groups are free and widely available. In some cases, support groups are also offered in an online setting such as Zoom or Skype. A support group is an excellent therapeutic aftercare option that can provide your teen with a safe place to talk about their anxieties and concerns with a group of like-minded peers. For example, your teen could participate in a support group for those with anxiety disorders, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and others.

Emotions Anonymous (EA)

Emotions Anonymous is a program designed for those recovering from mental and emotional illness. Participants in EA meetings come together weekly as a group to work towards recovery from emotional difficulties. EA members come from all walks of life, age groups, educational backgrounds, and economic classes. Because EA is an anonymous program, the confidentiality of its members must be respected at all times. Members do not have to share any personal details if they did not choose to. Like AA, there is a spiritual component to the program. Still, program history indicates that the program works just as well for all religious affiliations and for those without religious beliefs. EA provides a supportive, non-judgmental environment where your teen can share their experiences without fear of criticism and understand that they are not alone in their struggles. Having reassurances that they are not alone can help your teen better handle symptoms or triggering events that lead to episodes of depression, anxiety, or OCD.

What Recovery Looks Like with Aftercare

Aftercare helps to build self-awareness, and a strong sense of self-awareness can help give your teen the strength to face new symptoms, recurring symptoms, or a full-blown relapse of their mental health condition. Participation in an aftercare program can reduce future needs for inpatient care or emergency hospitalization. For teens who are just starting down the road to recovery, a robust aftercare program provides the support and resources to help continue with emotional healing and remain healthy. Aftercare planning can also help your teen find and become part of a social support network in their community.

Recovery is not a single event. It is not equivalent to going to one’s annual physical or attending a meeting. Recovery is a lifelong process that takes work and dedication. For a teen, who doesn’t want to deal with a mental health condition for the rest of their life, this realization can be unpleasant. By networking with others and setting up healthy social support circles after attending initial treatment, teens can learn to integrate aftercare into the healing process.

For teens new to aftercare, it is imperative to learn that one’s recovery can be a complicated process. There will be triggers and stressors associated with daily life that are unavoidable. Active participation in aftercare programs is an integral part of recovery because it provides teens with valuable support systems they cannot get elsewhere.

Denial is a substantial part of teens’ viewpoints on mental illness. Many teens do not want to listen to medical professionals or family members when talking about their symptoms is involved. Aftercare support can help reinforce long-term behavior change because the participants in each program share similar issues. Participation in aftercare allows your teen the opportunity to develop, use, and enhance their coping skills in real-life situations. Teens can learn a lot about their recovery and what to expect during the weeks and months to come by listening to and sharing with people whose experiences are similar to their own.

Participation in aftercare is essential for mental recovery in teens and adults alike. Those who participate in aftercare become part of a community of peers who share similar goals. This community becomes a pillar of support when triggering events occur or learned coping techniques fail.  It is also helpful to note that research proves aftercare helps people sustain their recovery. Long-term studies have shown individuals who successfully maintained positive mental health attended an average of twenty times more aftercare meetings than those who did not.

Before - REcovery Aftercare - Hillcrest

At Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center, we are as equally committed to teen aftercare as we are to inpatient care. We understand returning to daily life and readjusting to the stressors of the living within the community can be difficult. At Hillcrest, we provide tools and resources to help teens access the support systems they will need after treatment ends. Upon discharge, Hillcrest helps our clients set up all necessary outpatient needs, such as ongoing outpatient group sessions and therapeutic care. Additionally, if a little extra help is needed, we encourage our alumni to contact our on-site counselors and therapists at any time after discharge.

At Hillcrest, our dedicated, professional staff of mental health experts is here to help guide and support your teen and family on your journey to recovery. Together, we can help your teen achieve a life without mental illness.