I work at an addictions recovery house and we are currently calling our past participants "alumni". There's some debate whether this is the most accurate term as they aren't in an educational program nor do they graduate from the program. It's a life skills and wellness based program using both individual and group programming format. Once the participants re-integrate into the community, we maintain support and connection for a period of up to a year. How should we refer to those past participants?

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    If it's a program, can't you set whatever conditions you like for someone to "graduate," even if it's whatever stay is right for them or some minimum participation length? I see that other recovery programs refer to their graduates.
    – DjinTonic
    Sep 3, 2021 at 23:47
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    You should use a term that is used by others in the specialty, taking care to not be prejudicial and not soft-pedal the situation.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 4, 2021 at 0:27
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    According to Lexico "alumnus" comes from 17c latin meaning ‘foster-son, ward or pupil’ and is derived from alere which means ‘nourish'. Going back to the original it seems to me that 'alumnus' is a very good word for your clients who have completed your course, particularly as you continue to support (that is you 'nourish') them.
    – BoldBen
    Sep 4, 2021 at 10:23
  • former participant
    – Mitch
    Sep 7, 2021 at 22:02

1 Answer 1


While it's not a school, it's similar in that they get an education (in this case, how to deal with their addiction). And even though there's no formal graduation, completing the program and re-entering society is not unlike the way students complete high school or college and then enter the job market. College graduates often still maintain some link with their alma mater, it doesn't have to be a complete break.

So calling them "graduates" or "alumni" seems fine considering these analogies. I'm pretty sure I've heard "graduates" before.

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    Addicts and alcoholics are never done with their program. It is a life long struggle that they will never be done with.
    – Dale
    Sep 8, 2021 at 16:21
  • @Dale I've never been in rehab, so I can't answer from good experience. But I think you can be done with a specific stint in rehab, but not the lifelong recovery process. You might go back later, or go to a different clinic, etc.
    – Barmar
    Sep 8, 2021 at 16:23
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    @Dale I disagee. It implies you've completed that particular program.
    – Barmar
    Sep 8, 2021 at 16:36
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    And that's fair. You can disagree. Go ask an alcoholic who went to AA and ask say to them, "So you graduated from AA" and see what they say.
    – Dale
    Sep 8, 2021 at 16:38
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    Please remember that the question is only about the relationship with a specific rehabiliitation program, not the entire recovery process, which I agree is ongoing and never complete.
    – Barmar
    Sep 8, 2021 at 16:47

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