Yes, There IS an App for That – Post Rehab

Yes, There IS an App for That – Post Rehab

There truly is a app for everything these days, including post-rehab help. These apps, coupled with continued out-patient treatment are helping people stay sober with just a few screen swipes at a time.

Yes, There IS an App for That – Post Rehab

One of the hardest parts of rehab is leaving it. It’s important to work with your team of therapists and counselors to come up with strategies for how you will deal with cravings. Being without the 24-hour support can feel daunting and impossible, especially when you consider that you will be back in the same environment in which you developed your addiction.


Technology has always pushed us forward – it’s made grocery shopping as easy as swiping a screen, made it possible for us to watch any movie at any time, and now, is even working to help addicts deal with post-rehab cravings.

Treatment centers across the nation are now providing patients with apps to help them deal with post-rehab cravings. One app, A-Chess has been formally tested with alcohol addicts, and has been show to be effective. The app’s website describes the app as “An application designed to provide ongoing support and relapse prevention to people recovering from alcohol-use disorders after they leave treatment.”

And as a JAMA  study concluded, it’s been shown to be an effective app:

“Results: For the 8 months of the intervention and 4 months of follow up, patients in the A CHESS group reported significantly fewer heavy drinking days than patients in the control group.

Conclusions and Relevance: The findings suggest that a multi featured smartphone application may have a significant effect on patients in continuing care for AUDs.”

How A-Chess Works

A-Chess subscribers wake up to a daily question: “How confident are you of your abstinence today?” They are able to select an option, and a“not very confident” answer alerts not only family members, but also their recovery manager. Patients using the app are also required to undergo a weekly comprehensive health survey to track progress and identify weaknesses.

The app is meant to be integrated with a team of professionals. Before patients leave their rehab facility, they work with their counselor to populate the app with locations that have been deemed “high risk.” Such locations include local bars or areas where dealers hang out. These locations are all places that were previous triggers or enabling spots prior to rehab. Using the smartphone’s GPS tracking, when a patient gets closer to one of these pre-programmed locations, the app sends out an alert to the user: “Are you sure you want to be here?” Additionally, the app sends a message to people that have been pre-designated as safe contacts.

Kristoph Pydynkowksi is one of the recovery managers currently working with A-Chess. He works with roughly ten patients at a time. One night around 10 pm, Pydynkowksi received an alert that a patient was in a fast-food restaurant that had previously been a using spot and was looking to buy. Pydynkowksi texted the patient to wait and arrived soon after sending the text. Instead of the patient buying, Pydynkowksi picked him up and they went to Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee, thus effectively stopping the patient from relapsing.

In addition to a GPS system, the app is equipped with a panic button that, when pushed, alerts designated people that a patient is in need of immediate help.

Support via A-Chess

A-Chess is not just an isolated app. Patients are able to communicate with other patients via various message boards. In some ways, it’s like taking a group therapy session online. When a patient lost her dog and was dealing with an ill father, and was having trouble staying sober, three of her peers from the app picked her up and took her to dinner.

Additional Apps

A-Chess isn’t the only app – Esqyir and Square2 are also looking to help patients. Esqyir is less involved than A-Chess, and is still in early stages. The app is simple – it sends patients recovery text message reminders in addition to inspirational messages and questions about how they are feeling about their sobriety. As was shown in a recent trial, the relapse rate of Esqyir users was lower than a control group that was attending 12-step meetings.

Square2 is a similar app that is about to be released. It uses proven therapies, such as cognitive behavior therapy to help people going through recovery, but also people that are dealing with depression and pain that often accompanies substance abuse. This is a more trauma-based approach, which has been shown to be effective. In trials, subscribers of the app showed higher rates of abstinence and were more likely to stay in recovery that people that were in the control group.

Lisa Marsch, director of the Center for Technology and Behavioral Health at Dartmouth, led Square2’s design and is now the company’s chief executive.

Additional Help


While apps are slowly proving themselves to be effective in post-rehab treatment, by themselves, they are not a continuing care program, and should be viewed as supplemental to a full-scale program.

David Gustafson, the University of Wisconsin professor who led A-Chess’s development, says that evidence points to the fact that people in recovery need three things to be successful: social connection, motivation (“the desire to keep moving forward”) and confidence that they know how to handle cravings. These apps can help with all three of these needs, but should be “additions to” a full recovery plan.

Out-Patient Programs

While an app is a great way to supplement your post-rehab strategy, it’s also important that you keep attending meetings with not only support groups, but also your personal therapist or counselor. Most rehab facilities offer post-treatment programs that help addicts deal with relapse cravings and ways to cope after returning to their daily lives.

Keep Attending Appointments

Drug rehab programs, like Detox Rehab, often offer out-patient programs to help during the early days of recovery, even though the formal rehab program is over. During these meetings, addicts are able to continue the following work:

Detox Rehab considers these out-patient programs vital to long-term success in sobriety.

Be Aware of Cravings and Potential Relapse

During your rehab program you learned what your triggers were, how to avoid them, how to handle them, and how to avoid relapse. But according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40 to 60 percent of people who have an addiction problem relapse at least once.

This means that you will need to figure out a way to deal with cravings. This can mean going to a therapy session, calling a sponsor, visiting a sober friend, and leaning on the tools you learned in rehab.

The following can be helpful to remember in moments where cravings are strong.

Tell someone. Call a friend, a support, or someone in recovery and share the cravings you are feeling Often times, once you begin talking about what you’re thinking and feeling, your urges begin to disappear. Talking with someone can help you see that your cravings are not quite as big as you thought they were and that you don’t feel as alone.

Distract yourself. Do something to occupy yourself when you feel like you’re relapsing. This can include calling a friend or going to a meeting, or even just going for a walk. Sitting there with your craving can give your need to use room to grow.

Wait 30 minutes. Most urges last for less than 15 to 30 minutes, but when you’re in the midst of it, it can feel like an eternity. Try to “surf” the craving by acknowledging the waves and peaks of it, but also acknowledging the moments it doesn’t feel as strong.

Remember it takes one day at a time. Taking the perspective of one day at a time can make recovery manageable. Trying to stay abstinent forever can feel overwhelming. Taking each moment as it comes will help you feel stronger and more capable of dealing with the moment to moment feelings you are having.

Have a Plan

Addiction is a chronic illness that can feel impossible to overcome. But if you have take the right steps, and ensure that you have a plan that will help you to continue to taking those steps, you can overcome your addiction. Remember that your rehab team will always be there to help support you, even when you go out into the “real world.”

Seeking Treatment for Addiction

When addiction progresses to a point that your family life, work life, social activities, mental stability, and physical health are adversely affected, you need to seek professional treatment. Dealing with an addiction can be overwhelming. But whether you’ve decided to seek treatment on your own, through the help of family or friends, or because it’s been ordered by court, you will want to seek the help of professionals.  At Detox Rehab we offer an individualized approach to treatment which affords our patients the highest probability of success. We can help you, or a loved one, work through this difficult disease.

Garrett Guedea
Detox Rehab
(858) 900-0000

Treatment Programs