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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Toller

Creating a Relapse Prevention Plan

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

For individuals in recovery from addiction, a relapse prevention plan is a crucial tool for maintaining sobriety. Relapse prevention (RP) is a cognitive-behavioural approach to relapse with the goal of identifying and preventing high-risk situations. A relapse prevention plan outlines specific strategies and actions to avoid triggers and prevent a return to substance use.

Download our complimentary Relapse Prevention Worksheet and follow these steps to create a personalized plan that will help you stay on the path to recovery.

Watch our video on Relapse Prevention with Lisa Klco:


The first step in creating a relapse prevention plan is to identify your personal triggers and warning signs. PsychCentral defines triggers as sensory reminders that cause painful memories or certain symptoms to resurface. They are situations, people, or emotions that can lead to cravings or thoughts of using substances. Warning signs are physical or emotional changes that indicate you may be at risk of relapse. You can develop strategies to avoid or manage these triggers and warning signs effectively by identifying them. Some common triggers include stress, boredom, social situations, and negative emotions. Warning signs may include changes in sleep patterns, appetite, mood, or energy levels.

To enhance this step, consider conducting a thorough self-assessment to identify specific triggers and warning signs that are unique to your situation. A qualified addictions specialist can also help you better understand your vulnerabilities and tailor your relapse prevention plan accordingly.


Once you have identified your triggers and warning signs, developing coping strategies to manage them is crucial. Coping strategies can include various techniques and activities that help you navigate challenging situations without resorting to substance use. Some effective coping strategies include:

Healthy distractions: Engage in activities that occupy your mind and keep you focused on positive pursuits, such as exercise, reading, art, or music.

Self-care practices: Take care of your physical, emotional, and mental well-being through regular exercise, healthy eating, sufficient sleep, relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing, and seeking therapy or counselling when needed.

Building a support network: Surround yourself with people who support your recovery journey, such as friends, family members, support groups, therapists, or other healthcare professionals. Lean on them for encouragement, guidance, and accountability.

Developing healthy coping mechanisms: Learn and practice healthy ways to manage stress, such as journaling, practicing mindfulness, engaging in hobbies, or participating in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.

Remember, different coping strategies may work better in different situations, so it's essential to have various options. Regularly practice these coping strategies, even when you're not experiencing triggers or warning signs, so they become second nature and easier to utilize when needed.


Building a support system is crucial to creating a relapse prevention plan. Recovery can be challenging, and having people who understand your struggles and can offer encouragement and support is invaluable. Consider the following steps to build a robust support system:

Identify supportive individuals: List people you can turn to when you're feeling triggered or struggling with cravings. Your list can include friends, family members, support group members, therapists, or other healthcare professionals who deeply understand addiction and recovery.

Communicate your needs: Openly share your relapse prevention plan with your support system, and let them know how they can help you stay on track. Establish clear communication channels and boundaries to feel comfortable when reaching out for support.

Attend support groups: Participating in support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), can provide a sense of belonging, encouragement, and the opportunity to learn from others with similar experiences.

Remember, asking for support is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength and commitment to your recovery journey.


Setting realistic goals for yourself is important when creating a relapse prevention plan. Goal setting means identifying specific behaviours or situations that may trigger a relapse and developing strategies to avoid or cope with them effectively. Consider the following steps when setting realistic goals:

Identify high-risk situations: Reflect on your past experiences and identify concerns, environments, or people that have led to relapse in the past. Create a plan to avoid or minimize exposure to these triggers whenever possible.

Plan for challenging scenarios: Develop strategies to navigate situations where you may encounter triggers, such as parties, social gatherings, or stressful events. Planning can include bringing a supportive friend with you, having an exit strategy in place, or rehearsing responses to potential temptations.

Establish achievable milestones: Set achievable goals for your recovery journey, such as attending a certain number of support group meetings per week, participating in therapy sessions regularly, or engaging in self-care activities like exercise or meditation. Breaking your recovery journey into smaller, attainable steps can help build confidence and motivation.

Remember, recovery is a lifelong process, and setbacks may happen. Be kind to yourself and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem.


Once you have created your relapse prevention plan, reviewing and updating it is essential. Your triggers and coping strategies may change over time, and ensuring your plan reflects those changes is crucial. Consider the following steps for maintaining an effective relapse prevention plan:

Set regular review intervals: Set a reminder to review your plan every few months or whenever you experience a significant life change or stressor. This can help you stay proactive and adaptable in managing potential risks.

Assess plan effectiveness: During your review, assess how well your plan works and identify any areas needing adjustment. Be honest with yourself and seek feedback from your support system to gain different perspectives.

Modify and refine strategies: Make any necessary adjustments to your plan based on your assessment. Consider adding new coping strategies, removing ineffective ones, or updating your triggers and warning signs list.

Remember, your relapse prevention plan is a living document that should evolve with you as you continue your path to recovery.

Creating a relapse prevention plan is essential and empowering when it comes to maintaining long-term sobriety and minimizing the risk of relapse. By proactively identifying triggers and warning signs, developing effective coping strategies, cultivating a solid support system, setting achievable goals, and regularly reviewing and updating your plan, you significantly enhance your chances of success on your recovery journey.

Remember, you are never alone in this process. Nōmina, with its range of inpatient and outpatient treatment options, support groups, and valuable resources, is dedicated to providing the assistance you need. Seeking help and support is not a sign of weakness but a true demonstration of your strength and unwavering determination to live a fulfilling, substance-free life.



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