Coping Skills for Relapse Prevention

Quentin Shires

Quentin has taught psychology and other social science classes at the university level and is considered a doctoral colleague at Capella University.

Expert Contributor
Lesley Chapel

Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master's degree in History.

In this lesson, learn the importance of relapse prevention and how using healthy coping skills can help you stay on top of your recovery. We will also identify coping skills that could increase the healthiness of your recovery.

What is Relapse Prevention?

Relapse prevention is an important component of addiction recovery, as it allows you to participate in a process that ensures that you are on the right path of remaining alcohol and drug-free. Because the recovery process will more than likely continue for the rest of your life, being mindful of emotional, mental, and physical relapses will boost your understanding of the addiction process. It is important to note that relapse is not only considered the action of returning to alcohol or drug use, it is also linked to the emotional and mental process, which can start the relapse journey days or weeks before you start using again.

Finding healthy coping skills will help create a strong life of recovery, free from alcohol and drugs.

The Importance of Relapse Prevention

Life can oftentimes be complicated and difficult so it is important to stay on top of triggers, or stimuli that increase the desire to drink or use drugs. Relapse prevention allows an individual to take responsibility of their life and to ensure that they are not only remaining abstinent from alcohol and drugs, but also dealing with life by using healthy coping skills and open communication.

Coping Skills for Relapse Prevention

Because recovery is a very personal journey, it is important to know that what works for one person may not work for another. In essence, try coping skills that you think will work for you; however, also be open-minded to new experiences, as this is considered the backbone of relapse prevention.

Practice self-care

Starting at the core of recovery efforts, practicing self-care is extremely important. Think of the base of a pyramid, which has a strong foundation; your recovery needs this too, so take care of yourself by ensuring that you are getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising, and working through any feelings of anger or resentment. Following a daily routine of self-care will act as the foundation for your recovery, and you can keep yourself on track in the early stages, by following a checklist or writing in a journal.

Obtain a sponsor

Obtaining a sponsor will decrease your chances of relapse and will help keep you accountable to your recovery. A sponsor is someone that is knowledgeable of the 12-step program, as well as that of a life of recovery. Oftentimes, the sponsor is also in recovery, and can offer you guidance and support for difficult times.

Communication times

For relapse prevention, communication plays such an important role, as it allows you to stay in touch with other people, while enforcing accountability to others. This coping skill can be used when you are feeling down, or simply have feelings of wanting to drink or use. At these times, it is important to call your sponsor or another person with whom you can have an honest conversation with and let them know the thoughts that are going through your head. Remember, honesty plays an important role in communication so they have to be used together or it won't be an effective coping skill. Other ways to communicate with others could be through the attendance of self-help or 12-step programs. These groups help you communicate with peers, which help you to not feel as alone and afraid, providing you with hope for the future.


Taking a time out and relaxing is crucial for a successful recovery program so it is important to learn healthy relaxation techniques. Remember, relaxation comes in many forms so it is important to find what works for you. Try listening to music that does not connect you with your old using or drinking life, run, go to the gym, or complete a meditation. A popular and easy form of relaxation is to concentrate on your breathing and count slowly as you breathe in and out. This will allow you to take deep breaths and fill up your diaphragm, which promotes relaxation of the mind and body.

Self-awareness training

Self-awareness is an important tool in recovery as it allows you to continually monitor yourself from both a physical and emotional perspective. In relapse prevention, many recovering individuals follow an acronym of HALT, which focuses on individuals ensuring that they are not too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Addiction experts have agreed that these feelings, if not taken care of, can increase an individual's chances of relapsing. Write daily in a journal that discusses these feelings, and if you find that you are experiencing one, talk to your group of friends or people from your support group at how you can work through these feelings.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Additional Activities

Prompts About Coping Skills for Relapse Prevention:

Study Prompt:

Make a set of flash cards for definitions of the six bolded terms in the lesson (relapse prevention, triggers, coping skills, sponsor, honesty, meditation).

Tip: For the purposes of this lesson, honesty refers to being truthful when exercising communication skills.

Essay Prompt:

Write an essay of at least one to two paragraphs that describes the importance of relapse prevention and how it can be used to counteract triggers.

Example: Relapse prevention allows the recovering addict to participate fully in their recovery.

List Prompt 1:

Make a list of at least five ways a person can engage in self-care. These can be examples from the lesson, but try to think of your own as well.

Example: Bathing.

List Prompt 2:

Make a list of at least five examples of relaxation. If you use examples from the lesson, try to recall them from memory. Try to think of your own examples.

Example: Getting a massage.

Poster Prompt:

Create a poster that depicts the acronym of HALT and shows how this acronym can be used for self-awareness.

Example: HALT refers to encouraging people to understand if they are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it now
Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account