Begin Your Recovery
(619) 797-7319

What is a relapse prevention plan?

A relapse prevention plan helps to address the stages of relapse in order for the patient to maintain sobriety.

What is a Relapse Prevention Plan?

A relapse prevention plan is a document that a therapist and patient create together to address the stages of relapse in order to maintain sobriety. The goal of treatment is to help individuals recognize the early stages of relapse where the chance of potential change is the greatest.

There are three stages of recovery: emotional, mental, and physical. Each stage of relapse and recovery has its own risks of relapse. These will be detailed below.

Emotional Relapse

During emotional relapse, clients’ emotions and behaviors are setting themselves up for failure. They may be bottling up emotions, isolating, not going to social events or meetings, and also have poor eating and sleeping habits. The common denominator of emotional relapse is poor self-care.

Mental Relapse

Some signs of mental relapse include cravings for drugs or alcohol, minimizing consequences of past usage, looking for relapse opportunities, or planning a relapse.

Physical Relapse

Finally, physical relapse is what most people think of when the term “relapse” is used. This is when an individual returns to substance usage after having stopped. Most physical relapses are relapses of opportunity. They occur when the person has a window in which they feel they will not get caught.  

Part of relapse prevention involves rehearsing these situations and developing healthy exit strategies. A good relapse prevention plan will address all of these stages and equip patients with the tools needed to resist the urges and make healthier decisions.[1 ]

How to Create a Relapse Prevention Plan?

How does one create a relapse prevention plan? A recovery team will cover these steps to build an effective prevention plan.

Assess the Patient’s Personal History

First, they will assess the patient’s personal history. It is helpful to know exactly what has caused a relapse before, if anything has, along with the history of drug and alcohol abuse.

Identify Potential Triggers

Next, they will work with the patient to help identify potential causes of relapse in the future. It is vital to know what could possibly lead to relapse. Be specific and outline any potential scenarios or stressors. Recognize the signs of relapse.

Designate and Action Plan

The stages of relapse can look different for everyone and can present in individual ways. The most important part is to design an action plan. It should detail exactly what to do if one feels the signs of a relapse starting, including who to call, what actions to take, and what to do instead of returning to substance use. Be as detailed and specific as possible.

Finally, if all else doesn’t work, ask for help. This is not a journey to walk alone.[2]  

What Does a Relapse Prevention Plan Template Include?

A relapse prevention plan template should address the following issues: causes, cravings, preventative tools, support, and lifestyle changes.

  • Personal potential causes of relapse: List exactly what people, places, things, behaviors, actions, emotions, dates, and more might be a cause for relapse.
  • Cravings and withdrawal symptoms management strategy: Think about what steps to take when dealing with potential cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Hobbies, activities, support group meetings, breathing exercises, journaling, and tools from therapy or counseling sessions can help.
  • Preventative tools: These can include healthy coping skills and an understanding of unhealthy coping methods that led to addiction.
  • Support: Write down where to turn for help. Make a list of people to call, support group meetings to attend, therapy sessions available, and programs one can turn to for relapse prevention help.
  • Lifestyle strategies: Think deeply when making a relapse prevention plan. Write down possible lifestyle enhancements, such as ways to stick to a healthy diet and exercise plan, embrace educational opportunities, and try recreational activities that can offer a positive outlet.

Lastly, the plan should determine what happens if a client does relapse or comes close to it. This section should include motivations for why they want to live a healthy lifestyle, support to utilize, and a plan of action to decrease and prevent the risk of more dire consequences.[3]

The Most Common Relapse Prevention Model

The most common relapse prevention model includes the following nine steps:

  • Self-Regulation: Steadying the mind and body without the presence of addictive substances
  • Integration: Coming on board with the full recovery process
  • Understanding: Relapse education for the patient and support team
  • Self-Knowledge: Learning the personal patterns and problems that have led to addiction
  • Coping Skills: Learning and practicing personal coping skills
  • Change: Put the changes in motion to support a sober lifestyle
  • Awareness: Mindful preparation and reflection to stay vigilant against old patterns
  • Support System: Family involvement can provide the positive encouragement necessary to increase the chance of continued sobriety
  • Consequences and Maintenance: Being aware of the consequences of substance use and knowing how to manage warning signs to stay so you can stay in “maintenance mode.”

These nine steps can assist a recovering patient in order to help them work through the active stages of substance use recovery and transition into lifelong maintenance and sobriety. 

Tips for Crafting a Successful Relapse Prevention Plan

Relapse Prevention Plan

Try to avoid people or places linked with substance use. These are people and places one may want to avoid or set new boundaries with to avoid the risk of relapse. There are a few more tips on how to craft a successful relapse prevention plan below.

Develop Health Coping Mechanisms

Learn healthy coping skills. These can include deep breathing, exercising, stretching, meditation, and healthy distraction, which are all ways to cope with daily stress. Working with a therapist can also help highlight the most successful coping strategies. Be aware of the physical surroundings and situations that may pose a risk to recovery. Don’t forget to consider thoughts and feelings that may lead to relapse. Stay busy and organized.

Set up a daily or weekly routine and spend time on fulfilling hobbies. Boredom, loneliness, and impulsive behavior are frequently risk factors for relapse and structure can be a valuable tool in recovery. Build a support system and stay connected to others. Social connection and community play an enormous part in effective recovery. These tips can help with forming an effective relapse prevention plan that supports lasting recovery from substance abuse.[4]

It’s Time to Quit Substance Addiction Safely

The team at Genesis Recovery is here to help you and your family along the journey to freedom from substance abuse disorders. Through substance detox, medication protocols, individual therapy, support groups, and more, we can provide the support to start a new chapter. Contact us today to get on the path to recovery.


Learn More About Treatment
Our team is standing by to discuss your situation and options. Your call is fully confidential, and no obligation is required.
Call Us 24/7
[email protected]