What Happens After Residential Treatment? The Importance of a Strong Support System

Residential treatment centers provide safe, effective programs for overcoming addiction and mental illness. The journey to recovery, though, does not end on the last day of treatment. Facing life after treatment can be challenging and may lead to relapses. One of the most effective tools to prevent relapse and enjoy continued success is social support. Build a strong support system of family, friends, co-workers, and community members for successful, post-treatment recovery.

Social support is an essential component of overall wellness. Multiple research studies have shown that support from family, friends, and even the community is essential for recovery from substance use disorders. After going through residential treatment, a powerful and effective way to overcome addiction and mental health issues, you face a difficult transition to home and recovery. Having the support of those who care about you will be essential for avoiding relapse. If someone you care about is leaving residential treatment, be there to provide this needed support.

The Challenges of Life After Treatment


Residential care for a substance use disorder or co-occurring disorders is an important step in achieving recovery. But addiction and most mental illnesses are chronic. This means they can recur in damaging ways. Treatment can be effective, but it is never truly done. There is no cure for mental illness or addiction. Because these are lifelong issues, you can expect to face some typical challenges after leaving treatment:

  • Relapse triggers, including old friends or places you once used drugs or drank
  • Making new, sober social connections
  • Difficult emotions, like anger, depression, or irritability
  • Boredom, having time to fill that you once spent using
  • Finding a purpose, a new meaning
  • Stigma, shame, embarrassment and facing people
  • Unrealistic expectations of life in recovery
  • Facing the fear of leaving a safe recovery space

How Social Support Mitigates Challenges After Treatment


There are several important ways to face these challenges and to have the best chance of a successful post-treatment recovery. Continuing with therapy on an outpatient basis, for instance, will help. So too will making healthy lifestyle choices like exercising regularly and eating well. But these steps may not be enough. What you need more than anything is a strong social support system.

First, you need to have a safe and supportive place to live. If possible, avoid living alone. Go home to supportive family if you have one or, if not, find friends willing to room with you. The warmth, stability, and safety of a supportive home will help you make positive choices and sets you up for success in avoiding relapse.

The supportive home is a basis and foundation for ongoing recovery. Social support at home and among friends also helps you in recovery by giving you self-confidence and reasons to avoid relapse. Studies have found that social support builds self-efficacy, the belief that you can be successful in recovery, which actively supports sobriety and healthy choices.

Even the feeling that you have people supporting you is positive. Studies show that perceived support reduces substance use. If you think people around you support your sobriety, you’ll be less likely to use. Being socially excluded has been shown to increase the risk of relapse.

Supportive friends and family can help you in more practical ways, too. Your partner, for instance, may change up the home environment before you come back from treatment, removing any alcohol or drugs and providing healthy food and drink options. Family members may cook for you or help with child care so you can go to 12-step meetings or therapy. These small efforts make a big difference in recovery after treatment.

How to Build Your Support System


Start with a positive and supportive home environment for the best transition from recovery. A good home life is essential, but to get the most out of social support for successful recovery, you need to take active steps to build and maintain a network.

Although it may not be easy to do so, actively asking for help and reaching out to people will help grow your social system. Contact old friends, for example. You may feel as if you have alienated them or done too much damage to rekindle a friendship, but you might be surprised. If you’re nervous about doing this, start with family. Reach out to a sibling or cousin you haven’t seen in a while and make plans to spend time together.

Avoid anyone who may trigger a relapse. This may be difficult because you are afraid of hurting feelings, but you have to put your recovery first. An effective social support system does not include anyone and everyone, only those people who support you in positive ways.

Resist the urge to isolate yourself or neglect relationships. It is tempting when facing negative emotions and bad moods to stay at home, to shut yourself in your room, and to put no effort into your relationships. Spend time with people, go outside, go into the community, and actively work on building positive relationships with the people who care the most. In some cases, like with family or a partner, this may mean involving them in therapy.

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The Role of Community Support


Strong social support goes beyond having a caring family and close friends. You can benefit greatly in recovery from being an integral part of your community. Community support doesn’t have to mean that everyone knows about your challenges; it simply means that you belong to a group of people with shared interests and with an interest in supporting each other.

Work, for instance, can be a form of community support. Having and keeping a job is an important part of recovery for so many reasons. Work gives you a purpose and a reason to stay sober and work on recovery. It provides a built-in community and a positive group of people to spend time with every day.

Other ways to enjoy the benefits of community support include joining local groups. If you are religious, join a church group. Or, consider joining some types of interest groups, like a run club or local crafters’ group. A support group in the community for addiction or specific mental health challenges can also be immensely positive. Volunteer positions can be great for joining the community and giving back as a supportive member of the group.

Residential treatment gives you a foundation for the rest of your life, whether you are recovering from addiction, mental illness, or both. Use the tools you learned in treatment to transition to a healthy recovery at home. And, make the effort to build and maintain the strong social network that will support your recovery and sobriety. Engage in the community and at work, reach out to people, actively build positive relationships, and enjoy life with the people who truly care about you.

Our Mental Health Facilities

Constellation Behavioral Health is proud to be a leader and innovator of mental health services. Our integrated, shared system of care ensures quality of care across all of our facilities, with a distinct focus on providing a robust differential diagnosis, cultivating personal agency, and working closely with families and healthcare providers to ensure the best chance for lasting recovery. Coordination and collaboration of staff across our different facilities contribute to consistency of quality and shared treatment philosophies.

BrightQuest Treatment Centers

Located in Nashville and San Diego, BrightQuest specializes in complex psychiatric conditions, providing compassionate care to a vastly underserved population. With our unique therapeutic community model, BrightQuest is the long-term residential solution you’ve been looking for to provide your loved one with the tools necessary to live a healthier and more independent life.

Bridges to Recovery

Our Bridges to Recovery locations in Los Angeles and San Diego are designed for men and women struggling with mental health disorders who are seeking a safe alternative to hospitalization for their care. Many clients choose residential care at Bridges to Recovery because, despite their best efforts and dedication to treatment, they still are not living a stable and satisfying life. Our clinical expertise and nurturing home-like residences provide clients a safe and supportive environment to recover and heal. The quality and comprehensiveness of our integrated, intensive treatment program allow for rapid relief from suffering and tremendous growth, all in a few short weeks.

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