When a client completes your treatment program, after the feelings of excitement and accomplishment, there’s a sense of “now what?” All of the life skills and recovery tools learned in treatment are important, but it will take time for clients to truly enact them in their lives. Recovery from substance abuse is not a clear-cut path, it requires constant effort, self-awareness, and support.
It’s crucial that your program stays connected with alumni after they’ve graduated from treatment. You and your staff are a lifeline for those alumni as they begin to build their lives in recovery, and staying in touch actually can benefit your program significantly. With just a little effort and organization, an alumni program can improve the quality of your treatment services–and the lives of your clients.
First and foremost, your alumni program is a pillar of recovery support that you can offer your clients. Whether it’s through social media pages, email newsletters, or alumni events, it’s important to maintain contact and ensure alumni that you will be there for them even after their treatment stay has ended. Research shows that continuing care, engagement, and support are essential to maintaining recovery.
Both your treatment staff and clients’ fellow alumni are a part of their recovery foundation. Relationships created in treatment are meaningful and can have a powerful impact on an individual’s sobriety. By keeping open lines of communication, you create a safe community where clients can turn to for help, guidance, and encouragement. Use events, workshops, and newsletters to provide helpful recovery resources that will ease the transition into a sober, productive life.
An alumni program also allows you to stay up-to-date on your clients’ progress, or their struggles. Whether you see alumni face-to-face, call regularly to follow up with them, or send out surveys through email, you can gauge how they’re doing with their sobriety, jobs, and families. This is an essential aspect of your treatment services, reaching beyond the scope of your facility alone. Recovery is a life-long process, and long-term treatment services show you’re committed to your clients and their recovery.
The direct lines of communication opened by your alumni program allow you to conduct surveys and measure your success rates. Gauging your clients’ sobriety and abstinence is important, but you also want to understand more about their lives in recovery. Ask about their employment, their home lives, their physical health, and their mental health.
Success rates give you insight into what your program is doing well, and how it can improve. Even after substance abuse treatment, relapse happens, and we never see 100% success rates. Treatment can always evolve and improve, and those outcomes show you what your program needs to focus on in order to maintain the success of your program.
Your success rates are also a piece of information that can establish credibility with potential clients and their families. That data can become a marketing tool. By no means does this imply that you should skew your success rates–ethical treatment practice is essential to your ultimate success. With realistic, accurate, and specific outcomes, you give potential clients and their families true insight into what to expect from your program and the recovery process as a whole.
The fatal flaw of most treatment centers is that they have no alumni program at all. With no follow-up and no hand outstretched for future support, clients suffer and are left to handle their recovery struggles alone. That lack of community support and continuing care can negatively affect your treatment outcomes, and leave potential clients uneasy about choosing your program.
Some treatment programs have an alumni program but don’t make real use of it. They don’t capitalize on social media and email to build a support network. They send out information or advertisements but don’t actually engage their alumni at all. They may only follow up with some alumni. They may lose contact with alumni after just a few months, which is far too soon in the recovery process.
Whether an alumni program is short-sighted or nonexistent, it’s not actually checking on the progress of clients and it’s not providing the support they need.
There are many ways to structure an alumni program, and everyone does it differently. Your alumni program needs to match the values and principles of your treatment program. Whatever format you choose, you’ll need a consistent mode of communication. As the addiction treatment industry becomes increasingly web-based, email is the most effective platform for your marketing and communication.
An alumni email list is an easy and sustainable way to regularly provide them with information and announcements. You can let alumni know about upcoming events, or share useful resources with parents and loved ones about how to be a recovery advocate. Use email newsletters to keep your alumni engaged in recovery, and send them quality content and resources that can help them in their journey. Though alumni may not be checking your program’s website or blog, alumni emails are a way to drive traffic to your site and build your online presence.
Maintaining your email list also allows you to constantly offer a helping hand. Relapse is never desirable, but it is a reality. Weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly emails let alumni know that you are still there for them, that help is still available if they relapse, and that they have a safe place to return to if they need help.
Substance abuse treatment is both a business and a healthcare service. If your treatment services are ineffective or only focused on short-term outcomes, your business will suffer as a result. Your alumni reflect the quality of your program. Staying involved with them is an investment in their healthy lives, as well as the success of your program. By creating an alumni program, you take a simple step towards better treatment and healthier clients.
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