Part of treating substance use disorder (SUD) involves anticipating possible roadblocks in recovery and using preventative measures to avoid them. One area of concern for many individuals is the potential of experiencing a relapse after completing treatment. According to research published by Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, “preventing relapse or minimizing its extent is a prerequisite for any attempt to facilitate successful, long-term changes in addictive behaviors.”
To ensure successful outcomes, facilities like SoCal Mental Health provide the following:
- Educational classes about relapse prevention and the effects of substance abuse
- Skill development to introduce healthy coping techniques
- Psychotherapy and alternative methods of therapy
- Comprehensive aftercare and alumni services
According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), “research indicates that approximately 60% of individuals with substance dependence eventually enter sustained recovery; however, for many of them, it takes more than one cycle of [treatment, relapse, and repeated treatment] before achieving sustained recovery.” The compassionate clinicians at our facility have the experience and resources to help individuals re-entering treatment after relapse, and we continue to support our alumni after they complete our program.
What Is Relapse Prevention?
Relapse prevention is a therapeutic model that focuses on using cognitive, behavioral, and other methods to anticipate and problem-solve potential issues surrounding relapse. The nature of rehabilitation treatment involves placing individuals in highly controlled, structured environments where they get support from various sources. The danger of relapse rises after the program ends and the individual returns home or transitions to lower levels of care.
Returning to familiar locations, habits, and social circles can be triggering and lead to maladaptive coping habits for individuals who cannot react to stressors in a healthy way. At SoCal Mental Health, we provide psychotherapy, peer support, and aftercare services to mitigate some of the potential risks.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that “more than 85% of people with addictions who stop using a drug begin using it again within a year.” Relapse is a part of recovery for many people and should not discourage them from getting additional help. Therapy methods like relapse prevention lower the risk of slipping back into old behaviors by teaching you how to recognize potential problems and then providing healthy ways to cope with them.
Recognizing and Coping With Triggers
Triggers can lead to an individual returning to unwanted and maladaptive behaviors. Relapse prevention prepares program participants to succeed at long-term sobriety outside of a treatment setting. We provide educational classes and therapy sessions designed to show how specific behavior and thought patterns can influence reactions to internal and environmental triggers.
Many things can be triggering to individuals in recovery, including:
- Returning to familiar locations
- Friends or social circles that supported your substance abuse disorder
- For individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD), locations that serve alcohol can be triggering
- Strong emotions or high-stress levels
- Any thought or memory linked to past substance use or previous trauma
Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Physical Relapse
Relapse consists of mental, emotional, and physical stages, and relapse prevention addresses all three areas. The cognitive-behavioral aspect of the therapy increases self-awareness, self-efficacy, and emotional stability while encouraging new healthy behaviors. Relapse prevention is often achieved by looking at recovery from a holistic perspective.
The dedicated team at SoCal Mental Health use evidence-based practices and therapeutic tools to do the following:
- Encourage the development of healthy behaviors
- Stabilize emotions and moods
- Educate about healthy lifestyle changes like nutritional meals
- Provide non-judgmental peer support
Research published in The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine concludes that providing the following rules of relapse prevention can improve outcomes:
- Change your lifestyle
- Be honest about your recovery
- Ask for help when you need it
- Practice regular self-care
- “Don’t bend the rules”
What to Expect in Relapse Prevention Therapy
Our clinical team at SoCal Mental Health offers a range of therapeutic modalities and alternative treatments, including relapse prevention in group and individual settings.
A typical one-on-one session could include the following:
- Discussing potential triggers and how to overcome them in the moment
- Strengthening self-confidence by acknowledging previous successful attempts to avoid relapse
- Identifying potential stressors and coming up with a safety plan for coping with them
- Developing essential skills like emotion processing, setting personal boundaries, and relaxation techniques
Group relapse prevention is often more educational and may go over the physical effects of addiction on the brain and how triggers can lead to relapse behaviors. Peer support can be a buffer against relapse by providing a supportive community.
Relapse Prevention and Aftercare Services
Recovery is a lifestyle choice and does not end when an individual completes rehabilitation. The aftercare services we offer at SoCal Mental Health provide access to private and community-based resources, including:
- Referrals to doctor and therapist offices
- Details about local support and self-help groups
- Information about job placement and financial assistance programs
Our case managers make sure that the individuals in our program and their families have a support system in place, including continuing care. The increased confidence and self-efficacy learned in relapse prevention make it easier for individuals to manage day-to-day stressors.