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Learn how to maintain sobriety through strategies, support, and mindset.

Relapse Prevention Therapy

Every level of care at Infinite Recovery includes some aspect of relapse prevention planning. Addiction is a chronic disease, which means relapse is a common phenomenon, especially in early sobriety. Some research estimates that more than two-thirds of individuals relapse within weeks or months of initiating addiction treatment. [1]

One of the ways that we keep relapse rates low at Infinite Recovery is by working with each client to develop a personalized relapse prevention plan before they leave our care.

A couple consult with a recovery specialist
Specialist counseling on relapse prevention

What Does it Mean to Relapse?

Man with relapse

Relapse does not mean that a person has failed in their recovery or that long-term sobriety is not an option for them. It is unfortunately a common part of the recovery process and should not deter an individual or their family from pursuing addiction treatment or believing that change is possible.

Relapse is often pre-meditated and sometimes occurs after an acute period of stress, a familiar trigger or peer pressure. While the decision to use drugs or drink alcohol after a period of sobriety may appear to be a spur-of-the-moment choice, relapse is usually a distinct progression that can be identified by certain stages. [1] These stages include:

Emotional Relapse

Isolation, depression and shame commonly accompany substance abuse disorders [1] and may lead to or exacerbate other mental health conditions. Many individuals with substance use disorders also have co-occurring mental health disorders. [2] Experiencing the acceptance and sense of belonging that accompany being part of a group can be very healing and support long-term recovery. [1] When combined with individual therapy, group counseling can help reduce mental health symptoms and support clients in forming healthy coping mechanisms and emotional awareness.

Mental Relapse

The second stage of relapse is mental relapse, where a person experiences cravings for their drug of choice and may consider or plan ways to access or use. During this phase, it may be difficult for them to remember the negative consequences associated with their substance abuse and they may have a hard time identifying “high-risk” situations that will trigger them or accessing healthy coping skills. [1] Bargaining and denial are characteristic of this stage of relapse and a person may believe they can control their relapse, be able to use substances during particular occasions, or switch from one substance to another. [1]

Physical Relapse

During this final stage, an individual takes action on their previous thoughts or plans and uses drugs or alcohol. Once this happens, it is very easy and inevitable for the single drink or drug usage to turn into uncontrolled abuse of the substance in question, and for the individual to experience withdrawal symptoms if they attempt to stop [1] Addiction is a chronic disease, which means that once a person is addicted or physically dependent on a substance, they will not be able to use it in a controlled way in the future.

As relapse progresses through these three stages, it becomes progressively more difficult to control without intervention and support. While some people associate relapse with the act of substance abuse itself, the reality is that this action is just the tip of the iceberg and that the relapse process likely started some time before and was preventable. [1]

The goal of relapse prevention therapy is to help individuals identify the stages of relapse and have proactive tools for halting the process so that it does not progress. If relapse occurs, having a relapse prevention plan can also help individuals access the treatment and resources they need to quickly return to their sober lifestyle.

What Does a Relapse Prevention Plan Include?

Preventing relapse and having a plan in place should relapse occur are two important factors for helping a person achieve long-term sobriety. At Infinite Recovery, every client creates a customized relapse prevention plan in collaboration with their care team so that they can understand the warning signs of relapse and know how to respond to them.

A relapse prevention plan includes identifying:

  • High-risk situations that may be particularly triggering to that individual
  • Relapse warning signs and how to recognize the stages of relapse
  • Specific relapse prevention strategies and tools the individual can incorporate during various stages of relapse. These may include mind-body relaxation, mental health treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy, healthy coping skills and seeking support
  • Outlining the basic rules of relapse prevention, such as honesty, asking for help, and practicing self-care [1]

A relapse prevention plan may also include some aspects of medication assisted treatment (MAT), or the use of certain medications to manage cravings. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, MAT combined with therapy can help sustain recovery in those struggling with addiction. [2]

In addition to developing a relapse prevention plan, individuals in early sobriety may form a number of habits that support their recovery, including:

  • A commitment to attend meetings regularly
  • Pursuing personal growth
  • Receiving mental health treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or substance dependence support groups
  • Engaging with family therapy
  • A commitment to practice self care
  • Mindfulness based relapse prevention practices, such as meditation or yoga
  • Creating alternatives to high risk situations, such as sober social events
Group therapy

The Stages of Recovery


The first stage of recovery and relapse prevention is abstinence. During this stage, a person is creating a new identity for themselves as a non-user while also accepting that they are struggling with a chronic disease.

This stage typically lasts for one to two years and is marked by practices such as regularly attending meetings, prioritizing self-care and creating healthy coping skills and support systems. [1]


The repair stage of recovery generally lasts about two to three years and is characterized by repairing the damage caused by addictive behaviors and establishing a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

During this stage, an individual comes to terms with the effects of their substance abuse on themselves and the people around them. They become increasingly capable of being with discomfort and practicing healthy coping mechanisms for stress. [1]


The final stage of recovery is growth, in which a person develops new skills, relationships and patterns that will serve them in their new sober life.

During this stage, they may pursue new aspects of therapy and personal development and are better able to give back to those around them. [1]

Get Substance Abuse and Addiction Treatment Today

Whether you are seeking addiction treatment for the first time, or have relapsed and are in need of a local recovery program, the caring team at Infinite Recovery can meet you where you are. We offer every level of care for substance use disorder treatment, from detox to inpatient care to outpatient services and accept most major insurance carriers.

Relapse does not have to be the end of the road. We are a holistic, evidence-based treatment center for substance use disorders and mental health disorders offering a wide range of treatment services and therapies. Reach out today for a confidential consultation or to verify your insurance.

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