Maintenance and Relapse Prevention in Chemical Dependency Treatment

Substance abuse treatment professionals should provide clients with the knowledge, strategies, and strength to continue recovery after treatment ceases. Clients will have a comparatively short time in treatment to plan the rest of their lives. Understanding the client’s goals should be the counselor’s primary goal. Long-term success will be dependent upon the client’s desire to stay healthy, but relapse prevention techniques, especially early on, can be beneficial. This paper will analyze relapse prevention techniques that can be employed to promote long-term recovery in clients.

Relapse prevention is primarily skills counselors can teach their clients to prevent the return of addictive behaviors. Relapse and recovery should be defined by the client, and appropriate strategies should be congruent with the client’s goals. High-risk situations (HRS) are important for the client and counselor to identify. HRS are situations where there is a posed threat to the client’s recovery (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2008). For example, high-risk situations may be a particular event, a group of friends, or even a time of day. The client should identify the situation, the associated thought, the resulting emotion, and an action plan to prevent relapse. Most relapse events are associated with three kinds of high-risk situations including frustration and anger, interpersonal temptation, or social pressure (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2008). Relapse Prevention Therapy (RPT) is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy which helps the client identify HRS, develop coping strategies, strengthen self-efficacy, and address complex issues related to the emotions that may lead to relapse in spite of skills the client may have. It is important for the counselor to recognize if “coping deficits are a result of lack of knowledge and skills or if adequate coping skills are being interfered with by factors such as low motivation, low self-efficacy, or anxiety” (Marlatt & Parks, 2002, p. 12).

Another important element of relapse prevention is the establishment of a support system. Support systems may include family, friends, self-help groups, church, or healthcare professionals. A support system is critical to preventing relapse, and must be established before treatment ends (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2008). Clients should list who these people are, and what types of support each provides. For example, a client may have specific friends that will help with recreational activities, certain loved ones who are comforting, and a counselor who can help when issues arise. Clients should also be reassured that counseling options will remain available. Chemical dependency treatment alone will not result in the resolution of a lifelong list of complex issues. Continued individual therapy may be indicated in these clients.

In conclusion, the end of treatment can be a trying time for clients. It is important counselors have prepared clients for the complicated transition back into the real world. Identifying high-risk situations and creating coping strategies for these scenarios can be beneficial. In addition, the establishment of a support system is imperative. Treatment outcomes may heavily depend on a strong network of family, friends, and professionals. Preventing relapse in a client that wants to return to addictive behaviors is impossible. However, assuming, they survive, what the client learns from a relapse can be invaluable to their future recovery.