The Tara Treatment Center Blog

Relapse Prevention: Strategies

Relapse Prevention

“Relapse is a process. It is not an event.”  -Terence Gorski



Relapse Prevention

Anyone who has fought addiction understands that reaching sobriety is tough, but remaining sober is even more difficult. Relapse prevention starts with planning.

When you plan, you’re more likely to understand the challenges you’ll face–hopefully enabling you to spot warning signs before things spin out of control. A plan often outlines what to do in case of a relapse and can create a successful recovery.  

Approximately two-thirds of people attempting recovery for the first time may relapse, according to statistics.

 “Some disagree with the whole notion that you should do anything to put an emergency plan in place because they believe this could lead people to think they can drink [or use] again when they want,” says Terence Gorski, whose work includes development of the CENAPS (Center for Applied Science) model of relapse prevention.

In the real world the unfortunate reality is that relapse can catch us off-guard.  We can minimize the damage by creating a plan.

How to Create a Relapse Prevention Plan

While books like Gorski’s Relapse Prevention Therapy Workbook can serve as helpful guides, it’s preferable to go through the planning process with someone else for support and perspective.

“A relapse prevention plan is a plan that you make in a moment of sanity to use in a moment of insanity,’” says Gorski. Here are some considerations which your plan might include:

  • A close look at history of use, including previous relapses.
    It is important to look for root causes for use.  For example, some use to feel less socially awkward, while others tend to have a history of trauma. Once you’ve taken a look at things like this, you can seek appropriate treatment, Gorski explains.
  • Warning signs and specific ways to manage them
    Gorski’s Phases and Warning Signs of Relapse contains a list of common triggers. “Relapse is a process. It is not an event”, says Gorski.  This means that relapse can blindside us, but we can greatly minimize the damage by identifying warning signs.  
  • A support network
    Building a team of friends, family, counselors, and other professionals can go a long way towards relapse prevention.  
Truth or D.A.R.E. with Lawrence Pender

Lawrence Pender, speaking at Tara’s 2018 Ann Daugherty Symposium: “People relapse over the things they never talked about during rehabilitative treatment. If you dont get everything off your chest, it will creep back up on you. Treatment doesn’t end with sobriety.”

Importantly–remember that relapse is not a moral failing.  Instead, Gorski recommends that we should simply consider this an indicator that our relapse prevention plan requires a change.  “People who relapse are sick people who need to get well, not people who need to be punished.”

Some relapse prevention plans include commitment devices.  To read more about these, check here.

Relapse Prevention