Why we stopped using the term ‘aftercare’

Sarah J. MacLean*, Gabriel Caluzzi, Mark Ferry, Andrew Bruun, Jennifer Skattebol, Joanne Neale, Joanne Bryant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The words we choose to describe alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatments and interventions reveal assumptions about how we understand AOD use. Moreover, they have important implications for how the treatment is imagined, implemented and funded. Service provision which follows engagement in an intensive (usually residential) program is often called ‘aftercare’ in the international AOD field. In this commentary, we argue that the term ‘aftercare’ fails to articulate the nature of ongoing care required by people who are managing AOD use. We maintain that ‘aftercare’ positions post-residential care as being less important than other treatment modalities, rather than as integral to a continuum of care. It is a term that implies that care should be acute, like much treatment delivered through a medical model, and assumes that people follow linear pathways in managing their AOD use. Assumptions embedded in the term ‘aftercare’ such as these may disincline governments from funding ongoing services for people exiting intensive programs. Alternative terms including ‘continuing coordinated care’ more aptly signal the integrated and ongoing service provision that should be available to support people in sustaining changes initiated through other AOD interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-6
Number of pages4
JournalDrug and Alcohol Review
Issue number1
Early online date27 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • aftercare
  • alcohol dependence
  • case management
  • continuum of care
  • drug use


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