Aligned Living

ALC Whitepaper

The Importance of Ongoing Continuing Care in the Treatment of Mental and Substance Use Disorders.

Abstract: Mental and substance use disorders have emerged as significant public health challenges, impacting individuals, families, and communities. At Aligned Living, we understand the complexities and nuances of treating these disorders, and we recognize that the journey to recovery extends well beyond initial interventions. This white paper delves into the critical topic of ongoing continuing care in the treatment of mental and substance use disorders(^1). We explore the benefits, evidence-based approaches, challenges, and best practices within this context, and emphasize the importance of long-term support to promote sustained recovery and holistic well-being.

  • Introduction

Mental and substance use disorders affect millions of individuals worldwide, with far-reaching consequences for individuals, their families, and society as a whole. These disorders come in various forms, from depression and anxiety to substance abuse and addiction, each carrying its unique set of challenges and treatment requirements. Aligned Living is committed to providing ongoing continuing care to those facing these disorders. Our mission is to facilitate lasting recovery and empower individuals to lead fulfilling lives. We believe that the journey to wellness is a marathon, not a sprint, and it necessitates an unwavering commitment to ongoing care and support. In this white paper, we embark on a comprehensive exploration of the role of continuing care in the treatment of mental and substance use disorders. We’ll examine the continuum of care, the numerous benefits it offers, evidence-based approaches, challenges and barriers, and best practices for ensuring the long-term well-being of individuals in recovery. Additionally, we’ll consider the evolving landscape of treatment and the innovative strides being made in the field. Continuing care in this context is more than just a healthcare strategy; it’s a lifeline for individuals seeking to reclaim their lives from the clutches of these challenging disorders. As we delve deeper into this subject, we aim to shed light on its significance and offer insights that will resonate with professionals, policymakers, families, and those on their journey to recovery.

  • The Continuum of Care

At its core, continuing care signifies a profound shift in our approach to addressing mental and substance use disorders. This transformation is driven by a nuanced understanding of the challenges individuals face on their journey to recovery. Unlike traditional models that often focus on stabilizing acute conditions, the paradigm shift acknowledges several key factors influencing the need for ongoing support:

    • Non-Linearity of Recovery: The recognition that recovery is not a straightforward, linear process. Individuals may encounter setbacks, challenges, or evolving needs that require ongoing assistance beyond the initial treatment phase.
    • Holistic Well-Being: Understanding that true recovery extends beyond mere stabilization. It encompasses the restoration and enhancement of various life aspects such as relationships, work, and education. This holistic perspective emphasizes that sustained well-being is a dynamic interplay of multiple factors.
    • Real Change Beyond Stabilization: Acknowledging that the crux of transformation occurs when individuals transition from stabilization to actively engaging with life – work, relationships, education, and community involvement. Continuing care becomes the catalyst for instigating and sustaining this transformative process.
    • Accessibility Barriers: Recognizing the historical challenges related to accessibility, affordability, and stigma associated with mental health care. The paradigm shift advocates for breaking down these barriers to ensure that ongoing support is accessible to all, regardless of financial constraints or geographical location.

The paradigm shift in continuing care is not solely driven by the cost or limitations of residential care but by a holistic understanding that genuine change occurs in the integration of individuals back into their daily lives. It is about supporting them in navigating the complexities of relationships, work, and societal reintegration, ensuring a comprehensive and sustained recovery journey.

  • Defining Continuing Care in the Context of Treatment

In the landscape of behavioral healthcare, continuing care serves as the vital conduit between acute interventions and the long-term journey to sustained well-being. Traditional healthcare, particularly in the context of substance use disorders, gravitates towards acute care, addressing immediate stabilization and crisis intervention. This phase involves specific interventions tailored to the ASAM (American Society of Addiction Medicine) levels of care:

ASAM Level 3 – Residential/Inpatient Detoxification and Stabilization: For individuals grappling with substance use, the acute phase often begins with Level 3 care, involving residential or inpatient detoxification. This intensive level of care ensures round-the-clock monitoring and medical support to manage withdrawal symptoms and achieve stabilization.

ASAM Level 2 – Intensive Outpatient/Partial Hospitalization: Transitioning from acute care, continuing care seamlessly integrates with ASAM Level 2 interventions. This stage involves intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization programs. Individuals participate in structured therapeutic sessions during the day, while residing in a supportive environment in the evenings.

While acknowledging the paramount significance of these acute interventions, continuing care extends beyond crisis resolution. It unfolds as a comprehensive journey involving:

ASAM Level 1 – Outpatient Care: Continuing care often aligns with ASAM Level 1 outpatient care. This phase caters to individuals who have achieved stabilization but require ongoing support. Outpatient services may include individual therapy, group counseling, and periodic check-ins to monitor progress.

Relapse Prevention Strategies: A cornerstone of continuing care is the implementation of robust relapse prevention strategies. This involves regular assessments of an individual’s progress, identification of triggers, and the provision of ongoing therapeutic support to build essential skills for managing stressors and preventing relapse.

ASAM Level 4 – Continuing Care/Recovery Residence: Beyond the acute phases, individuals may transition to ASAM Level 4 continuing care, which includes supportive recovery residences or transitional living arrangements. These settings provide a supportive environment where individuals can gradually reintegrate into their communities while receiving ongoing therapeutic support.

Continuing care, mirroring the ASAM levels of care, is the bridge extending from acute interventions, through various outpatient levels of care, to the sustained, individualized journey of recovery and well-being. It encompasses the principles of the ASAM criteria, ensuring that individuals receive the appropriate level of care at each stage, leading to lasting recovery.

  • Stages of Care: From Acute Treatment to Ongoing Support

Continuing care is not a one-size-fits-all model; it adapts to each individuals’ unique needs and circumstances (^2). It comprises multiple stages, including but not limited to:

    • Early Recovery: The initial phase involves detoxification, stabilization, and withdrawal management. The focus is on addressing immediate health risks and stabilizing the individual.
    • Primary Treatment: This stage often includes intensive therapies, counseling, and rehabilitation. Individuals learn coping strategies, self-awareness, and the skills needed to manage their disorders.
    • Aftercare: As individuals progress in their recovery journey, they transition to aftercare, which may include outpatient therapy, group support, and periodic check-ins with healthcare providers.
    • Ongoing Maintenance: This stage involves long-term support, often extending beyond a year or more. It includes ongoing therapy, medication management, and a focus on relapse prevention and quality of life enhancement. By recognizing these stages and their specific objectives, continuing care ensures that individuals receive the appropriate level of support at each phase of their recovery.
  • The Role of Continuing Care in Preventing Relapse

Preventing relapse stands as a paramount objective within continuing care, particularly for individuals navigating the complexities of substance use and mental disorders. The implementation of robust relapse prevention strategies involves a nuanced approach that includes:

Regular Monitoring and Assessment:

Experience: Regular monitoring entails ongoing evaluations of an individual’s mental health status, tracking the subtle shifts in mood, energy levels, and overall well-being.

Adaptation: This continual assessment allows for the adaptation of the care plan in response to emerging challenges, shifts in symptomatology, or changes in life circumstances. It is a dynamic process that ensures the care plan remains aligned with the individual’s evolving needs.

Skill Reinforcement:

Experience: Skill reinforcement involves providing individuals with ongoing consistent check-in sessions and educational resources. This may include cognitive-behavioral techniques, mindfulness practices, and personalized coping strategies.

Coping Mechanisms: Individuals actively engage in learning and applying these skills to navigate stressors, cravings, and other triggers that could contribute to a potential relapse. It’s an experiential process where individuals strengthen their coping mechanisms and build resilience in the face of adversity.

Community and Peer Support:

Experience: Encouraging individuals to connect with support groups and communities creates a sense of belonging and shared understanding.

Shared Experiences: Participation in these groups provides a platform for sharing experiences, challenges, and victories. It fosters a supportive environment where individuals can draw strength from others who have walked similar paths.

Addressing Mental Health Decline and Symptomatology:

Beyond the explicit strategies, the prevention of relapse within continuing care is intricately linked to monitoring and addressing mental health decline and symptomatology:

Early Recognition: Early recognition of signs indicating mental health decline is crucial. This may involve shifts in mood, changes in sleep patterns, or alterations in thought processes.

Tailored Interventions: Upon identifying signs of mental health decline, interventions are tailored to address specific symptomatology. This could include adjustments in medication management, targeted therapy sessions, or additional support services.

Preventing relapse within the context of continuing care is a dynamic and personalized process. It involves staying attuned to the individual’s unique experiences, fostering skill development for effective coping, and cultivating a sense of community that acts as a protective buffer against the challenges of recovery.

III. Benefits of Ongoing Continuing Care

The benefits of ongoing continuing care in the treatment of mental and substance use disorders are far-reaching. They extend not only to individuals but also to their families, communities, and society as a whole (^3).

The Alignment Plan: Your Personalized Roadmap to Recovery 

The Alignment Plan stands as a dynamic and collaborative tool meticulously crafted in partnership between professionals and clients. This personalized roadmap is designed to chart the course for an individual’s long-term recovery journey, drawing on best practices and a sophisticated proprietary model developed at ALC:

What’s the Alignment Plan? The Alignment Plan is not just a document; it’s a living, breathing collaboration—a pact forged between individuals on their recovery journey and the dedicated professionals supporting them. We’ve seamlessly blended our experiences, education, anecdotes, evidenced wellness, and validated approaches to create a sophisticated, proprietary model for both individuals and families.

How Does It Work?

Collaborative Goal Setting:

  • The Alignment Plan is born from collaborative goal-setting sessions. Professionals and clients come together, guided by Precision Coaching, to craft objectives that are not just meaningful but deeply personal.
  • Client Expertise: Recognizing that clients are the experts on themselves, this collaborative process, informed by experts and guided by Precision Coaching, ensures a personalized plan that resonates with the individual’s aspirations.

Breaking Down Long-Term Goals:

  • Long-term goals can be overwhelming. The Alignment Plan takes these monumental aspirations and breaks them down into tangible, step-by-step activities.
  • Tangible Progress: This approach, guided by Precision Coaching and informed by experts, transforms recovery into a series of achievable milestones, making progress tangible and celebrating victories, no matter how small.

Flexibility for Evolving Goals:

  • Adaptability: The beauty of the Alignment Plan lies in its adaptability. As individuals progress in their recovery journey, the plan evolves with them.
  • Staying Relevant: It’s not a rigid structure but a flexible companion, informed by experts and guided by Precision Coaching, ensuring that the plan remains relevant, motivational, and reflective of the individual’s evolving needs.

Why It Matters: The Alignment Plan isn’t just about paperwork; it’s a psychological anchor. We’ve integrated best practices and our proprietary model, informed by experts and guided by Precision Coaching. It keeps individuals focused, organized, and empowered on their recovery odyssey. The potential overwhelm that often accompanies the long-term recovery process is mitigated, replaced by a sense of purpose and direction.

Why The Client’s  Voice Matters: The client’s voice is at the heart of the Alignment Plan. Clients are the true experts on themselves, and involving them in the design of their care is critical. This collaborative approach ensures that the plan is not only effective but deeply resonant with the individual’s unique journey, values, and aspirations. It’s more than a roadmap; it’s a personalized narrative of empowerment and self-discovery, where the client’s expertise is central to the entire recovery process.

  • Long-Term Recovery and Improved Outcomes
  • Sustained Sobriety: Continuing care significantly improves the chances of long-term sobriety for individuals recovering from substance use disorders. It provides the ongoing support necessary to prevent relapse and promotes a substance-free lifestyle.
  • Stability and Mental Wellness: For those with mental disorders, ongoing care ensures stability, symptom management, and enhanced overall mental well-being. Consistent therapy, medication management, and coping strategies contribute to sustained recovery.
  • Improved Quality of Life: Continuing care doesn’t merely aim for symptom reduction; it strives for holistic well-being. As individuals progress through the stages of recovery, they often report improvements in their relationships, employment, and overall quality of life.

Holistic Well-Being and Quality of Life

  • Family and Community Impact: The benefits of continuing care ripple out to families and communities. Families experience reduced stress and improved relationships when their loved ones are in stable recovery. Communities benefit from lower rates of crime, reduced healthcare costs, and increased workforce productivity.

Long-Term Care

Long-term care is at the heart of our approach. We understand that recovery is an ongoing journey, and our program is designed to provide support at every stage (^4).

  • Emphasizing Long-Term Recovery: Aligned Living recognizes that the path to recovery extends beyond the initial treatment phase. We are committed to providing ongoing care and support, ensuring that individuals have the resources they need to sustain their recovery journey.

The Check-In: A Measured Path to Progress 

The Check-In process is a cornerstone of the Aligned Living program, offering individuals a structured and measurement-based approach to their ongoing recovery journey. It involves tracking moods, behaviors, and mini-commitments. This consistent check-in process provides individuals with a reliable framework to monitor their progress and stay on track toward their personal goals.

The Crucial Role of Measurement-Based Care

The heart of Aligned Living’s Check-In process lies the pivotal role of measurement-based care. This dynamic approach ensures individuals not only receive personalized, data-driven support but actively engage in their recovery journey.

Recent research underscores the foundational value of trust in behavioral health. Measurement-based care, surpassing routine assessments, becomes a tangible demonstration of a provider’s commitment to transparency and accountability. It transforms into a dynamic process reflective of the evolving trust within the therapeutic relationship.

This approach addresses potential gaps between provider perceptions and client experiences, fostering a collaborative and transparent therapeutic alliance. By serving as the evidence-backed currency in ongoing care plans, measurement-based care becomes a practical manifestation of the bedrock of behavioral health—trust.

Inspired by recent discussions on trust and transparency, measurement-based care emerges as a pivotal component of ongoing continuing care. It goes beyond routine assessments, actively adapting and optimizing treatment plans. In essence, it reinforces the provider’s commitment to the well-being and trust of the individuals they serve.

Within the landscape of ongoing continuing care, measurement-based care stands out as a transformative and collaborative process, ensuring not only the optimization of treatment plans but also the strengthening of trust within the therapeutic alliance.

  • Empowering Individuals Through Self-Monitoring The Check-In process empowers individuals by involving them actively in their own care. By tracking their moods and behaviors, individuals become more aware of their progress and challenges. This self-monitoring aspect fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility in their recovery.
  • Celebrating Mini-Commitments Mini-commitments are small, achievable goals that individuals set for themselves. Regularly celebrating these accomplishments within the Check-In process helps boost motivation and confidence, creating a positive feedback loop that supports ongoing recovery.


Accessibility is a critical aspect of the Aligned Living program, aligning with the research provided. Our methodologies are designed to break down barriers and ensure that individuals facing mental and substance use disorders can access the care they need(^5).

  • Concierge Support: At Aligned Living, we recognize the importance of personalized support. Our concierge support team is readily available to assist individuals, answer questions, and provide guidance throughout their journey to recovery.
  • Logistics Coordination: We understand that navigating the healthcare system can be daunting. Our logistics coordination services streamline the process, making it easier for individuals to access the appropriate care and support.
  • Virtual Program Delivery: The Aligned Living program offers virtually delivered care, eliminating geographical constraints and ensuring that individuals can access treatment from the comfort of their own homes.
  • Drug Screening and Medication Management Virtually: For individuals who require medication management or drug screening, we offer these services virtually, reducing the need for in-person visits and making ongoing care more convenient and accessible.

Tailoring Care to the Unique Individual and Promoting Empowerment 

One of the fundamental principles of Aligned Living is the recognition that every individual’s journey to recovery is unique. The program is designed to tailor care to the specific needs, preferences, and circumstances of each person. Additionally, the program embraces a philosophy of collaboration and guidance rather than positioning professionals as all-knowing authorities.

  • The Importance of Personalization Tailoring care to the unique individual acknowledges the diverse nature of mental and substance use disorders. By addressing individual needs, preferences, and challenges, recovery efforts are more effective and meaningful.
  • Customized Interventions and Supporting Informed Choices The Aligned Living program provides a range of interventions that can be customized to suit the individual. This includes therapy modalities, support services, and treatment approaches that align with an individual’s specific requirements. Professionals provide individuals with the information and tools they need to make informed choices about their care, fostering a sense of empowerment and encouraging active participation in the recovery process.


Affordability is a key consideration for individuals seeking ongoing care, and we are actively working to make our services more accessible. This includes our commitment to eventually going after insurance with measurement-based care structures (^6).

  • Laying the Foundation for Insurance Coverage: Aligned Living is dedicated to making mental and substance use disorder treatment more affordable by working towards insurance coverage. Our commitment to measurement-based care structures ensures that individuals can access the care they need without undue financial burden.

VII. Evidence-Based Modalities

Aligned Living integrates evidence-based modalities into a proprietary check-in and coaching model, offering a comprehensive and effective approach to treatment(^7).

  • Motivational Interviewing (MI): Our program incorporates Motivational Interviewing, a proven method for helping individuals find their intrinsic motivation for change and recovery.
  • Acceptance and Commitment-Based Therapy (ACBT): ACBT is a fundamental part of our approach, helping individuals build psychological flexibility and adapt to life’s challenges.
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET): MET is particularly effective in substance use disorder treatment, helping individuals enhance their motivation for change and recovery.
  • Internal Family Systems (IFS): IFS is a key component of our family model of care, allowing individuals to explore and heal internal family dynamics that may contribute to their disorders.
  • Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT): Our program utilizes CRAFT to empower families to support their loved ones effectively in their recovery journey.
  • Measurement-Based Care: Aligned Living employs measurement-based care to continuously assess individual progress, adapt treatment plans, and ensure the most effective care is provided.

VIII. Integrating Accessibility and Affordability

The Aligned Living program’s unique approach integrates accessibility and affordability to ensure that individuals can access ongoing continuing care. 

Comprehensive Approach: By combining easy accessibility, affordability, and evidence-based modalities, our program addresses the barriers that individuals often face when seeking ongoing care for mental and substance use disorders. Aligned Living integrates evidence-based modalities into a proprietary check-in and coaching model, offering a comprehensive and effective approach to treatment (^8).

  • The Future of Continuing Care

The landscape of mental and substance use disorder treatment is evolving rapidly. Innovations and advancements are reshaping the way individuals receive ongoing continuing care, offering new opportunities for improved outcomes.

Innovations and Technological Advancements: Telehealth and teletherapy have become integral parts of our program, providing individuals with greater access to care from the comfort of their homes(^9).

  • The Evolving Landscape of Mental and Substance Use Disorder Treatment: Integrated care models, personalized treatment plans, preventive strategies, and community-based care are all contributing to the future of treatment(^10).


Ongoing continuing care in the treatment of mental and substance use disorders represents a pivotal shift in the approach to healthcare. Aligned Living is committed to this approach, recognizing the long-term journey to recovery and well-being. The benefits of ongoing care are clear, from improved long-term recovery outcomes to reduced social and economic burdens. However, challenges exist, including financial barriers and stigma, which require a collective effort to overcome. As we look to the future, innovations and evolving care models hold the promise of making continuing care even more accessible and effective. By staying at the forefront of these developments, Aligned Living is dedicated to providing individuals with the highest quality care and support. We hope that this white paper has shed light on the importance of ongoing continuing care and provided valuable insights for professionals, policymakers, and individuals on their journey to recovery. Together, we can create a future where continuing care is not just a lifeline but a foundation for a brighter, healthier life.


  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2016). Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Link
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Understanding Drug Use and Addiction. Link
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2021). Mental Health By the Numbers. Link
  • Betty Ford Institute Consensus Panel. (2007). What is Recovery? A Working Definition from the Betty Ford Institute. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 33(3), 221-228.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2015). Continuum of Care. Link
  • Aligned Living (Internal Data and Case Studies).
  • National Council for Behavioral Health. (2019). The State of Mental Health in America. Link
  • Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2005). Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US).
  • American Psychological Association. (2019). Telehealth: 10 trends to watch in 2020. Link
  • Aligned Living (Internal Data and Insights).