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Relapse Prevention Plan

an image of people who developed a relapse prevention plan

A relapse prevention plan is designed to recognize and mitigate the risks of relapse, helping people maintain their recoveries long-term. Read on to discover more about relapse prevention therapy and find out how to achieve and maintain lasting sobriety.

What is a Relapse Prevention Plan?

A relapse prevention plan is an essential tool for anyone in the process of recovering from addiction to alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription medications. It enables you to identify personal warning signs and behaviors that could lead to a relapse. Beyond this, a detailed relapse prevention plan provides strategies to counteract these behaviors and regain your footing.

Working out how to prevent relapse is a collaborative effort between an individual and their treatment team and is shared with a support network. A relapse prevention plan sets out proactive steps to address triggers and cravings effectively.

Relapse is often not an impulsive occurrence but unfolds in the following three stages:

  1. Emotional relapse
  2. Mental relapse
  3. Physical relapse

An effective relapse prevention plan can enable you to intervene early, preventing the final stage of relapse, where a return to substance use occurs.

Relapse Prevention Strategies

The most effective drug and alcohol rehabs include aftercare as an integral part of treatment, imparting relapse prevention techniques to help people meet their short-term and long-term recovery objectives.

Contrary to the widespread belief that relapse prevention skills should only be employed during moments of temptation, weaving relapse prevention practices into everyday living can minimize or avert the onset of cravings.

  • Structured self-care: Implementing a routine that includes physical activity and a nutritious diet can improve sleep quality – disturbances in sleep are often cited as triggers for relapse. A structured schedule for sleeping, exercising, and eating can help recalibrate your body’s natural rhythms, lowering the chances of a relapse.
  • HALT check-Ins: Make it a habit to check in with yourself for feelings of HALT (hunger, anger, loneliness, or tiredness). Recognizing these feelings promptly enables you to address them directly and reduces the likelihood of them leading to cravings.
  • Embrace mindfulness meditation: Adopting mindfulness meditation can heighten your self-awareness, enabling better management of potential triggers. Research indicates that those who incorporate mindfulness into their recovery process experience fewer cravings and maintain sobriety for longer.
  • Trigger awareness: Isolating your personal triggers, whether they’re emotional states like stress or physical environments, empowers you to mitigate them effectively, significantly decreasing the chance of relapse.
  • Engage with peer support groups: Active participation in support groups such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or NA (Narcotics Anonymous) can offer a sense of community and accountability, beneficial for sustaining recovery and preventing relapse.
  • Utilize grounding techniques: Techniques like the 5-4-3-2-1 method help anchor you in the present moment, aiding in the management of stress and anxiety without resorting to substance use.
  • Practice deep breathing: The 4 x 4 deep breathing technique can positively affect your mood by releasing neurotransmitters that induce relaxation and happiness, providing a quick and discreet method to counteract cravings.
  • Create an emergency contact list: Keeping a list of supportive contacts can offer immediate assistance during challenging moments, reinforcing your dedication to staying sober.
  • Regular physical activity and holistic practices: Engaging in consistent exercise and exploring complementary stress-management practices like yoga and meditation can promote overall wellness and act as healthy outlets for stress reduction, supporting your recovery journey.
  • Seek professional help: Proactively managing the threat of relapse with a wide array of coping mechanisms can support your recovery. Reaching out to treatment providers can introduce you to comprehensive programs that further enhance your ability to maintain a substance-free life.

Incorporating these strategies into your daily routine can set a firm foundation for preventing relapse, leading to a healthier and more resilient life in recovery.

Coping Skills

Developing strong coping skills is central to relapse prevention. Coping skills for relapse prevention help people in recovery manage stressors and emotions that previously triggered substance use. Effective coping strategies may include engaging with hobbies, exercising, or practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or PMR (progressive muscle relaxation). Strengthening these skills builds resilience against the pressures that can lead to a relapse.

Group Activities

Participating in relapse prevention group activities can play an important role in relapse prevention. Group therapy sessions, peer support meetings, and recreational activities with others in recovery provide a sense of community and belonging. These gatherings offer mutual support, share successes, and tackle challenges together, making the journey of recovery a collective effort rather than a solitary struggle.



Mindfulness is a key element in relapse prevention, as it promotes an enhanced awareness of thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without judgment. Practices like mindfulness meditation teach people to observe their cravings and emotions as temporary states, reducing impulsiveness and the likelihood of relapse. Incorporating mindfulness into daily life can lead to a more centered, peaceful approach to recovery.


Relapse Prevention Plan Examples

While crafting a relapse prevention plan can be a personal endeavor, engaging the help of a knowledgeable professional can streamline the process.

When formulating your relapse prevention plan, start by asking yourself introspective questions such as:

  • Were there specific times or situations where substance use was more tempting?
  • Did certain people play a role in your substance use?
  • What kinds of thoughts push you toward substance use?

Understanding the reasons behind past relapses is can help inform future avoidance.

List out possible situations which might trigger a relapse, along with any early warning signs that precede it – changes in feelings, thoughts, or behaviors can signal an impending relapse. Communicating these indicators with your support team can provide them with useful insights to help maintain your sobriety.

Design a detailed plan with alternatives to substance use for coping with challenging scenarios. If facing emotional distress like a breakup, outline healthier coping mechanisms, such as attending a support group or reaching out to a trusted friend. The specificity of your plan will greatly influence its effectiveness—know who to contact, what support to request, and whether you’ll need a meeting or more intensive intervention. It’s also imperative that those involved in your plan are prepared and informed about how they can assist you. Here’s a relapse prevention plan example:

Name  ______________________

  • Substance use history: Previously used substances during times of high stress, especially during financial difficulties or relationship problems. Most prone to use substances in the evening, when alone, or when socializing with certain friends.

Triggers and warning signs

  • Financial stress
  • Arguments with a partner
  • Feeling isolated or excluded
  • Encountering substance use when out with friends
  • Noticing an increase in negative self-talk
  • Feelings of hopelessness

Coping strategies

  • Financial stress: Review budget, speak with a financial advisor, attend a financial planning workshop.
  • Relationship problems: Schedule a session with a therapist or attend a couple’s counseling session.
  • Feelings of isolation: Reach out to a supportive family member or friend or go to a community event.
  • Social triggers: Have an exit strategy when going out (a reason to leave early), stick to non-alcoholic beverages, and bring a supportive friend.
  • Negative self-talk: Practice positive affirmations, engage in physical activity to boost mood, or book a therapy session.

Support network

  • Primary contact: _______ (sister), available 24/7 for immediate support.
  • Secondary contact:  Dr. ________ (therapist), available during office hours for scheduled appointments.
  • Support group: Weekly AA meetings every Thursday at 7pm.

Emergency action steps

  • Immediate distress: Contact sister to talk or meet up. If unavailable, contact therapist for an emergency appointment.
  • Attend an urgent support group meeting: If the primary support network is not available, go to the nearest AA meeting.
  • Hospital or rehab: If experiencing overwhelming cravings or thoughts of relapse, check into the local hospital’s emergency room or call the rehab center for immediate intervention.

This plan is shared with and supported by my treatment team and all mentioned contacts. It is reviewed and updated every 3 months or sooner if needed.


What is relapse prevention?

Relapse prevention is a cognitive-behavioral approach with the primary goal of identifying and preventing high risk situations and events leading to relapse. It equips people with strategies to avoid triggers, cope with cravings, and effectively handle emotional stress or unforeseen circumstances without resorting to substance use.

How effective is mindfulness based relapse prevention?

MBRP (mindfulness based relapse prevention) combines traditional relapse prevention techniques with mindfulness practices to address the challenges of addiction recovery. Its effectiveness lies in teaching people to be present in the moment, recognize and accept their thoughts and feelings without judgment, and respond to them in healthier ways.

Call Today to Develop a Relapse Prevention Plan

Many people who need addiction treatment have no idea how to go about finding the help they need. Reach out to Drug Rehabs Centers for guidance, support, and help creating a relapse prevention plan.

Speak with an experienced and compassionate professional in complete confidence and obtain referrals to detox centers, residential rehabs, outpatient treatment facilities, and peer support groups throughout the state. Enlisting formal assistance can help reduce the risk of relapse.

If you need on-the-spot assistance, staff can give you a personalized relapse prevention plan example, enabling you to tailor this framework to your unique needs, strengthening your chances of ongoing sobriety.

Call (844) 739-2005 today for help achieving and maintaining sobriety while managing relapse effectively.

Joe Gilmore
Author: Joe Gilmore


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