Once your clients leave the safety of your drug rehab and begin to transition back into daily life, they need to stay empowered. Relapse is never desirable, but it’s a reality most will have to face.
All the recovery skills they learned in the residential- based program are vital. However, they are not enough for the temptations and all the adjustments they need to stay committed to recovery.
You have to stay connected to your clients to keep them committed. After all, you and your staff are their lifeline in their journey to stay clean. This is where alumni programs come into play!
This will not only help your clients stay sober but also improve the quality of your services. Remember, your clients are the reflection of the kind of services you provide. When your clients realize that you’re not after short-term treatment but after long-term recovery, it speaks volumes about your brand.
If you have no idea how to create an alumni program from scratch, keep reading to find out how you will set up, launch and manage your program to give you a competitive advantage.
What Is a Drug Rehab Alumni Programs?
An alumni program is an aftercare and sobriety program for people who have completed a treatment program. These programs help addiction treatment centers stay involved with their clients. It also strengthens the quality of the services they provide.
Benefits of Drug Rehab Alumni Programs
Here are some of the benefits of creating a drug rehab alumni program.
Ease transition into daily life
Alumni programs provide structured activities to help the transition into everyday life. Some programs go the extra mile to offer sober living homes for those who feel that they are not fully ready for the world.
These homes offer opportunities for individuals to live with peers who are committed to remaining drug-free for a period of time before jumping back to their previous lives.
Provide access to relapse prevention programs
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that the relapse rates for addiction range between 40% and 60%. Relapse prevention programs equip people with ways to identify and deal with triggers at the recovery process. This includes instant access for individuals to reach out to other alumni or trained professionals for help.
Most alumni programs offer 24-hour hotlines, email connections or even a social media presence that helps to keep an open line of communication. This enables clients to turn for help, guidance, and motivation to keep going during a time of crisis.
Fellowship with the recovery community
Alumni programs connect individuals to other graduates who have managed to maintain a sober and balanced lifestyle. This equips them with the inspiration needed to show them that sustaining a healthy and drug-free lifestyle is possible.
The mentorship programs also keep people connected with others in varying stages of recovery. This facilitates a forum to share triumphs and trials that provide learning experiences for those new and those further along in their recovery.
Addiction is an isolating disease that closes up social circles resulting in emotional difficulties. Alumni programs help clients restore healthy socialization skills with people who share the goal of long term sobriety.
Maintain ongoing support from treatment providers
Alumni programs are usually offered as part of aftercare services. This means that clients get to maintain their connection with treatment providers who helped positively impacted their lives.
These personal connections are essential for maintaining recovery. You create a safe space for continuing care, engagement, and encouragement. The trained professionals are able to determine potential relapse signs and act. This facilitates a smooth transition into a sober, productive life.
When you create a successful alumni program that offers quality aftercare services to clients, it improves your brand image. The main goal for alumni programs is to strengthen the recovery. Once this is achieved, the success rates can be used to establish your credibility with potential clients and their loved ones.
Where Treatment Centers Go Wrong With Rehab Alumni Programs
Some treatment centers have no alumni programs while others run an inactive alumni program. That lack of continuing care has a negative impact on both treatment outcomes and bringing new clients to your facility.
The lack of follow-up leaves clients to handle their recovery ups and downs alone. This makes it harder for potential clients to choose your program.
Your alumni are a reflection of the services that you provide. This is why you shouldn’t focus your efforts on just a select number of alumni for a few months then lose touch.
You have to be willing to reach out to your clients beyond the scope of your normal care plan. Checking up on their progress makes them feel supported and encouraged.
This, in turn, builds engagement as you create a social media presence and when push out new content. This makes your marketing efforts a whole lot easier because your past clients are more than willing to put the word out about the value you provided during their recovery journey.
How to Run a Drug Rehab Alumni Program
There are so many different ways to structure an alumni program. Below is a format you can use to help you build and maintain a successful drug rehab alumni program.
Setting a Rehab Alumni Program
Your alumni program should match the values and principles of your treatment program. This will help to promote the quality and consistency of your services throughout the program.
Provide access to all alumni instead of a select group of people. You could propose the alumni program to clients while still in the residential based treatment.
Some of the activities you can implement to boost engagement include:
- Meeting once or twice a week to connect
- Share their experiences with each other
- Provide a buddy system as a support option
- Host regular events
Social gatherings build lasting relationships and help your clients restore healthy interactions with others. The exact activities you can offer vary by facility and by season. Each activity comes with different benefits to your clients.
For instance, activities such as bowling, movie nights and cookouts are reminders that they should enjoy what life offers. Volunteering brings feelings of compassion and gratitude. On the other hand, hiking builds resilience in character that will come in handy as they try to adopt a sober lifestyle.
Delivering the Rehab Alumni Program
The next step is to determine the internal resources required for your alumni program. Will you seek external sponsors for the program? How will the facility take care of the expenses? what will you charge clients extra for the aftercare services?
It is equally important to determine who will coordinate all alumni activities. You will have to delegate a team of your staff to facilitate alumni activities. You will also need to collaborate with other organizations for mentorship and volunteer programs.
Launching the Rehab Alumni Program
The first thing to do here is to establish a launch communication strategy for successful engagement. Some of the questions you’ll have to address here include
- How will you communicate the alumni program’s value?
- How will you communicate with different clients in different recovery stages?
- Which media (or combination) will you use to educate clients about the upcoming launch?
For example; webinars, blog posts, email, website or social media posts.
- What resources will you need for your communication strategy?
For example; third-party agency services, video, and social media content or event-in-a-box materials.
About two months before the launch, use the in the house contact list to get emails of clients who’ve completed your program. Reach out to them with the goal of educating and motivating them about the value they’ll receive through your alumni program. You could also send ‘Coming Soon’ updates through email or social media.
Use webinars to satisfy the growing anticipation for the alumni launch. Webinars are a powerful communication tool that builds trust faster than any other medium used to educate and engage. You could also solicit testimonials to encourage others to participate.
During the actual launch, send an ‘It’s Live’ email to all clients and includes training materials along with the program link. Also, announce the launch on your website and social media networks.
After the launch, take a moment to thank and congratulate clients for their attendance through email. You should also encourage them to stay tuned for opportunities to learn and engage with you.
Managing the Rehab Alumni Program
To ensure that your rehab program remains successful, it has to be consistent and beneficial to your clients. The following are the areas you need to focus your resources and attention to stay active.
Create an email system
In spite of the rise of social media and mobile chat apps, email still remains one of the most used forms of communication. In addition, email engagement has an average open rate of 21.73%.
This is why you should maintain an email list to constantly provide a helping hand to alumni. You can let them know about upcoming events, special announcements and offer relevant resources to help them in their recovery process.
Email newsletters are reported to have the highest positive experience. You can send quality content and resources using email newsletters. You can also use emails to drive traffic by including a link to your website.
Create a private Facebook group
Facebook is undoubtedly the most popular social network on the web. Consider creating a private Facebook group for your alumni program. Since it’s exclusive to members, alumni will have a platform to openly share their experiences in a non-judgmental environment.
A private Facebook group is also a way to build an online community of alumni who have a common goal to strengthen the recovery. This creates an opportunity to actively engage with each other and has meaningful conversations geared towards this objective. This helps to create an even stronger recovery community.
These exclusive Facebook groups provide access to continued encouragement. Members can share pictures or videos of their adventures and family, ask questions and also inspire others to live their best lives.
Maintain open lines of communication
Keep open lines of communication by making regular phone calls to check in on your client’s recovery after release. This helps you to stay updated on their progress and offer a helping hand in case of relapse.
You could also provide them with access to treatment professionals who are already familiar with their case. This helps them maintain the personal connection needed to stay sober. You could also provide a 24-hour hotline in your alumni program for clients to obtain instant access during a crisis.
Boost support group participation
Support is a vital foundation for long term recovery from addiction. Alumni programs ensure that your clients stay in touch with people who went through the same experience. They allow people to locate and connect with support groups in their local area.
These support groups trigger buddy systems that make recovering addicts become accountable to each other. This enhances the odds for recovery success.
Treatment centers can host the optional 12-Step meetings on their premises or have similar peer support programs as a mandatory component of their treatment process.
Facilitate mentorship programs
Mentors bring their personal life experience of both addiction and recovery into the alumni community. These experiences enrich people beginning their recovery journeys.
These mentorship programs encourage people to try new activities such as sports participation or family holiday celebrations. They help individuals begin to build their social skills and contacts.
Enable volunteer programs
Alumni programs should encourage people to participate in volunteer programs. This helps build their self-confidence and combat boredom as they meet new people. It also helps clients take responsibility and value their own achievements.
You could offer opportunities for people to volunteer at a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter, building homes or at a nursing home. These alumni programs could also encourage people to strengthen their sobriety by helping others. This is by allowing them to become mentors or an addiction advocate.
Create an activity calendar
A calendar of events helps alumni programs keep track of their activities and improve efficiency. Having everything on a shared online calendar allows members to know what’s coming up rather than expecting surprises.
It helps to recover individuals feel a sense of routine that they were already used to at the residential-based treatment center. It’s therefore important to plan the weekend recovery retreats, alumni reunions, recovery sports events, speaker series, and outreach programs.
Collect success rates
You can use the open lines of communication created by your alumni program to conduct surveys. This helps you gauge your client’s sobriety and abstinence from drugs and alcohol. It also provides insight into their interactions with their family and others.
This lets you determine your success rates to see if your program is making a positive impact on their well-being and where to improve. As I mentioned before, relapse happens even after substance abuse treatment. Being able to identify areas that you can improve your services goes a long way to maintain the success of your program.
An alumni program works by enabling recovering individuals to use coping skills for better communication. These interpersonal skills are an integral part of sober living after treatment.
When your treatment facility creates and strives to maintain an active alumni program, it speaks volumes about the quality of your services. It shows that you are interested in the holistic recovery of your clients. This value that you offer will attract more clients to your treatment facility.
It’s Your Turn…
The strategies above will definitely help you build and maintain a successful alumni program for your drug rehab. Commit to the process and you will have more people seeking your expertise.
What strategy are you currently using to maintain your alumni program? Which one would you consider adding to your current strategy? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.