How Can Relapse Prevention Therapy Help Me Stay Sober?

relapse prevention therapy

Millions of people live with substance abuse and addiction in the United States. Many people require treatment to overcome these conditions and to live healthy, sober lives. But even with treatment, 40-60% in recovery from addiction experience at least one relapse–a return to substance abuse after a period of abstinence.

A relapse can feel like a major setback for people in recovery. Some may believe that treatment just didn’t work for them or that their substance abuse is too deeply-rooted to ever be cured.

The truth is that addiction is never “cured.” Instead, people in recovery must develop an aftercare plan that includes relapse prevention therapy to support their goal of lifelong sobriety.

For most, the path through recovery is full of twists and turns. The most important thing is to keep going and learn from each setback. Relapse prevention planning can help people reduce the likelihood of experiencing a relapse and get back on track more quickly if a relapse does occur.

To learn about how to create a relapse prevention plan or for information about starting a substance abuse treatment program, contact the Sheer Recovery specialists today.

What is Relapse Prevention Therapy?

Relapse prevention therapy is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) used during substance abuse treatment and addiction recovery. This type of therapy aims to identify high-stress situations that could lead to a relapse–also called “triggers”–and develop a plan to cope with them in a healthy way. People learn and practice skills to help them navigate their unavoidable triggers without turning to drugs and alcohol.

Some common triggers include people, places, events, dates, and feelings. A trigger could also include a new, stressful event that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope. Without having the skills or experience to handle these events healthily, some people relapse and begin using or drinking again.

A relapse can feel like a setback or failure to someone in recovery. Many people who experience a relapse feel sad, frustrated, or guilty. They may believe that treatment doesn’t really help or that they are incapable of overcoming their addiction.

Relapse prevention therapy takes aim at these ideas and teaches people how to think about a relapse differently. Another important goal of this kind of therapy is to help people reframe a relapse. Instead of seeing it as a devastating roadblock, people can come to think of a relapse as time-limited, less harmful, and an opportunity to learn.

How Can Relapse Prevention Planning Support Your Sobriety?

During relapse prevention planning, people work with a trained therapist to identify their triggers. Some may be avoidable, but many may come face-to-face with their triggers. They may relapse if they lack the skills to cope with these unavoidable stressors.

A relapse generally happens in stages. Emotional relapse is the first stage of the process of relapsing. Some signs of emotional relapse include:

  • Neglecting your routine
  • Skipping meetings or therapy sessions
  • Not taking care of your hygiene
  • Poor sleep
  • Poor eating habits
  • Isolating from others

The next step is a mental relapse. During this stage, people may actively consider using substances again or feel nostalgic about drugs and alcohol. They may attempt to rationalize their substance use. They may say or think things like:

  • “I’ll hide it better this time.”
  • “If I quit before, I can do it again.”
  • “I have been working hard, so I deserve it.”
  • “My addiction really isn’t that bad, other people have it worse than me.”
  • “I can control my drug use now that I know what is wrong with me.”
  • “If things get too bad again, I can just go back to rehab.”

Physical relapse is the final stage of relapse. Physical relapse includes not only the relapse itself but all the actions leading up to it. During a physical relapse, people may take steps that lead to using drugs or alcohol again, such as driving to the liquor store or contacting their dealer. A physical relapse also includes actually using drugs or drinking.

The more prepared you are to identify and cope with triggers and stress in the early stages of a release, the less likely you are to relapse. Relapse prevention therapy and planning can help people make a plan to avoid a relapse and how to get back on track if a relapse occurs.

How to Create a Relapse Prevention Plan

To create a relapse prevention plan, you must first find a licensed therapist who offers relapse prevention therapy. With your therapist, you will:

  • Learn to be more aware of your behaviors by exploring the time before and after they occur
  • Identify high-stress, risky situations that could lead to relapse
  • Identify and heal the trauma that contributed to your addiction
  • Learn and practice healthy skills to cope with stress
  • Build a new daily routine that supports your recovery and overall well being

In recovery, it is not enough to simply hope for the best or pretend your triggers don’t exist. Relapse prevention therapy helps you acknowledge high-risk situations and meet these challenges head-on. It arms you with valuable tools to help you reach your goal of lifelong sobriety.

When you have a relapse prevention plan, you are likely to feel more optimistic about life in recovery and more confident in your ability to cope with triggers. You may gain a better perspective about relapse and let go of your guilt, disappointment, or anger about it.

Find Help Now

At Sheer Recovery, we are dedicated to helping you along every step of your recovery journey. We don’t want to simply help you feel better–we want you to stay better. That’s why each of our clients receives a custom-tailored treatment plan that supports their needs as well as comprehensive relapse prevention planning.

For more information about starting a substance abuse treatment program or making a relapse prevention plan, contact the Sheer Recovery addiction specialists today.


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