It is understood that relapse is more likely to occur if certain high-risk actions and/or behaviors are in place and the coping skills as well as strategies to implement them are not known or being utilized and Relapse Prevention Therapy (RP) is based on addressing these high risk situations as well as the development of coping mechanisms in order to better prevent the possibility of or an actual relapse itself.
In looking at high risk situations, RP includes two main categories; a client’s coping skills, meaning thought processes and the next being their behavioral actions/responses/reactions which include lifestyle, environment, etc.
In the initial assessment, the therapist may begin with having the client describe and then examine what their life actually looks like in action, where do they go; they company they may still keep; is their dealer’s number still in their phone; is paraphernalia still within easy reach. The therapist and the client discuss how these and other high risk related situations could directly contribute to putting the client in a danger zone for relapsing.
The therapist also guides the client to look at far more subtle events or experiences that might accumulate and after a period of time could lead to the client to using without the client even consciously realizing how they may have arrived at such a place. These are ways clients may set themselves up, self-sabotage by way of lifestyle, seemingly innocuous activities – e.g. overworking which is creating a constant feeling of pressure and stress. Perhaps the client has no healthy, pleasurable outlet or they haven’t returned to doing the things they enjoyed doing previous to their addiction so they don’t have “anything going on.” The client could even be listening to the same music they listened to when they were mired in their addiction and that could subconsciously create and promote a vulnerability to relapse. The therapist has an opportunity to help the client see those in depth pieces and find ways to build working strategies that are realistic to the client’s life.
The therapist also helps the client examine emotional areas where there may be an inclination to gravitate toward using, such as helping the client recognize anger, anxiety, boredom, depression, or even celebratory types of feelings also denoting if there is a desire to use when those feelings come up. The therapist guides the client in learning that it’s not only a matter of identifying the feeling, it’s coping skills utilized and the steps taken after identifying the feeling which can directly contribute to preventing a relapse.
This is where therapist now assists the client past the point of identification to helping the client formulate and implement new coping skills and strategies in those high risk situations, which is an imperative component and critical to RP’s success as a viable therapeutic modality, one effective behavioral coping mechanism RP utilizes includes learning how to leave an uncomfortable situation, be it where there are drugs or alcohol to walking away from an emotionally charged environment.
The client who is able to negotiate their way through these high risk situations and issues with effective coping skills has a far greater opportunity to continue being abstinent. In the continuation of their abstinence they build a sense of self-sufficiency, which directly contributes to the client’s continuation of abstinence, spiraling upward in this case.
With recognition of high risk situations and effective coping mechanisms in place, RP can add to our client’s ability to return to the world and their actual environment. With a plan for how to avoid and work through those tender places, where high risk situations present themselves, we are there to guide them to recognize and learn to have the tools they will need to work through them. When they leave Alo House, we want to insure our client’s have the best opportunity to continue on their path of well being and wholeness and we believe RP can be a branch in the tree of their life of recovering.