Sobriety and recovery can be a new concept to recovering health service professionals, their families, and their colleagues. Sometimes there are misconceptions and fears accompanied by unreasonable expectations of the involved parties. It is important to have patience with recovering individuals and to become familiar with the recovery process in order to be able to provide positive support.
One very important aspect of ongoing recovery after primary treatment is continuing care, sometimes referred to as aftercare. Each professional develops his/her own continuing care plan prior to discharge from a residential, inpatient, or intensive outpatient substance use program to establish a successful recovery. An important component of this plan is weekly attendance at professionally facilitated continuing care sessions. Weekly attendance provides the recovering health service professional an opportunity to continue to address primary recovery issues and continue to develop relapse prevention skills, especially those that are unique to health service professionals.
Many studies have confirmed the importance of weekly continuing care sessions to establish a successful long-term recovery. The Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program (NE LAP) recommends attendance at in-person continuing care sessions for health service professionals who need to have the highest level of accountability to achieve sustained recovery. However, on-line continuing care sessions are available due to COVID-19 restrictions, as well as for those that live in rural communities that may not have access to in-person continuing care in their area.
Attendance at ongoing continuing care sessions can be a measure of the strength of the health service professional’s commitment to recovery. The NE LAP recommends health service professionals attend continuing care for a minimum of six months if the primary treatment was an intensive outpatient treatment program, and a minimum of one year if the primary treatment was a residential or inpatient treatment program. History has shown if attendance at weekly continuing care meetings declines, the commitment to one’s recovery also declines, exponentially increasing the risk for relapse.
An established continuing care plan for a health service professional usually includes counseling and regular attendance at recovery support group meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), SMART Recovery, Celebrate Recovery, and the Licensee Support Group (available in Omaha and currently available via Zoom due to COVID-19 restrictions).
It is important that the continuing care plan for the health service professional takes into account the unique issues related to public safety, practice demands, and personal recovery needs. A well-developed continuing care plan provides a clear and specific outline of expected recovery activities and allows for the monitoring of a successful recovery process. Ongoing monitoring of continuing care progress can help the health service professional achieve a sustained recovery, and provide a safe and successful practice for the individual, their colleagues, and the public.
If you are a licensed health or health-related service professional wanting more information about sobriety and recovery, please contact the NE LAP at (800) 851-2336 or (402) 354-8055 or visit our web site at www.lapne.org. If you would like to consult with the NE LAP, or schedule an assessment or an educational presentation, please ask for Michelle Hruska, NE LAP Coordinator, or Nicole Winkler, NE LAP Counselor.