Side Effects of Methamphetamine

What Is Relapse Prevention?

Addictions and their related disorders are widely considered to be chronic and relapsing conditions—conditions in which a combination of pharmacological and psychosocial management strategies are at the forefront of treatment approaches.[1] As such, it’s critical for those struggling to access quality treatment programming that holistically addresses each component of the necessary care, of which relapse prevention is a vital cog in any well-rounded treatment plan.

What Does Relapse Prevention Entail?

Relapse prevention is a skills-based approach that tasks patients and their clinicians to identify the situations that place the person at greater risk for relapse, both internal experiences (e.g., positive thoughts related to substance use or negative thoughts related to sobriety that arise without effort) and external cues (e.g., people that are associated with problematic usage or behavior).[2] As such, the individual is then able to develop better awareness and coping strategies to address situations and circumstances that may have previously led to usage or the behavior in question.

A strategy for reducing the likelihood and severity of relapse following the cessation or reduction of problematic behaviors, relapse prevention typically incorporates elements of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to both prevent an initial relapse and to provide relapse management if a lapse should happen to occur.[3]

Some common relapse prevention strategies can include:

  • Working to increase your awareness around the potential consequences of entering into high-risk situations.
  • Expanding the menu of coping strategies and response options for high-risk situations and triggers for usage.
  • Building confidence in your ability to resist and feel good about turning away from triggers to use.
  • Reinforcing overarching goals achieved in other aspects of addiction treatment.
  • Engaging in meaningful activities and practicing self-care.

Relapse Prevention Planning

The clinical definition of a relapse contains that several conditions—be they addiction-related or otherwise—are known to re-occur over time; that an individual can fall back into illness after a period of convalescence.[4] As a result, developing strategies to both recognize the warning signs of an oncoming relapse and to mitigate the damage of any potential relapses is a vital part of any successful, long-term treatment for addiction at every stage in the process.

As recovery itself is considered to be a lifelong process, relapse prevention helps individuals to understand the event of relapse as both an event and a process, learning to better identify the warning signs ahead of time.[5]

The Relapse Prevention Process

Relapse prevention always begins concurrently with your entry into treatment at any level of care (inpatient, outpatient, etc.), becoming an important discussion topic to increase understanding and insight around your unique triggers for usage.

As such, it grows alongside of your other treatment modalities to begin constructing the framework for longer-term recovery once your initial phase of treatment is complete, helping you to gain the tools, insights, and support network necessary to establish long-term change.

Relapse prevention is therefore discussed throughout the duration of your treatment engagement and also offered as an important after-care option to continually provide support and encouragement through engagement (support groups, ongoing counseling) and the establishment of new, long-term practices (self-care, identifying cognitive distortions, etc.).

What’s the Best Way to Find Relapse Prevention Providers?

Relapse prevention is a key component of any quality provider’s programming and should be available as an offering through an accredited provider, both during and after the treatment process.

Find Relapse Prevention Help Near Me

Click on a pin to learn more information on a specific facility location

Cost of Relapse Prevention Therapy

Costs associated with relapse prevention are typically incorporated into long-term treatment programs. Individualized planning can alter expected costs based on each person’s unique needs and insurance coverage.

Verify Insurance

Frequently Asked Questions about Relapse Prevention


Does everyone relapse after treatment?


Not everyone experiences a relapse after completing their treatment, though studies suggest it is a common phenomenon—somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-60%[6]. 


Does a relapse mean that I failed?


Not at all. Addiction is a chronic illness, so a relapse can simply be a part of the learning process. Relapse prevention looks to increase resilience, understanding, and the available tools you have to consistently recognize the warning signs of relapse more quickly.


Is relapse prevention a kind of therapy?


Relapse prevention is not a therapy modality per se, but rather a guiding set of adaptable principles that are uniquely shaped for the individual to assist them in recognizing the signs of a potential relapse and tools to deal with potential relapse effectively.


Are all relapse prevention programs the same?


Definitely not. Addiction is a multi-faceted condition, and each individual brings with them several unique considerations to their overall treatment, necessitating relapse prevention strategies to be customizable.


Can relapse prevention be used for other non-addiction-related issues?


Yes! Relapse prevention can also be a core component of several treatment plans, including those for co-occurring disorders and any conditions with the potential for negative circumstances or triggers to have an effect.


Menon, J., & Kandasamy, A. (2018). Relapse prevention. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 60(Suppl 4), S473–S478. on July 26th, 2023


Relapse Prevention (RP) (MBRP) – Recovery Research Institute. (2017). Recovery Research Institute. on July 26th, 2023


Menon, J., & Kandasamy, A. (2018). Relapse prevention. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 60(Suppl 4), S473–S478. on July 26th, 2023


Definition of RELAPSE. (2019). on July 26th, 2023


Reducing Relapse Risk – Whole Health Library. (n.d.). on July 26th, 2023


National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, July 10). Treatment and Recovery. National Institute on Drug Abuse. on July 26th, 2023

Begin Your Recovery Journey Today