My Kid Just Completed Addiction Treatment. Now What? 

continuing care after rehab addiction treatment

Parents often feel uncertain and ill-prepared when their son or daughter has completed addiction treatment. Many parents expect their teen or young adult to be “fixed” when he or she finishes a treatment program. Unfortunately, this is not a realistic expectation.

For many young people, a substance use disorder is a chronic condition that will require management into adulthood, and for some, throughout life. This is typical of chronic disorders. (For example, if treatment for asthma or diabetes were stopped, a relapse would likely occur.) So, with this in mind, how can you best support your child’s recovery in the days and weeks after treatment?

To help parents, we created a guide called Continuing Care.

Visit the interactive Continuing Care site now >>

Continuing care, or aftercare, is the support plan following addiction treatment. Continuing care can involve:

  • Direct communication with the treatment program after the patient leaves
  • Outpatient counseling sessions (group or individual)
  • Phone follow-ups
  • Activities that take place in community support organizations

Optimal but less frequently available continuing care options include:

  • Drug testing and feedback
  • Counseling or family therapy for parents and adolescents
  • Social skills training
  • Case coordination with schools and probation officers

Usually the nature and extent of continuing care varies by treatment facility. Some treatment centers offer very little continuing care, others will offer more. Most recommend a continuing care plan — often a 12-step program or less intensive care.

Ideally, the time to start thinking about continuing care services is during treatment.

A continuing care plan should involve:

  • A counselor or support group and at least twice weekly sessions for the first month
  • At least weekly sessions for the next two months
  • Twice monthly sessions for at least four more months

Better plans would include:

  • Continued regular checkups and monitoring via drug testing provided by a professional. The intensity of the continuing care should adjust based on the results of the checkup.
  • New activities your son or daughter enjoys that will bring him or her into contact with friends who don’t drink alcohol or use drugs.

If the treatment program does not provide a continuing care plan, then you and your child will need to develop one, preferably with a counselor or medical professional. If your son or daughter has a probation officer, you may be able to work with this individual.

It is not always easy for those in recovery to stick to a continuing care plan and it will likely require effort and support from all involved — especially you. Remember, continuing care can be time-consuming and emotionally difficult, but it may be the best investment you can make.

What are your family’s experiences with continuing care or aftercare? Please share in the comments section below.

Download the Continuing Care eBook

After addiction treatment, what happens next? This downloadable PDF guide covers all you need to know about how to best support your child after he or she finishes addiction treatment.

continuing care logo

This post was originally published in 2016 and has been refreshed and republished.

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    Dennis Knowles

    September 6, 2017 at 11:22 PM

    Unless and until your child is READY to quit drugs, therapy and other treatments will prove to be useless! It will always be a matter of individual choice and readiness. My own son was in and out of many so-called re-hab centers. He was addicted to heroin from the time he was 13 (he is now 26). It has only been in the last year that he has finally decided to put drug use behind him. But it is not without a powerful 12 step program that he belongs to. His choice and the 12 step group he meets with have combined to help him remain drug free for over a year. Miracles do happen, but sometimes you have to wait for them. In the meantime, love the child not the addict. Support the child and shun the addict. Listen for the child and ignore the addict. There is no easy way out. We’re talking about your child….you’re in it for the long haul.

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    September 6, 2017 at 3:51 PM

    As a counselor serving teens and families for nearly 40 years, I offer that the two most important variables in successful teen recovery are 1) a teen’s access to sober peers with whom he/she can find acceptance and truly have fun and 2) a personally meaningful role in service to others. Sometimes 12-step communities provide access to these and sometimes not. I agree that continuing aftercare supports via treatment centers and professionals can be important and my observation is that finding acceptance and making a difference matter more.

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    September 6, 2017 at 12:43 PM

    There needs to be communication with the parents NO MATTER HOW OLD the person is!

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    April 28, 2016 at 7:44 PM

    I am not responding to the posts of the above, the article was good in my opinion. I would like to have seen more evidence about approaches and how they work. It would have been nice to see something about group therapy and how that can be an effective tool in recovery.

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    July 16, 2015 at 1:39 PM

    If a child is in denial of their problem, then during treatment they may have admitted they really are a drug addict after all. This can be a dangerous belief for impressionable kids, especially at 12 Step meetings which require the confession of ‘powerlessness’ to their ‘cravings’ and are unsupervised and in many cases just open air drug marts in which the kids insult and bully each other into suicide and say to the parents, “I don’t know why he was so upset, I was just trying to help him. Remember, he had a disease.”

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