What is the Relapse Prevention Program?

While all treatments for a substance use disorder (SUD) aim to prevent relapse, relapse prevention is a specific form of intervention focused on healthfully managing and processing emotions. The relapse prevention program encourages clients to continue practicing and using acquired skills and strategies to maintain their sobriety

Relapse prevention is an evidence-based, skills-centered, cognitive-behavioral approach used to help individuals who are in recovery for a SUD to find new coping strategies and form new associations to prevent future relapse to drug or alcohol use. In general, a relapse prevention program goes hand in hand with other recovery programs, and typically follows other forms of addiction recovery treatments. 

Relapse prevention programs can be tailored to fit participants, which can lead to more successful outcomes. Relapse is somewhat common following treatment, and while it does not indicate failure of the treatment to help the participant, it could mean that another form of recovery treatment is necessary. The end goal is for an individual to gain the confidence to handle challenging situations in daily life without feeling the need to use alcohol or drugs.

What does the Relapse Prevention Program involve?

Our relapse prevention program encourages clients to continue practicing and using skills they may have learned in other forms of SUD treatment. It also can present new strategies to enable them to maintain sobriety, even in the face of challenging situations. A key part of relapse prevention is scrutinizing habits, looking for cues, triggers, and rewards obtained from routines that ultimately lead to using. Once these cues and triggers are identified and analyzed, an individual is in a better position to create new, healthier habits. When new habits are tweaked to reap benefits and provide rewards, individuals are better able to control emotional responses and, in turn, prevent relapse.

Depending on the program, recovery expert, and individual seeking treatment, making a list of common triggers could be a good first step to developing new patterns of behavior. Relapse prevention can also include mindfulness-based techniques, such as thoughtful meditation on and acceptance of situations that may have otherwise been triggers in the past. The aim is to dissociate judgment and negative emotions and simply sit with feelings that have been problematic for the individual and may be contributing factors to their addiction.

Addiction is a brain disease, and it can lead to individuals feeling abnormal without the use of a substance. Relapse prevention helps to form new neural connections to reinforce more healthful coping strategies. As a way to reinforce learning and help to prepare individuals for real-life scenarios they may encounter post-treatment, the clinician administering relapse prevention training may interact with the participant via role-playing. Homework, or practice sessions can also take place outside of treatment, along with journaling and putting lessons learned into practice.

Common Relapse Prevention strategies may include:

  • Building awareness around high-risk situations 
  • Challenging positive expectancies surrounding substance use
  • Developing and expanding coping skills and communication techniques
  • Planning for unexpected situations
  • Building self-confidence in the face of challenge
  • Finding alternative ways of thinking about substance use via cognitive restructuring

How long does the Relapse Prevention Program last?

Empirical evidence bears out that the best relapse prevention outcomes are seen after individuals undergo 12 weekly sessions. During this time, clinicians and participants can comprehensively work through triggers, finding new, more effective ways to deal with them.

How does the Relapse Prevention Program help individuals with substance use disorders?

Stressful situations in day-to-day life are going to come up, regardless of whether or not a person is equipped to effectively cope with and handle them. Relapse prevention aims to arm participants with the skills they need to successfully tackle what life brings, without the use of drugs or alcohol. Participants are helped to continue practicing and using learned skills and strategies to maintain sobriety. 

Relapse prevention is about more than simply not using drugs or drinking alcohol – it is about finding new ways to cope with triggers and building on developed strengths to better facilitate a substance-free life. Addiction hijacks the brain’s reward pathways, and many individuals struggling with addiction have endured years of negative self-talk. If not dealt with head-on, these and other factors can lead an individual down the path to relapse. A proactive approach to managing and successfully coping with stressors helps individuals with an SUD to redirect established trigger-response pathways and establish new, replacement routines and rewards. Some relapse prevention techniques can go so far as to reduce cravings and help individuals to be more present and engaged in their lives. Common relapse triggers, like feelings of anxiety, stress, anger, fear, and loneliness, along with peer pressure, insomnia, relationship issues and associations with physical settings, sights, and smells can be overcome, and relapse prevention is a vital aid to be able to successfully deal with them.

Without relapse prevention treatment, an individual may find themselves falling into the three general stages of relapse: 1) emotional; 2) mental; and 3) physical. The process begins by neglecting oneself and the healthy practices that boost wellness. They can then mentally negotiate with themselves during mental relapse, downplaying the negative effects and consequences of giving in to a craving. The physical stage of relapse begins when a drug or alcohol is used and use often escalates from there. Ongoing treatment, including relapse prevention, can help to manage and mitigate both the psychological and physical factors of addiction, ultimately promoting recovery. In addition to therapeutic efforts and an emphasis on self-awareness and self-care, pharmacological methods may also be recommended, depending on the individual and their unique case.

Work With Lake Area Recovery Center for Effective Addiction Treatment in Ohio

At Lake Area Recovery Center, we understand that overcoming behaviors and habits can be difficult. But we also know that recovery and growth are possible. If you are working through addiction recovery and would like to experience a future in which you have more control, reach out to our team to learn about our relapse prevention program. Our Ohio addiction recovery center specialists can help you to identify and deal with the issues that lie at the heart of your SUD. There’s no reason to try and manage it on your own. Our team is ready to help you build and maintain an addiction-free future–get in touch today!