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Relapse Prevention

Relapse Prevention involves more than just abstaining from substance use; it also involves changing behaviors, attitudes, and lifestyles in order to prevent a return to substance abuse.

relapse does not mean failure

Relapse prevention is an ongoing process that requires patience and dedication. It is important to remember that relapse does not mean failure; rather, it is an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your addiction in order to develop better strategies for avoiding future relapses. With the right resources, strategies, and support in place, you can find lasting recovery from substance use disorders.

What is relapse prevention and why is it important?

Relapse prevention is a comprehensive approach to sobriety that seeks to identify and address the underlying causes of addiction. It emphasizes the importance of self-awareness, active engagement in supportive activities, and developing healthy skills and habits that can help you remain sober. Relapse prevention is important because it helps those struggling with substance use disorders recognize their risk factors and find healthier ways of coping so they can remain in recovery for longer periods of time.

By understanding how addiction works and learning strategies to prevent relapse, individuals can become empowered to make informed choices about their health and well-being. A prevention plan also allows individuals to build stronger relationships with family members, friends, counselors, therapists, and sponsors – all of which are essential components of long-term recovery. Relapse prevention is an important part of the recovery process that can provide individuals with the skills and support they need to stay sober and live a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Dr. Marlatt's Relapse Prevention Model

The relapse prevention model is incredibly useful when it comes to dealing with relapse and learning how to take control of our lives. This model was developed by Dr. Marlatt in the 1980s and it has since become a widely used approach to relapse among addiction counselors, interventionists, and recovery coaches.

Instead of focusing on relapse as a sign of failure or weakness, this model views relapse as something that just happens from time to time. It puts the focus on developing a well-rounded set of skills and strategies such as impulse control and problem-solving that can help you better handle relapse episodes when they crop up.  

Ultimately, the relapse prevention model is an excellent way to move past our occasional missteps instead of letting relapse incidents define us.

Four prevention strategies

Relapse prevention strategies are important tools that can help individuals stay on the path to recovery. It involves identifying risk factors, developing healthy coping mechanisms, and finding support from loved ones. Here are some common strategies for managing substance use disorders:

1. Making a relapse prevention plan

A relapse prevention plan is an individualized list of activities and supports that can help you stay sober. Consider including positive lifestyle changes such as exercise, meditation, attending 12-step meetings, or other activities that promote sobriety.

2. Developing problem-solving skills

Relapse often comes when we feel overwhelmed by a problem or stressor in our lives. Problem-solving skills can help us more effectively manage tricky situations without resorting to substance use.

3. Utilizing support groups

Support groups, such as 12-step meetings, offer a safe space to talk about our struggles and get advice from those who have been in similar situations. These communities can be invaluable sources of support during challenging times.

4. Finding alternative coping strategies

Alternative coping strategies often include doing things you are passionate about as well as hobbies and physical activities like hiking or yoga, writing in a journal, talking with friends and family members, enjoying art or music, and seeking professional help when needed.
Brook McKenzie, COO
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Burning Tree Ranch is about changing lives fundamentally and forever.
~ Brook McKenzie, LCDCI, Chief Operating Officer

What is a relapse prevention plan?

A relapse prevention plan is especially important for those recovering from substance use disorder. Every relapse prevention plan is different and tailored to suit each individual. The goal of this plan is to help make relapse unlikely by recognizing situations, people, and emotions that might trigger substance use.

It also educates individuals on how to cope with relapse triggers and practice self-help skills to prepare them in the event of relapse; this includes learning new thought and behavior patterns as well as stress management strategies. A well-crafted relapse prevention plan can be lifesaving in its ability to provide a safe harbor in times of resistance against relapse.

Examples of prevention plans

Relapse prevention plans are individualized lists of activities and support that can help individuals stay sober. Each plan will be different, depending on individual needs and preferences, but should include strategies that promote sobriety. Examples of relapse prevention plans may include:

Enjoy a free prevention plan template to help you get started:

Three Benefits of Relapse Prevention

Relapse prevention is an important part of the recovery process that can have long-lasting benefits for individuals dealing with substance use disorders.

Relapse prevention benefits include:

1. Increase self-efficacy

Encourages individuals to learn from their mistakes and take a proactive role in preventing relapse episodes. This can lead to greater confidence and self-efficacy, making it easier for individuals to stay the course when faced with temptation or adversity.

2. Improved stress handling

Teaches individuals how to better manage stressors in their environment and develop strategies for handling difficult situations without resorting to substance use.

3. Increased self-awareness

Focuses on understanding our patterns and behavior, which allows us to become more aware of our needs.


Burning Tree Ranch offers a Relapse Prevention Program that is designed to help individuals establish the skills and strategies needed to resist temptation, maximize motivation for long-term recovery, and develop healthier coping mechanisms. This program includes an initial assessment of substance use disorder history, individual counseling sessions to identify triggers as well as positive coping strategies, group therapy, addiction education classes, and ongoing support from our experienced clinical staff.

The Relapse Prevention Program at Burning Tree Ranch also utilizes evidence-based therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). These therapies allow individuals to gain insight into their thoughts and behaviors surrounding substance use while developing new emotional regulation tools that can be used in times of stress or temptation.

At Burning Tree Ranch, we believe that relapse prevention is an integral part of addiction recovery and are dedicated to providing clients with the tools they need to overcome their substance use issues. Our Relapse Prevention Program works hand-in-hand with our 12-Step programs to provide a comprehensive approach to long-term sobriety. With our experienced staff and evidence-based therapies, individuals can find hope and healing at Burning Tree Ranch.

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LMSW, LCDC | Counselor
Kristina Robertson serves as Counselor at Burning Tree Ranch. Holding both a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Social Work, Kristina’s greatest joy is “watching our clients learn to love themselves again.” An avid equestrian, mother to twenty-one horses, and all-around animal lover, Kristina serves as a bright shining example of long-term recovery in action. Her commitment to whole person health: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual makes her an invaluable member of the Burning Tree Ranch clinical team. As a distinguished Phi Theta Kappa and Alpha Zeta member, Kristina believes deeply in each client’s pursuit of becoming their best selves.

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