Good clinicians know that good treatment followed by good continuing care has good outcomes.
That seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?
One of the most important services a treatment center can provide is a rock-solid continuing care plan. Continuing care is the plan devised by your treatment center’s clinical team that addresses each patient’s specific needs, his relationship with his family, and his post-treatment environment.
At Voyage, a continuing care plan might include a recommendation for sober housing, a collegiate recovery community, or get very specific about contingencies for returning home. We consider his access to a Twelve Step community, familial or financial support he’ll have, and if the environment will suit his academic or vocational needs.
We want to ensure that his recovery environment is supportive of his long-term remission.
Once our clinical team has developed a continuing care plan for a patient, and we’ve got him and his family on board, we plan a visit with him and a family member to the locale that he’s going to stay in after treatment—whether he stays in Martin County, returns to his hometown, or goes to a new place.
Our plan for the day includes seeing some of the area, meeting with folks from the intensive outpatient program or sober house we’re recommending, and then checking out a meeting so our patient has a sense of the local Twelve Step community he’s joining.
It’s a great way of diffusing tension and nerves everyone has surrounding what comes after treatment, because together we get to develop a snapshot, a sense of the look and feel of what this young man’s next chapter will be.
What makes these outings even more special is the opportunity our patient’s family member has to see how far he’s come. Gone are the days of reacting to crisis—now their loved one is making good, healthy decisions for himself. It’s a profound moment for everyone.
What makes for a good continuing care plan? Look for these five elements:
1. Holistic clinical collaboration
Our entire comes together weekly to address the most effective ways of ensuring long-term remission which includes treatment and continuing care. At Voyage our clinical team includes our CEO, Chief Clinical Officer, Psychiatrist, Director of Nursing, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, and Primary Counselor.
As a team, we address a variety of factors affecting a patient’s needs such as any co-occurring mental health issues, his academic and vocational goals, his family relationship, his recovery environment, and what he likes to do for fun.
The plan we devise must be aggressive in ensuring remission, with equal emphasis on being a plan he’ll want to follow through on. A healthy balance must include challenges as well as joy and fun.
2. Opportunities to practice the plan
During the , we use the first month to get a young man stable in his new routine of healthy attention to self-care. In the second month, we address a young man’s relationship with his family, and host his family at a week-long onsite . In the third month we practice coping strategies and life skills that will support a young man’s stability, wherever his continuing care plan takes him.
This practice in the third month is crucial. With two months of continuous sobriety under his belt, and a newfound sense of community, accountability, and responsibility for self, we give a young man the opportunity to carve out the life he wishes to have. This life should include community and fellowship, achievement and satisfaction at work or school, and consistent sobriety. Our clinical team and counselors facilitate this engaged practice through scenarios in group, weekly family sessions, and experiential outings.
3. Family involvement from the beginning
Parents and other close family members are often the ones most profoundly affected by a young man’s struggle with substance abuse. It is so important that each family is involved with their loved one’s treatment and continuing care plan from the very start.
In weekly family conferences we’ll review our clinical team’s recommendations for a continuing care plan with the family to ensure he has the support he needs and to circumvent any obstacles to the plan.
During Family Program week, many families find that after a month or more of separation from their loved one, they can clearly see changes that have taken place in their young man. We have a chance to come together—patient, family, and clinical team—to discuss and practice coping strategies for the post-recovery environment.
This is especially effective if a family has been attending Al Anon or has sought out therapy to help them along their own journey of recovery. It is much easier to feel hopeful, or to at least be willing to let go of expectations, surrounding a young man’s recovery when the whole family is engaged with recovery.
4. Authentic engagement with the patient
We get very specific and concrete with each patient about our recommendations for continuing care. We devote substantial time to addressing his concerns or objections to the plan—we want the patient to articulate his discomfort with the plan so we can address that discomfort immediately with actionable insights we can practice together.
Sometimes the post-recovery environment looks drastically different from the pre-treatment environment, and that can be jarring. We have found that when there are areas that were causing our patient a significant amount of stress—a work, school or family situation that the patient used as the basis for their identity or self-worth to the detriment of his own health—we’ll give him a bit more time to practice his program of recovery in a controlled environment like a halfway house. Likewise, if a patient came from a situation where he had not done the work he was supposed to do, we feel it’s vital to immerse him in an environment where he must immediately become responsible and accountable.
5. Excellent, clinically-sound treatment
It is so important to consider continuing care as an extension of treatment—not an add-on. Good treatment and a good continuing care plan go hand-in-hand and, along with a patient’s dedication and commitment to his sobriety, can ensure the best outcome possible.
At Voyage, we believe good treatment includes addressing a young man’s sense of self, his family relationships, and his environment. We encourage our patients to rely on each other for strength and support, which prepares them to build vital relationships within their own Twelve Step fellowships once they leave us.
Good treatment disrupts old cycles and helps young men build healthy new ones. It addresses destructive or crippling feelings of fear, anger, guilt and shame by bringing them out into the light, and helping patients learn positive coping strategies. Good treatment also builds upon a regimen of trust, honesty, accountability and integrity, which can help prevent a young man from slipping back into old behaviors. By allowing young men to identify where their vulnerabilities are, they own their awareness of triggers and can make better choices.