24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (877)SAFEGBC or (877)723-3422 Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues

6502 Nursery Drive, Suite 100
Victoria, TX 77904
Fax: (361)578-5500
Regular Hours: M-Fri 8am - 5pm
Every 3rd Thurs of the Month - Extended Hours Until 7 pm

Basic Information
What is Addiction?What Causes Addiction?How Do You Get Addicted?Signs and Symptoms of AddictionTreatment for Addiction
Treatment for AddictionNatural Recovery: Recovery from Addiction Without TreatmentNatural Recovery ContinuedChoosing An Effective Treatment Approach: Evidenced-Based PracticesWhat Makes An Addictions Treatment Effective? Biological Approaches to Addiction Treatment: MedicationsThe Role of Medication in Addictions TreatmentPharmacologic Medications for Addictions TreatmentPharmacologic Medications for Addictions Treatment: Part IIPsychological Approaches to Addiction TreatmentMotivation for Change: The Stages of Change ModelMotivation for Change ContinuedTypes of Evidenced-Based (Effective) Treatments for Addiction: Motivational InterviewingRelapse Prevention TherapyContingency ManagementCognitive-Behavioral TherapyDialectical Behavioral TherapyAcceptance and Commitment TherapyWhat The Pros Know: The Practical Recovery ModelSocial Approaches Addictions RecoveryA Cultural Approach to Addictions Treatment: Harm ReductionFamily Approaches to Addictions Treatment: CRAFT, Intervention And Al-AnonThe Social Support Approach to Addictions Recovery: Recovery Support Groups Self-Empowering Support Groups for Addiction Recovery: Smart RecoveryModeration ManagementWomen for SobrietyLifeRing Secular RecoverySummary of Self-Empowering Support GroupsSpiritual Approaches to Addiction Recovery12-Step Support Groups: Groups That End With "Anonymous"12-Step Support Groups: Part II12-Step Support Groups: Part IIIExpanding Addiction Treatment Choices in the United StatesDeveloping a Personal Action Plan for Addiction Recovery: Part IDeveloping a Personal Action Plan for Addiction Recovery: Part II
ReferencesResourcesFrequentlly Asked Questions about Addiction
TestsLatest NewsQuestions and AnswersLinks
Related Topics

Anxiety Disorders
Depression: Depression & Related Conditions
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Relapse Prevention Therapy

A. Tom Horvath, Ph.D., ABPP, Kaushik Misra, Ph.D., Amy K. Epner, Ph.D., and Galen Morgan Cooper, Ph.D. , edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.

In addiction treatment, a "relapse" refers to a reoccurrence of the addictive behavior, following an attempt at recovery. It is helpful to specifically address relapse during recovery efforts. Statistically speaking, most individuals making a recovery effort will experience relapse at some point. Without advance preparation, cravings will inevitably lead to relapse. When a relapse occurs, feelings of guilt and self-blame may only worsen the situation.

hand saying no to alcoholRelapse Prevention Therapy (RPT, Marlatt & Donovan, 2005) is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. RPT aims to limit or prevent relapses by helping the therapy participant to anticipate circumstances that are likely to provoke a relapse. You can develop strategy to cope with these high-risk situations in advance. This is termed a relapse prevention plan. For instance, therapy participants learn that certain feelings are common triggers for relapse. We summarize these feelings with the acronym BHALT: bored, hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. Relapse prevention therapy teaches therapy participants to be alert for these types of feelings and to have a plan of action for coping with them.

Other circumstances that trigger relapse are environmental cues that prompt cravings. This might include people, places, or things that are associated with the pleasurable feelings of addictive behavior. For instance, some people who inject drugs find the sight of blood can trigger powerful cravings. So can a flu inoculation, or routine blood test. Relapse prevention therapy helps therapy participants to identify possible environmental cues that might prompt craving. Then, they develop a strategy for coping with these cues.

RPT also teaches participants to place relapse into the proper perspective. When a recovering person has a relapse, they frequently interpret this as a failure. A person can believe that such a "failure" is evidence of their inability to recover. Of course, if someone believes they are unable to recover there really is no point in trying. Based on this (false) conclusion, the recovering person sees no option but to return to their addiction in earnest.

RPT seeks to prevent this misinterpretation by representing relapses as prolapses. In other words, relapses are reinterpreted as opportunities for learning and improving coping skills. This perspective serves to keep relapses as time-limited and harmless as possible. Viewed in this manner, they might be also termed "slips" or "lapses" rather than relapses.