Accredited Counseling & Intervention Services, Inc.

sailboat When Enough is Enough!

  • Relapse Prevention
  • Goals
  • Methodologies
  • Q & A


Relapse prevention helps clients recovering from substance dependency or use of other self-defeating behaviors benefit from improving their skills at recognizing and effectively managing high-risk situations.

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The relapse process starts when recovering clients experience thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that create so much distress that self-medication with alcohol and other drugs seems like a good choice. Substance use disorders have the risk of relapse, as with other chronic lifestyle related diseases. ACIS is concerned about treating relapse-prone clients effectively. Our enlightened policy for managing relapse recognizes that:

  • For clients attempting sobriety for the first time, relapse is common in two-thirds of all clients.
  • Relapse is caused by a wide variety of problems that can be treated, it's not a self-inflicted condition.
  • Relapse-prone clients are not hopeless.
  • There are relapse prevention specialty methods designed to meet the specific needs of relapse-prone clients, who merit this effective treatment.
  • With proper treatment, over 50% of all relapsers will achieve permanent sobriety and many of the remaining 50% will significantly improve the quality of their lives in spite of periodic relapses.
  • If a relapse occurs during treatment the current treatment plan is placed on-hold, and efforts are made to help the relapsed client to stop using alcohol/drugs and to stabilize. A formal assessment and inquiry into the circumstances surrounding relapse is completed.

Our goal is to deal with relapse therapeutically rather than punitively whenever possible. The consequences related to relapse are decided after answering five questions:

In reviewing the circumstances surrounding the relapse ...

  • What is in the best interest of the client's ongoing recovery?
  • What are the legal or procedural requirements of referral sources?
  • What is in the best interest of the client's family?
  • What is in the best interest of the community in which the client lives?
  • What is in the best interest of maintaining the integrity of the treatment program?


ACIS has three primary goals of relapse prevention:

  1. To prevent a return to alcohol/drug use: this is done by helping recovering clients recognize and manage the high risk situations and patterns of self-defeating thinking and behavior that sets them up to using alcohol/drugs again.
  2. To stop relapse quickly should it occur: prompt intervention ensures that a client who relapses gets back into recovery as quickly as possible. This usually results in a short-term, low consequence, and low cost relapse. The client has a greater chance at future recovery because the damage from the relapse is less than it would have been without the intervention.
  3. The third goal is to establish an early intervention plan that involves all significant others, so if the client does return to alcohol/drug use, an intervention is promptly initiated which will remove support for the drinking and drug use behavior and motivate the client to get back into treatment.


ACIS Integrates Relapse Prevention Counseling and Therapy methodologies:

Relapse Prevention Individual Counseling and Therapy: This includes the client working with a skilled counselor to establish a commitment to recovery, and improving their skills at recognizing and effectively managing high-risk situations (HRS). Learning how to manage HRS will require more than just reading and completing exercises. The client needs to discuss their responses to each of the exercises with a counselor who can help them sort out the thoughts and feelings that get stirred up. By working with a counselor/therapist trained in the CENAPS Model of Relapse Prevention, the client is assured of the highest support throughout the process of developing their relapse prevention program.

Relapse Prevention Groups: These include special topic and process groups focused on relapse prevention, that are designed to help the client identify and manage relapse warning signs.

Special relapse prevention groups are more effective to treat chronic relapsers, because they separate out clients who are in treatment for the first time. Chronic relapsers often are angry and have serious doubts about the effectiveness of the treatment they have received. They are reluctant to be honest about these issues when they are in groups with primary clients because they don't want to hamper the new person's ability to recover. By putting these clients in a separate group and letting everyone know that they are all chronic relapsers, the level of honesty increases and the willingness to talk about and resolve issues related to relapse becomes important.

Relapse Prevention Treatment Plans: A standard relapse prevention treatment plan guides a client through the seven-step process outlined in Terence T. Gorski's highly acclaimed Relapse Prevention Counseling Workbook:

  1. Making the Commitment to Stop Using
  2. Planning to Stop Relapse Quickly if It Occurs
  3. Identifying High-Risk Situations
  4. Mapping and Managing High-Risk Situations
  5. Managing Personal Reactions to High-Risk Situations
  6. Developing a Recovery Plan
  7. Evaluating High-Risk Situations Management Skills.

The goal of the plan is to help a client who wants to recover from substance dependency or use of other self-defeating behaviors, to benefit from improving their skills at recognizing and effectively managing high-risk situations.

Integrated Relapse Prevention Practices: Relapse prevention methods have proven to be helpful when used at all levels of care and stages of treatment. Whenever clients report or begin acting out relapse warning signs, the regular treatment plan is suspended and emergency relapse prevention or early intervention methods are used.

ACIS' integrated Relapse Prevention Counseling style sees the relapse process starting as recovering people begin having thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that create so much pain and problems that self-medication with alcohol and other drugs seems like a good choice. Our experience has shown that substance use disorders have a tendency toward relapse, as with other chronic lifestyle related diseases. Relapse does not indicate a treatment failure. Relapse is best viewed as the process of becoming dysfunctional in sobriety due to sobriety-based symptoms that lead to either renewed alcohol/drug use, or physical or emotional collapse. The relapse process is marked by predictable and identifiable warning signs that begin long before alcohol/drug use or collapse occurs. This makes intervention possible for some clients before alcohol/drug use begins. The appropriate response to a relapse is to stop the relapse quickly by using a pre-planned intervention, stabilize the client in the appropriate level of care, assess the factors that contributed to the relapse, revise the recovery plan, and get the person back to working a personal recovery plan as quickly as possible. By achieving a commitment from a client agreeing to be abstinent while working with us through the Relapse Prevention Counseling Workbook, they will have the best chance of maintaining long-term sobriety.


What is Relapse Prevention Therapy?

Relapse Prevention Therapy (RPT) is a behavioral self-control approach that teaches individuals with substance addiction how to anticipate and cope with the potential for relapse.

What does it mean to relapse in relation to drug addiction?

An alcohol or drug relapse is the recurrence of the symptoms of the disease that has gone into remission or recovery. As a chronic disease, addiction is subject to periods of relapse. During the recovery process you may become exposed to certain triggers and other risk factors that increase your risk of returning to substance abuse.

Are there medications to help me remain sober?

Yes, these medications suppress cravings that an addict may experience and help regulate brain functioning in clients who may experience imbalances.  Your counselor can explain the medications available to help with different substances of abuse.

Okay, I've completed residential and outpatient treatment programs, what can I do to maintain my sobriety?

ACIS' counselors utilize the Relapse Prevention Counseling Workbook: Practical Exercises for Managing High-risk Situations by Terence T. Gorski. This workbook is designed for people who want to recover from chemical dependency or use of other self-defeating behaviors. Although this workbook will be of special help to people who have relapsed in the past, all recovering people will benefit from improving their skills at recognizing and effectively managing high-risk situations. Learning how to manage high-risk situations will require more than just reading this workbook and filling out the exercises. You'll need to discuss your responses to each of the exercises with an ACIS Certified Relapse Prevention Specialist who can help you sort out the thoughts and feelings that get stirred up by an execise.

Discussing what you're learning from each exercise with your counselor will improve your ability to prevent relapse.

How can I keep my mind off using?

An engaged, healthy mind is less likely to be constantly thinking about using drugs. Staying occupied with positive things such as career, educational and personal goals are great ways to maintain sobriety.

How will negative events affect my recovery?

A study by the Social Ecology Laboratory showed that addicts who faced multiple negative life experiences after treatment had worse results than those who did not. You can anticipate negative events, by mapping the high-risk-situations, and determining actions to take to avoid relapse.

What part does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy play in preventing relapse?

In this type of therapy, an addict will learn to cope with and avoid situations where drug use is likely to occur.

How will developing healthy relationships improve my recovery?

Maintaining your sobriety goes hand in hand with caring for the relationships in your life. Healthy relationships will offer you support in your recovery. This support is essential in drug relapse prevention. A healthy family environment helps in many ways, such as:

  • Providing support in sobriety
  • Creating a stress-free environment
  • Providing happiness and overall well-being
  • Offering a healthy outlet to talk about your feelings openly

You can strengthen your relationships with your family by attending family therapy with a counselor. You and your loved ones will work on your communication skills with one another and strengthen the bond that you share through therapy. You will learn to work through potential conflicts in healthy ways and establish a healthy family atmosphere.

How will my reaching out to others help my sobriety?

Another important aspect of drug relapse prevention is educating others about your addiction. Surrounding yourself with drug prevention materials encourages you to stay sober and serves as a reminder of how far you've progressed. Drug relapse prevention is strengthened by holding yourself responsible for spreading encouragement and education to others.

Attending group meetings for addicts is very beneficial for recovering addicts as well. Meeting with other addicts provides peer support for recovering addicts. Other addicts understand what you are going through and provide encouraging words to help in recovery. Seeing people who have maintained sobriety for an ongoing period is uplifting and helps in drug relapse prevention.

Why do addicts make mistakes and relapse?

As hard as recovering addicts try, some may slip up and relapse. If you suffer a relapse, do not fear that your path to recovery is blocked, because you are not the only one who may go through ups and downs on the road to recovery. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 40 to 60 percent of substance abusers relapse at some point in recovery. Drug relapse prevention is an ongoing process that may need to be adjusted after treatment.

Should a relapse happen, it is important to immediately seek treatment for yourself or a loved one. Starting the addiction treatment process over again is most beneficial as you or your loved one will relearn the essentials of sobriety and detox in a safe environment that is free of temptations. It is also important that the addict remains in treatment for as long as needed. According to NIDA, the most effective treatments for substance abuse addiction last longer than three months.

What is the best drug relapse prevention?

As with treatment, the best form of drug relapse prevention varies by the addict. Different addicts need different kinds of treatment to continue recovery. The most effective method of drug relapse prevention is one that not only treats the substance addiction but also any underlying physical or mental conditions that may exist.