The Role of Long-Term Rehab in an Effective Recovery

Long-term rehab is a crucial resource for people recovering from alcoholism.

This level of care goes beyond a short stay in a rehab program.

By doing so, it acknowledges the ongoing effort needed to stay sober.

At the same time, long-term rehab gives you the tools needed to make lasting sobriety a reality.

Long-term rehab programs come in a range of different forms and formats.

They also provide sobriety support in a variety of ways.

This means that it is possible for almost anyone to get the help they need.

That is true no matter how much you or your loved are affected by alcoholism.

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What Is Long-Term Rehab for Alcoholism

The typical alcohol rehab in America provides active treatment for somewhere between one and three months.

While enrolled in this kind of treatment, you will develop many essential skills, including:

  • An understanding of alcoholism as a chronic brain disease
  • Awareness of what particular things make you more likely to drink
  • A much-improved ability to avoid drinking in everyday situations

With these skills at your disposal, you will find it easier to keep your recovery on track.

However, addiction specialists are well-aware that you are not completely cured when your time in rehab ends.

Since alcoholism is a chronic disease, not a short-term disease, you will face significant ongoing challenges.

These challenges often diminish over time, as you become accustomed to living an alcohol-free lifestyle.

But they may never disappear altogether.

Long-term rehab for alcoholism is designed with these realities in mind.

It reflects the need for continued help from experienced professionals.

Still, not all long-term programs are the same.

You may enroll in this kind of program when you first start alcohol rehab.

As an alternative, you may switch to a long-term program after your complete your original 30- to 90-day rehab.

Specific options for long-term alcoholism treatment include:

  • Residential rehab programs
  • Intensive outpatient programs, or IOPs
  • Standard outpatient programs
  • Continuing care or aftercare programs

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Long-Term Residential Rehab for Alcoholism

As a rule, people with severe alcoholism go through primary rehab in a residential or inpatient program. This kind of program is required to provide the extensive treatment needed to recover from severe symptoms. Most residential rehabs are not long-term, but some are. A prominent example of this kind of long-term program is a therapeutic community, or TC. The TC model includes two main areas of focus. First, these communities help you recover the social skills lost to the effects of alcoholism.  Therapeutic communities also make the functioning of the program itself the responsibility of the entire community. That includes you, as well as:

  • Everyone else enrolled for treatment
  • All staff members, not just the main therapeutic staff

Apart from therapists, staff members employed by TCs include nurses and other medical personnel. They also include medication experts and consulting psychiatrists. Many people working at therapeutic communities are committed to recovering from their own substance problems.

Your time in a TC may last for anywhere from half a year to a full year or longer. Treatment places an emphasis on taking responsibility for your actions. This is part of a larger effort to abandon damaging behaviors and develop new, healthy ones.

Long-Term Rehab for Alcoholism for Long-Lasting Sobriety - Pathfinders - A young woman looking for a long-term rehab for alcoholism meets with her addiction advisor to determine the best treatment plan for her.

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) for Long-Term Rehab

Intensive outpatient programs are different from typical outpatient programs.

While enrolled in one, you must devote substantial amounts of time to your treatment each week. The minimum weekly time commitment for adults is nine hours. For teenagers, it is six hours. Maximum participation times vary from program to program.

There are long-term IOPs specifically designed to help people with alcoholism.

As a rule, the main goal is relapse prevention. One effective approach is called Outpatient Long-Term Intensive Therapy for Alcoholics (OLITA). More than half of all people who undergo OLITA remain alcohol-free for at least nine years.

This approach can also help cope with the effects of a dual diagnosis. You have a dual diagnosis if your alcoholism is accompanied by at least one other serious mental health issue. People in long-term IOPs, like OLITA, often experience significant drops in their mental illness symptoms.

While enrolled in a long-term IOP, you may also receive medication to help you avoid a relapse.

Medications used for this purpose in alcoholism IOPs may include:

  • Disulfiram, or Antabuse
  • Naltrexone
  • Acamprosate, or Campral

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Long-Term Rehab in Standard Outpatient Programs

Standard long-term outpatient rehabs do not take as much time per week as IOPs.

Still, at least once a week, you will receive ongoing alcoholism treatment. That treatment may include the same kinds of therapy used in long-term IOPs. It may also include the same kinds of medication.

Some people begin their alcoholism treatment in a standard, long-term program. However, in many cases, this type of program is used to deliver continuing care or aftercare.

Long-Term Treatment in Continuing Care Programs

Continuing care programs get their name because they continue to provide treatment after you complete your main recovery program.

Some rehab facilities use the word aftercare for these same kinds of long-term services. In the typical continuing care rehab, the treatment you receive is less extensive than that provided in your residential rehab. For example, if you started in an IOP, you would move down to a standard outpatient program. Despite moving down in intensity, you still get the help you need to remain sober long-term.

The treatment options used in continuing care programs are often the same as those used in primary rehab. However, with the technology available today, you may also receive help in other ways. One modern approach is telemedicine, which allows you to speak to your doctor or therapist remotely. You may also benefit from a smartphone or computer app designed to support your sobriety.

There is no set end for continuing care. Experts recommend you receive ongoing treatment for as long as possible. Why? This the best way to maximize your odds of avoiding an alcohol relapse.

Long-Term Rehab for Alcoholism for Long-Lasting Sobriety - Pathfinders - Individuals attending a long-term rehab for alcoholism are participating in a group therapy session.

Mutual Self-Help Groups

Mutual self-help groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous, are not sources for formal alcoholism treatment. Nevertheless, they may prove vital to your ability to maintain your sobriety.

Examples of the benefits of such groups include:

  • Introducing you to a group of peers also focused on maintaining sobriety
  • Providing examples of people who are successfully navigating their sobriety
  • Giving you a welcoming forum to discuss your recovery challenges and experiences

Mutual self-help groups are essential that enrollment is often encouraged during and after alcohol treatment.

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Learn More About Long-Term Rehab for Alcoholism

Long-term rehab for alcoholism takes the long view of alcohol recovery.

This view is based on the reality of alcoholism as a chronic brain illness.

While improvement is common, you may continue to experience the impact of this illness for the rest of your life.

Long-term recovery programs help keep a focus on your sobriety in the months and years after primary treatment ends.

No matter how much you are affected by alcoholism, long-term rehab should be part of your recovery plan.

This rehab may take place in a residential, intensive outpatient, or standard outpatient program.

You may begin treatment in a long-term rehab program.

However, it also common to enroll in one as a form of continuing care.

Enrollment in a mutual self-help group is also widely encouraged for people recovering from alcoholism.

While these groups do not provide formal treatment, they do provide the benefits of an extensive peer network.

Need more information on long-term rehab for alcohol problems?

Contact the specialists at Pathfinders today.

With our deep experience in addiction issues, we are perfectly placed to guide you in the right direction.

Pathfinders is also your regional resource for the full range of alcoholism-related services.


  • 7580 E Gray Rd Suite 201 Scottsdale, AZ 85260
  • (877) 224-0761
  • Mon-Sun: 24x7


  • 2953 S Peoria St. Suite 230 Aurora, CO 80014
  • (877) 224-0761
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