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What Is a Relapse Prevention Plan?

Relapse prevention is an important step in helping people avoid relapse after detoxing from a substance.

What is Relapse?

A relapse prevention plan consists of several techniques and measures to help an individual avoid relapse. There is always a risk of relapse in individuals undergoing substance use disorder treatment. A relapse prevention plan helps these individuals maintain sobriety by reducing the risk of returning to the substance.

Relapsing is when an individual that has gone through a substance use disorder treatment turns back to substance use after a certain time of sobriety. 

What Is Relapse Prevention?

Relapse prevention is a cognitive behavioral approach that educates clients to cope and anticipate the risk of relapse. It is a skill that helps patients and clinicians determine situations that place the individual at a high risk of relapse.1

What Happens in Relapse Prevention? 

In relapse prevention, the patient and clinician work together to assess and identify situations that can lead to a relapse. These situations can often cause the individual's thoughts back to using the substance, meaning it’s a good idea to come up with a plan before the patient encounters these potential situations.

How Common Is Drug Relapse? 

Drug relapse is quite common in individuals going through substance use disorder treatment. Research estimates that over two in three individuals undergoing substance use disorder treatment often relapse within weeks or months during recovery. 

What Is a Relapse Prevention Plan? 

A relapse prevention plan is important in the recovery phase of an individual undergoing substance abuse treatment. It is a plan designed to cater to the individual’s preferences and needs to help with alcohol or drug relapse prevention. There are many ways to tailor these plans to each individual’s needs, and every plan will look different depending on the patient.2

Emotional Relapse 

During an emotional relapse, the individual is going through some behaviors and emotions that can set the individual up for relapse issues. Some signs of emotional relapse are intolerance and anger.

Mental Relapse 

In the case of mental relapse, the individuals often have conflicted thoughts about using the substance. A mental health relapse prevention plan is helpful in the case of mental relapse. A sign of mental relapse in an individual is lying.

Physical Relapse

At this point, it is hard to stop the relapse process because the individual has often made plans on how to obtain the substance again, and generally will have a plan on how to keep their usage hidden as well. 

Steps to Creating a Relapse Prevention Plan 

Creating a plan can serve as a relapse prevention technique. Some steps to consider when creating a prevention skills addiction relapse prevention plan will be detailed below.

Assess Your History with Drugs and Alcohol 

Knowing the causes of a previous relapse and history of alcohol and drug abuse is crucial to knowing what to avoid in the future. It will help in creating a perfect drug relapse prevention plan. 

Determine Any Signs That Could Lead to Relapse 

Take time to create a detailed drug relapse prevention list of warning signs and scenarios that can lead to a relapse situation. Identifying the potential risks is crucial when creating a drug or alcohol relapse prevention plan. 

Establish an Action Plan 

Establishing a drug and alcohol relapse prevention plan that can serve as a distraction instead of turning to the substance is also vital. There should be a detailed plan of what the individual can do when in need to let out frustration, pain, or the intense need to want to use the substance. 

Symptoms and Signs for Relapse Prevention Plan 

Some signs and symptoms of substance abuse relapse prevention plan in an individual are:

  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Isolation in social situations 
  • Defensiveness
  • Not asking for help if they’re struggling
  • Not attending meetings or sessions if they’re in recovery support groups 
  • Changes in eating habits 
  • Changes in sleeping habits 

What to Include in a Relapse Prevention Plan Template

The following components are vital in a relapse prevention plan template:


In a drug and alcohol relapse prevention plan, list the things, places, and people that can cause the individual to relapse. These risks are anything that can influence the individual to potentially use the substance again. An initial relapse prevention plan can help the individual know the risks or situations to avoid.3

How to Manage Cravings 

Cravings also can lead to a potential relapse, so it is crucial to know how to manage them. Have a healthy detailed list of what to do for distraction once craving sets in or how to stop it altogether.4

Preventative Tools 

In this case, it is best to think about the list of relapse prevention tools that have been helpful during the recovery process. Thinking of activities instead of thinking about the substance is also helpful as relapse prevention educational tools. Examples of such relapse prevention educational tools are journaling, exercising, and meditation.

Support Groups and Programs

It is helpful when individuals facing a substance use relapse can invest time and energy into support groups. Connecting with people who understand the struggles and letting a sponsor know of any relapse possibility is vital.

Lifestyle Changes

The alcohol relapse prevention plan helps to show the individual how much damage caused by the addiction. Knowing these damages will help the individual to stick to a relapse prevention plan addiction to get sober.

Tips for Creating a Relapse Prevention Plan

Some tips serve as a safety plan for relapse prevention. There are many ways to create a relapse prevention plan and tailoring them to each individual is imperative for success. These will be discussed further below.

Set Recovery Goals

Individuals can create a relapse prevention strategies list that includes their personal recovery goals. The list will help with relapse prevention so the individuals can stay focused on their goals. 

Identify Risks 

A substance abuse relapse prevention plan is incomplete without a comprehensive list of some known risks or potential causes for relapse. It is best to think thoroughly and identify all possible risks before certain situations come to pass.

Think Proactively

Plan and strategize with an offensive mindset while also creating some self-accountability measures. Individuals can also do regular exercise to restore wellness and health. 

Have Recovery Tools Defined 

Get familiar and practice with a comprehensive list of recovery tools. Some of the tools are better communication skills and relaxation techniques. 

Define Actions to Take 

Define and employ the necessary actions when any warning sign surfaces. Each individual will create their relapse prevention strategies and follow them to par. 

Models of Relapse Prevention 

There are some relapse prevention coping skills that individuals can use during their sobriety to help from relapsing. The following models help to provide an effective relapse prevention template:

Gorski-Cenaps Relapse Prevention Model

There are eight principles applied in this model for preventing and minimizing relapse. They are:

  • Awareness
  • Understanding
  • Change
  • Maintenance
  • Self-regulation
  • Coping Skills
  • Support
  • Self-knowledge

Marlatt’s Model of Relapse Prevention

This relapse prevention model focuses on and explains how factors like lifestyle issues and cravings can influence relapse. It also shows how the outcome expectancies and high-risk situations can affect the individual.

Relapse prevention

Find Out More about Relapse Prevention Plan at Anew Treatment Center

Anew Treatment Center has a relapse prevention therapy program that helps individuals who are trying to lead a life of sobriety. After the program, an outpatient alcohol relapse prevention plan will also help follow up with the patient to make sure they don’t relapse.

A relapse prevention planning service is also available to create a relapse prevention plan for the individuals. Reach out today if you or a loved one need help in creating your own relapse prevention plans – we will be with you every step of the way during detox, recovery, and while helping with relapse. 

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