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What to Do After Rehab

Leaving rehab requires planning; here are six actions to prevent relapse.

Key points

  • Planning support after residential addiction treatment will have a great impact on long-term outcome.
  • Building relationships that provide support and accountability help you stay on track with your recovery plan.
  • Exercise, meditation, and nutrition are helpful, as is building a supportive network.
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When a person leaves rehab, they are given an aftercare plan. This plan usually consists of a list of names of people to call for support. It may include a therapist, the appropriate local 12-step hotline, and more. Many, if not most, people leaving treatment find the idea of calling those numbers overwhelming. Those who don’t get support often relapse.

What can you do to help yourself or someone you love maintain and grow in their recovery when they leave treatment? Below are six areas of support that could constitute a strong aftercare plan.


Make an appointment with a psychotherapist who specializes in addiction and co-occurring disorders before your loved one leaves treatment. If possible, meet with the new therapist virtually, before leaving the treatment facility. It’s important that the chosen therapist is a good therapeutic match for the client. They need to have rapport for the relationship to work. They also should share clear, agreed upon goals for recovery.

12-Step and Community Support

Whether virtual or in-person, a community of support is vital for an individual in recovery. There are many types of 12-step groups that assist people with everything from heroin addiction to eating disorders to gambling. There are many positive aspects to 12-step groups. They are free. Members are available any time of the day or night. The people in the group have grappled with and overcome the same issues you or your loved one is dealing with. Millions of people have used the 12-steps to find recovery.

For those who don’t care for the format or concepts of 12-step groups, there are similar types of support, including Buddhist based Recovery Dharma and secular groups like SMART Recovery. The type of support community is not as important as engaging with the group and getting support in the early days of recovery.

Recovery Coach

Coaches provide support and structure to help individuals reach goals the client sets. Coaches are a great resource to help an individual replace the structure they had in a residential treatment facility. A coach will generally work with an individual several times a week to be an accountability partner and work through obstacles to a comfortable and meaningful recovery. Many recovery coaches meet with clients virtually, so it’s easy to fit coaching into a daily schedule.


Exercise is an often-overlooked aspect of recovery, but moving the body will help ease anxiety, improve sleep and overall outlook. A personal trainer can assist with accountability and help with correct form to avoid injury. This may be especially important for those who have limited mobility, existing injury, or other issues. However, walking each day with a friend or hiking with a dog are also of great benefit. Part of recovery is to create a healthy lifestyle. Exercise and physical movement are a big part of overall health.


Meditation helps to calm and center the mind. Many who are new in recovery balk at meditation because they say that they can’t stop the incessant chatter that is in their head. Even the great meditation masters are unable to do this. The point of meditation is to slow down. We sit and focus on something: a candle, the breath, the sound of someone speaking to us in a guided meditation, a sound we make. It is the slowing and centering that is important. We are to be with ourselves as we are.

For those just out of rehab, especially those who don’t have much experience with meditation, a teacher is important. Larger cities will have groups that teach meditation. There are also a number of apps and online instructors. The cost is nominal, and many YouTube videos and some apps can be accessed for free.


In treatment, it’s easy to eat well. Most facilities have chefs who provide well-balanced, nutritious, delicious meals. At home, it’s easier to get food that comes through a window than to cook for oneself.

Make cooking and eating well a priority. Preparing food can be a ritual. If you live with others, let them join in the food preparation. If cooking is overwhelming, choose premade foods that are good for you. In season, farmers markets provide access to quality produce at reasonable prices. Eat food that makes you feel good and you’ll be more likely to make other choices that help you feel good in all aspects of your life.

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