When a patient finishes an addiction treatment program, his or her work doesn’t end. In order to reduce the risk of relapse, it is important for every patient to participate in aftercare activities designed to help them maintain their recovery. A variety of different aftercare activities are available, and many recovering addicts choose to participate in more than one activity. Here are six options for aftercare activities that can effectively help a patient stay sober and improve the quality of his or her life overall.
- Art and Music Therapy
Art therapy and music therapy are two activities that offer many benefits to people who have recently completed an addiction treatment program. Each of these therapies uses creativity, self-expression, and emotion to facilitate recovery and improve the individual’s mental status. While often introduced during treatment itself, both are activities which can be done almost indefinitely during aftercare and life after rehab.
About Art Therapy
Since the 1950s, art therapy has been available as an alternative therapy for addiction, as well as other behavioral health conditions. Some of the techniques people may use during art therapy include creating collages, drawing, coloring, taking photographs and painting. Individuals can focus their art on any subject, whether or not it is related to addiction.
This alternative form of treatment encourages the person to express himself or herself creatively, which can reveal some of the underlying processes that contribute to substance abuse. Some of the specific benefits of art therapy include:
- Enhanced self-awareness, which leads to a better understanding of the factors that contribute to addiction, as well as the emotions the individual is feeling after treatment.
- Better self-esteem related to the completion of a valuable project.
- Fewer symptoms of anxiety.
- Repair of damage caused by trauma related to addiction.
- A chance to reflect, which can lead to better functioning.
About Music Therapy
Like art therapy, music therapy has also been around for several decades. This type of therapy can be beneficial to any individual in recovery, whether or not the person has a background in music. It allows the individual to express himself or herself in a nonconventional way. Some of the benefits of music therapy for recovering addicts include:
- Improved awareness and assessment of emotions.
- Better concentration and overall mental function.
- A chance to learn better relaxation techniques.
- A more positive attitude.
- Better self-esteem.
- Improved communication skills.
- Better coping strategies.
- Physical Fitness Therapy
Physical activity is an important part of addiction treatment and aftercare. While living with an addiction, it is common for a person’s health to deteriorate. Once an addiction treatment program is complete, physical fitness therapy can be used to help the individual improve his or her health, as well as to provide other benefits. Physical activity also causes the individual to release endorphins, which are chemicals that produce positive sensations throughout the body.
During physical fitness therapy, the individual may spend time working with a personal trainer, or he or she may engage in physical activity alone. The ultimate goal of this therapy is to help the individual maintain sobriety while becoming healthier and more fit.
Some of the benefits of engaging in physical fitness therapy include:
- Improved physical fitness and strength.
- Decreased cravings for drugs or alcohol.
- Better self-esteem.
- Better mood and fewer symptoms of depression or anxiety.
- Decreased pain sensations.
Physical fitness therapy is highly versatile. People can incorporate almost any activity into a physical fitness therapy program, including weightlifting, kayaking, horseback riding, yoga, tennis and virtually any other activity. Many people in recovery choose to incorporate multiple activities into their physical fitness therapy programs for the sake of variety.
- Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is beneficial both during an addiction rehab program and during aftercare. After a rehab program, many people continue to experience uncomfortable physical symptoms, such as muscle pain, because of the effects of the drug and the withdrawal process. People recovering from an addiction may also deal with mood swings, depression, anxiety and other emotional disturbances. In many cases, people in recovery aren’t even aware of the negative emotions they are experiencing, making these feelings even more dangerous. Massage therapy can help with all of these problems.
Massage therapy can:
- Reduce painful physical symptoms, such as tension, sore muscles, and pain.
- Allow the person to process feelings more effectively. Even if the person cannot verbalize his or her feelings, massage may bring them out.
- Improve the person’s awareness of his or her body.
- Reduce feelings of anxiety and improve the quality of sleep.
- Release hormones that improve mood and fight symptoms of depression, including dopamine and serotonin.
- Facilitate the removal of metabolic waste from the body by promoting the effectiveness of the lymphatic system and enhancing circulation.
- Help the individual to recover his or her ability to trust other people, especially if the individual previously associated touch with negative feelings.
It is important to note that massage therapy may be difficult for some people at first, especially if they are not comfortable being touched by others. However, as sessions continue, most patients feel more at ease and learn to view touch as a positive sensation.
- Breathing Exercises and Meditation
One of the primary triggers of relapse for people in addiction recovery is stress, especially if the stress is extreme. Thus, learning to cope with stress is one of the best things an individual can do to reduce the chances of relapse. Breathing exercises and meditation are two techniques individuals in recovery can use to manage stressful situations without turning to drugs or alcohol.
About Breathing Exercises
Learning to control breathing patterns can change an individual’s moods, emotions and other essential functions in the body. Some of the specific physical benefits of breathing exercises include:
- Relaxation of muscles.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Natural relief from pain.
- More oxygen brought to all of the cells in the body.
- Exhalation of waste products, which reduces the strain on other systems in the body that are responsible for eliminating waste.
In addition to these physical benefits, breathing exercises can also be used to help the individual relax. As the individual breathes deeply, more oxygen is delivered to the muscles, which helps to release tension. When this tension is released, the individual feels calmer naturally.
Deep breathing affects the mood as well. When a person breathes deeply, the levels of neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers in the brain, are altered. The extra oxygen brought in with the deep breaths causes the brain to produce chemicals that put the individual in a more positive mood.
Types of Breathing Exercises
A variety of different types of breathing exercises exist. Some of the breathing exercises that may be beneficial for people in recovery include:
- Simple yoga breathing – Simple yoga breathing involves sitting or lying comfortably while breathing slowly in and out through the nose. Next, the individual counts forward and backward slowly while continuing to breathe in and out. Finally, the individual makes each exhalation twice as long as the inhalation.
- 4-4-8 breathing – This breathing exercise begins with a slow breath in while the individual counts to four. Next, the individual holds his or her breath for a count of four. Finally, the individual exhales for a count of eight.
- Abdominal breathing – To practice abdominal breathing, the individual rests one hand on the chest and the other on the stomach. Next, the individual breathes in through the nose while focusing on inflating both the diaphragm and the lungs. Finally, the individual exhales slowly with his or her lips pursed.
- Paced breathing – Paced breathing involves breathing in for a specific number of seconds and breathing out for a specific number of seconds. Individuals can choose the timing that works best for them, but the exhale should be longer than the inhale. During this exercise, it is best to focus on a specific sound, image or object to prevent distractions.
Meditation is an exercise that involves focusing on the connection between the mind and the body in order to induce feelings of serenity and relaxation. This activity offers several benefits for people in recovery, including:
- Improved sleep.
- Fewer symptoms of depression.
- Enhanced stress management skills.
- Relief from anxiety.
- Fewer symptoms of pain.
- Better immune system function.
- Lower blood pressure.
To practice meditation, an individual simply finds a quiet, distraction-free place to sit or lie down. Next, the individual concentrates on his or her breathing while also focusing on a mantra, which may be a single word or idea. Throughout this process, the individual is encouraged to keep an open mind but not to focus significant attention on any external sensation or thought that enters the mind.
- Group Therapy and Alumni Groups
Group therapy is a specific type of counseling that allows recovering addicts to share their experiences with others who are dealing with the same issues. Most people who have completed rehab will have participated in group therapy during the program. However, continuing to participate in alumni sharing sessions after the program ends can help the individual to remain sober and maintain a social support system.
Some of the benefits of participating in meetings include:
- A chance to interact with other people and improve social and communication skills.
- A reminder that the individual is not alone in his or her struggles with addiction and recovery.
- An opportunity to talk about issues that impede recovery and work through them effectively.
- The ability to learn from others who have been in recovery longer, which can improve coping skills and reduce the risk of relapse.
- Improved self-esteem and confidence in the ability to stay sober because of solidarity and support from other members of the group.
Different types of group therapy exist to meet the needs of different individuals. Some of the most common types of group therapy include:
- Support groups, which focus on preventing relapse and dealing with trauma related to addiction.
- Skills development groups, which focus on building skills that protect the individual’s sobriety and improve his or her life.
- Cognitive behavioral groups, which focus on conflict resolution and anger management, especially in early recovery.
Other types of group therapy also exist. Some people in recovery choose to participate in more than one type of group as part of their aftercare.
- Volunteering/Giving Back
Getting sober is a transformative event that can give an individual a “new lease on life.” Following the completion of an addiction treatment program, many people in recovery feel an overwhelming need to give back to the community that helped them during the hardest times of their lives, as well as to help other people who continue to struggle with addiction.
One of the best ways to give back and further one’s own recovery after an addiction treatment program is through volunteering. Volunteering offers several key benefits for recovering addicts, including:
- A chance to use special talents or skills and be a productive member of society.
- An opportunity to learn responsibility and build confidence in one’s own skills and abilities.
- The ability to be part of something worthwhile.
- The satisfaction of helping others and making a difference in the lives of others.
- A sense of purpose
- A chance to learn new skills or discover skills the individual didn’t realize he or she had.
- The ability to feel valued, needed and important.
- An opportunity to meet other recovering addicts and build a stronger social network.
People who want to volunteer can find a variety of opportunities, including rehab centers, outpatient clinics, counseling centers, homes for recovering addicts and more. Volunteers can also look for opportunities that don’t relate directly to addiction but will also allow them to use their talents and skills. Examples include homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and community centers.
These are just a few of the activities that can be beneficial for recovering addicts during aftercare. Engaging in one or more of these activities can help individuals to protect their sobriety and improve their lives overall.