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What Should My Relapse Prevention Plan Template Include?

By Manjari Bansal
A relapse prevention plan template is a document that has information about your triggers, coping strategies, and support system. Find out more about these templates and the items they should include.

If you are undergoing addiction treatment, your doctor may suggest a relapse prevention plan. A relapse prevention plan is a written or verbal plan that helps you recognize triggers, cope with stressful situations, and maintain sobriety. Learn more about a relapse prevention plan template and the factors to consider while making one.   

What’s a Relapse Prevention Plan Template?

A relapse prevention plan template is a valuable tool used to assist patients who are overcoming substance misuse. "It is a form or document created to assist an individual with recovery,” Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S, LCSW-C, a Licensed Psychotherapist at Talkspace, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

“It includes a specific course of action, coping mechanisms, ideas to handle triggers and cravings, support system information, and detailed goals,” Catchings says.

According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, a written, personalized relapse prevention plan may act as a very helpful tool for preventing relapses in the future. You may refer to this plan to increase your awareness about pro-relapse behaviors and improve your ability to refrain from substance misuse and maintain abstinence.

“While all relapse prevention plan templates usually have basic commonalities such as identifying triggers and coping skills, different plans may focus on areas that others do not,” Aaron Sternlicht, LMHC, CASAC, a therapist and co-founder of Family Addiction Specialist in New York, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

“As such, it may be beneficial to research various relapse prevention plan templates and find one that resonates with you, or combine ideas from various templates to create one that is unique for you,” Sternlicht says.

“The more detailed the prevention plan is, the more helpful it can be, and it seems to be more beneficial when written down. There are numerous things that someone can do to avoid relapsing, but creating a treatment plan is one of the most successful ones,” Catchings adds.

Tailoring Your Relapse Prevention Plan Template

A relapse prevention plan is an important part of substance abuse treatment and recovery, notes the US Department of Veterans Affairs. It should be customized based on your specific needs, and take into consideration your sociocultural environment, motivation level, the severity of your addiction, and the presence of other medical and mental health issues.

“A relapse prevention plan should most importantly identify your triggers that have led to substance use in the past or ones that you could foresee resulting in urges to relapse in your future, and it should also include coping mechanisms that you have and which coping skills might be more appropriate for particular triggering situations,” Sternlicht says.

“A good relapse prevention plan should include healthy coping skills and an understanding of unhealthy coping methods that led to addiction,” Sam Zand, DO, Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Better U, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

For example, “deep breathing, exercise, stretching, meditation, and healthy distraction are all ways to cope with daily stress,” Zand says.

“Lastly, the plan should determine what happens if a client relapses or comes close to it,” Ashley Roselli-Breen, LSW, LCADC, CCS, Director of Substance Abuse Counseling at Delaware Valley Medical, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

“This section should include motivations for why they want to live a healthy lifestyle, support to utilize, and a plan of action to decrease and prevent the risk of more dire consequences,” Roselli-Breen explains.

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