Accountability means being honest with oneself and others about one’s behaviors and taking responsibility for their choices. Accountability should be the number one priority for those seeking addiction treatment because accountability will help them stay sober long-term. This blog post will define accountability in rehab, ways to support accountability, and how to maintain it throughout addiction treatment.
Accountability in alcohol and drug rehab means being honest about substance use disorder (SUD) and harmful behaviors. It also means taking responsibility for past actions. There are many individualized ways to maintain accountability while in rehab. These ways include keeping a journal of behaviors, attending AA anonymous or NA meetings, talking openly with others about using habits, or going to therapy sessions that focus on recovery.
Peers can be a great source of accountability. Even if someone does not have anyone else in their life who will support them, they can find like-minded individuals in the recovery community that are willing to help each other with mutual accountability. Studies have demonstrated that peer support is a critical component of 12-Step programs, addiction treatment, accountability, and maintaining abstinence.1
Individuals overcoming drug misuse or alcohol addiction can ask for accountability from loved ones by asking them to provide a nonjudgmental listening ear or be an emotional support system. Friends and loved ones must set firm boundaries with loved ones in rehab and recovery. Unconditional positive regard paired with healthy boundaries is essential when providing accountability.1
For many people with anxiety or depression, it is common to have additional mental health diagnoses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or bipolar disorder. Co-occurring mental health and drug misuse may be the main reason a person sought out rehabilitation in the first place. Evidence-based treatment, social support, and medication management are essential pieces in the puzzle of recovery.2
The best way to support accountability in addiction treatment is to express care for the individual, follow through on promised consequences for inappropriate behavior, and support their sobriety journey. It is also essential that individuals know accountability often takes time to learn because it’s not always easy or comfortable. Here are some accountability tips for people with loved ones considering recovery or rehab:
Family therapy is an accountability technique that works well for all types of family dynamics and households. For example, teens, spouses, children, and parents that are in recovery or supportive of a loved one's recovery journey can benefit from family therapy. A family therapist works to encourage individual accountability and healthy family communication.3
Recovering addicts who are accountability-focused can help others and themselves by volunteering, participating in a recovery program or peer group, or working on community projects. These types of activities serve as good reminders for accountability throughout SUD treatment because participation is crucial to success.4
Individuals participating in drug or alcohol rehab should adopt healthy habits to maintain accountability. These habits can include self-care, getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and developing hobbies or interests to stay busy in recovery. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions because the right path is different for every individual.5
A successful recovery plan depends on a person's commitment to recovery, connection, and honesty. When accountability becomes challenging to maintain, setting schedules and boundaries is an excellent tool. Most inpatient and outpatient SUD treatment agencies utilize set weekly or daily schedules to encourage accountability. Schedules can reduce the risk of relapse because they protect against cravings and urges while also providing recovery support.5
It is essential to set goals that are accountability-focused, flexible, and achievable for the individual. Setting realistic goals will reduce feelings of shame, guilt, and anxiety while allowing individuals to work towards a sense of pride in their SUD recovery journey.5
The accountability process is a lifelong journey. Individuals can maintain this trait by acknowledging their strengths and weaknesses, practicing self-compassion, having supportive relationships with loved ones or friends, identifying triggers for relapse before they happen, and setting healthy boundaries.
When accountability becomes challenging to maintain, individuals must identify and avoid triggers for relapse. For example, if a recovering addict has been sober for six months but attends an event with alcohol, they may feel inclined to drink again because of their surroundings. It is essential to be mindful of these personal aspects to avoid relapse. A relapse prevention plan and mental health treatment (when appropriate) are critical components to combatting emotionally triggering situations, places, people, or things.6
Receiving accountability-focused addiction treatment is vital to recovery from substance use. The goal of accountability-focused therapy is to provide individuals with coping skills and strategies for avoiding relapse while empowering them to embrace their strengths as they heal from past trauma and alcohol or drug abuse.
In alcohol addiction or drug abuse counseling, accountability-focused therapists help individuals understand the importance of admitting when they have a problem and what accountability means in their recovery journey. The therapist will also work alongside the individual to create a relapse prevention plan that includes coping strategies and other mental health and SUD treatment services if needed.
Some therapists may prescribe medication to help individuals maintain sobriety. Medication management can be helpful for people in recovery, especially if they have a co-occurring mental health disorder such as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, or depressive disorder.
Medication-assisted treatment, such as Suboxone or methadone, can also be prescribed to treat drug abuse. Therapists and SUD providers determine if this path is appropriate based on an individual's substance use history.