Relapse Prevention

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A Critical Part of Addiction Treatment
Relapse Prevention Training

Relapse prevention training is a critical part of the addiction treatment process. The main point of addiction treatment is to equip clients with the tools they need to maintain sobriety long-term, which includes identifying and working through personal relapse triggers. At Guardian Recovery we focus on relapse prevention training during every stage of the treatment process, including medical detoxresidential inpatientpartial hospitalizationintensive outpatient and aftercare. We provide relapse prevention training in both individual and group settings. In individual sessions, clients work one-on-one with a licensed therapist or case manager who helps them identify situations in their life that might trigger a relapse — situations like running into an old partner, losing a pet or a loved one, getting fired from a job or being at a social event surrounded by people who are drinking.

In individual sessions clients begin to delve into these personal triggers and explore why these situations are so jarring and how to respond in healthy ways. Clients begin to develop the coping mechanisms they need to successfully work through these triggers. Various therapeutic methods are taught including cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, which both aim to help individuals change their ideas, attitudes and reactions to life circumstances. The main goal is to prepare clients for their transition into the world-at-large as sober, emotionally stable individuals. For more information, please contact us at any time.

What is Relapse Prevention Training?

At Guardian Recovery we help our clients identify personal relapse triggers, learn coping mechanisms for responding to these triggers and avoid relapse regardless of what adverse circumstances they face.

An article published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine lists four key points regarding relapse prevention:

  1. Relapse is a Gradual Process – A person does not simply pick up a drink or a drug one day after a prolonged period of solid sobriety. Relapse happens in three stages: the emotional relapse, the mental relapse, then the physical relapse. If an individual can see the signs of an emotional or mental relapse before the physical relapse occurs, then they can potentially avoid resorting back to drugs or alcohol.
  2. Relapse Can Occur at Any Point in the Recovery Process – Because recovery is a life-long process with numerous milestones, relapse can occur at many different stages of the recovery process, not just in early recovery.
  3. There Are Two Key Tools to Preventing Relapse – The two most important tools when it comes to relapse prevention are cognitive behavioral therapy and mind-body relaxation techniques. Learning how to adjust one’s reactions, apply relaxation techniques and self-soothe will help individuals work through uncomfortable emotions in order to avoid relapse
  4. Preventing Relapse Requires Ongoing Work – Preventing relapse requires a continual effort to to change one’s life for the better, be vigilant in honesty and transparency, ask for help whenever needed, engage in self-care and never bend the rules for any reason.

The Stages of Relapse

Emotional Relapse – During this stage of relapse a person may not be actively considering picking up a drink or a drug; rather they are not dealing with their emotions well. During the emotional relapse stage, they might bottle up their emotions and stop talking to others. They might still go to 12-Step meetings, but not pay attention. They might share, but only to complain to others, not seek a solution. They might focus on others more than themselves and neglect self-care. If they fail to take care of themselves and their own personal needs for an extended period of time, they will eventually transition into the next stage of the relapse process.

Relapse prevention

Mental Relapse – During this stage of the relapse process a person starts to consider drinking or using drugs, usually to cope with difficult emotions, or perhaps to celebrate happy ones. If they are in this stage of the process, they might start thinking about reasons why they should use, or they might weigh out the consequences of using. They might think things like, “If I use just this one time I can sweep it under the rug and no one will ever have to know.” There is likely a major conflict going on in the mind. If a person finds themselves in this stage of the relapse process, it is critical they reach out for help immediately. Otherwise there is a very good chance a physical relapse will occur.

Physical Relapse – This stage of the relapse process takes place when the person actually physically starts using drugs or drinking alcohol again. Most relapses are considered “relapses of opportunity,” meaning that the person picks up when he or she feels like there is no risk of getting caught. It is important to understand that when a person experiences a relapse it is not necessarily important how much they drank or how much they used. Any physical relapse, no matter how small, will trigger a compulsion to drink or use more. This means it is critical to return to recovery as quickly as possible before the compulsion, cravings and obsession have a chance to gain strength.

The Steps Involved in Relapse Prevention Training

Our Recommended Steps for Preventing Relapse:

  1. We review common relapse triggers in a safe and supportive group setting. Examples of common triggers include heightened stress levels, the end of a relationship, experiencing a significant loss or being offered a drink or a drug in a social setting. Clients learn that they are not alone in their experiences or their feelings, and they have the opportunity to discuss personal triggers in a group setting.
  2. We identify personal relapse triggers. This typically takes place in one-on-one therapy sessions.
  3. We identify early warning signs associated with relapse and learn to spot these warning signs, which could include subtle changes in mood, skipping meetings changing one’s daily routine.
  4. We develop coping mechanisms that can be actively employed when triggers or warning signs arise.
  5. Our clinical team and case managers work with clients to develop a highly individualized relapse prevention plan. Clients share this plan with members of their family and sober support network.
  6. We practice utilizing health coping mechanisms in real life. This part typically takes place during PHP or IOP, when a client has more personal freedom and idle time.

Comprehensive Addiction Recovery

At Guardian Recovery we incorporate relapse prevention into every level of clinical care we offer. Our main priority is helping clients work through the underlying issues that weigh them down and prevent them from being the healthiest, happiest versions of themselves. We help them develop the skills they need to thrive on their own and avoid relapse. To learn more about our comprehensive and highly individualized program of clinical care, contact us today. We know that committing to a long-term program of addiction recovery can seem overwhelming at first. This is why we have developed an admissions process that is simple and straightforward, and why we remain readily available to walk you through every single stage of the early recovery process.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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