Addiction is a chronic illness, and recovery is a lifelong process. Sometimes, the bumps along the road can include a return to substance abuse behaviors, such as a relapse or a slip.
What Is a Relapse?A relapse is defined by the strength and frequency of the addictive behavior. For example:
- If your teen succumbs to substance abuse on one or two occasions but quickly bounces back, that is called a slip.
- If your teen falls back into habitual substance abuse and cannot stop the behavior, that is considered a relapse.
What Is Relapse Prevention Therapy?At Next Generation Village, we define relapse prevention therapy as a set of techniques designed to discourage substance abuse behaviors. This form of treatment follows many of the same modalities as traditional rehab but places extra focus on handling relapse triggers and developing coping skills in recovery. Since no two addictions are exactly alike, we use techniques that are unique to your teen’s relapse triggers to craft an individualized relapse prevention plan. This involves the use of an adolescent relapse prevention workbook, which can help your teen reflect on the past circumstances that drove their substance use and guide them through strategies to cope with future cravings and triggers. Your teen might learn to call a friend, contact a counselor, meditate, draw, play basketball, or do something else diverting when a relapse trigger hits. The idea is to take control, so your teen doesn’t feel helpless in the face of addiction. Practicing mindfulness is a proven method of preventing relapse, teaching teens to accept their feelings — whether good or bad — without reacting. When a craving hits, someone practicing mindfulness might:
- Breathe deeply
- Take note of their physical discomfort
- Acknowledge their mental distress
- Think of something neutral or pleasant
- Stay still and quiet until the moment passes
How Long Does a Relapse Prevention Program Take?Since relapse prevention therapy is similar to traditional rehab, it usually takes the same amount of time as a standard program, which can be several weeks to several months. However, relapse prevention may be a little less intensive than initial therapy, because your teen’s treatment team has already set the basis for recovery. Your teen’s doctor or aftercare treatment team can determine the most effective level and length of relapse prevention treatment.
Reducing Risks of RelapseA study in the journal Youth and Society uncovered a link between boredom and substance abuse. This supports the importance of hobbies. As part of a relapse prevention plan, teens might be encouraged to pick up engaging activities, such as:
- Playing a team sport
- Making art
- Planting and maintaining a garden
- Walking the dog
- Holding a job
- Participating in a school club