When you’re in recovery for a drug or alcohol addiction, there may come a time when you start using again. This return to drug or alcohol use is known as a relapse.
The claim that relapse is a normal part of recovery is true to some extent, but it shouldn’t be viewed as a necessary step. Statistically speaking, however, most people who begin the journey to recovery will relapse at some point. When a relapse occurs, feelings of guilt and shame tend to make the situation worse.
What Is Relapse Prevention Therapy?
Relapse Prevention Therapy (RPT)is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that aims to limit or prevent relapses by helping you anticipate circumstances that are likely to promote a relapse. The goal is to create a strategy to help you cope with these high-risk situations in advance – known as a relapse prevention plan.
For example, during RPT, you’ll learn that certain feelings are common triggers for relapse. These emotions are summarized by the acronym BHALT: bored, hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. RPT teaches you to be aware of these feelings and helps you develop a plan of action for coping with them.
Other circumstances that often trigger relapse include environmental situations that prompt cravings such as people, places, or things that you associate with your drug or alcohol addiction. Relapse Prevention Therapy would help you identify triggering environmental situations that might prompt cravings and help you develop a strategy for coping with them.
5 Activities In Relapse Prevention Group Therapy
There are a number of techniques that are used when doing relapse prevention therapy in a group setting. Here are five of the most common ones:
1. Functional Analysis Exercise
During functional analysis, you’ll identify feelings, thoughts, and behaviors associated with your addiction. These could be feelings that you experience before cravings set in or thoughts that typically arise before, during, and after drinking/drug use. The goal is to identify high-risk behaviors and situations that may lead to relapse.
2. The Centering Exercise
The centering exercise is designed to calm the mind of racing thoughts while relaxing the body.
During the centering exercise, you’ll sit comfortably and straight with your feet on the floor. You’ll close your eyes, breathe in slowly through your nose, hold that breath for a moment, and then breathe out through your mouth. After, you’ll be asked about any negative thoughts that come to mind. Centering helps clear your mind of negative thoughts from the past or your worries for the future.
3. Warning Sign Management Exercise
Warning sign management refers to the action you’ll take if you notice your personal warning signs of an impending relapse. During the exercise, you’ll read your warning sign management strategies to the group. The group will respond to or challenge the strategies by asking a series of “what if” questions, helping you better prepare for risky situations.
4. Life And Addiction History Exercise
During the life and addition history exercise, you’ll give a 10-minute talk to the group where you give a summary of your addiction, any criminal behavior that resulted from your addiction, and other important information that may have led you to your current situation. The group then asks questions about your life to help you determine the turning points in your life that started your progression toward addiction.
By better understanding the situations that led you to addiction, you can develop coping strategies to overcome these types of situations in the future.
5. Sentence Completion Exercise
The ability to identify thoughts that aren’t true and mistaken beliefs about yourself, the world, and other people is a critical tool in preventing a relapse. The sentence completion exercise is a technique that helps you identify and correct thoughts that may not be true.
With the group, you’ll create a sentence stem – the beginning of a sentence that has meaning to you. Examples of this are, “I know my recovery is in trouble when…” or “When I think about drugs/alcohol I…” Write down the stem, and then say six to eight different endings to the sentence out loud. Other people in the group will write down these endings as you speak. Afterward, you will read the endings with the group and look for a reoccurring theme that contains mistaken beliefs.
Relapse Prevention Therapy is an effective solution to help you overcome your addiction and prevent a relapse. By using the above exercises (and others like it) in a group setting, you’ll better understand your addiction, the feelings that cause you to use, and how to avoid risky situations that frequently lead to relapse.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.