Insight Treatment – Relapse Prevention Strategies

Your teen has completed their residential or outpatient treatment program. Proud, optimistic, happy, determined, nervous, worried–these feelings flood your mind. It took a village to help them get so far and now they are on their own, somewhat. Know that the path of sobriety is a lifetime process and your child needs you by their side.

Like all habits, it takes time and effort to stay on track. And like all habits, relapse is a norm. Substituting substance misuse with healthy habits is no exception. In fact, it is estimated that 85% of people relapse within a year of finishing their treatment. This does not mean that they are failures or doomed. Relapse is a natural result of mismanaged prevention skills or lacking a plan in case of relapse.

How can you recognize if your teen is on their way toward a relapse? Well, there are several indicators of a setback ranging from triggers to stages of relapse. First, it is best to understand common triggers teens face that may influence them to seek out a substance to numb the discomfort. 

outpatient treatment program


  • Academic demands
  • Peer pressure
  • Nostalgic images, scents
  • Conflict in romantic relationships and familial relationships
  • Family money problems
  • Seeing friends that remind them of using
  • Attending gatherings with drugs and alcohol
  • Social isolation
  • Boredom
  • Untreated mental health issues


Assuming they have been confronted with one trigger (or more), relapse can follow if unattended. Relapse occurs in three stages: emotional, mental, and physical. The quicker you notice the first signs, the easier it is to intervene and avoid a full relapse.


Signs of an Emotional Relapse (First):

  • Depression
  • Anxiety 
  • Isolation
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Sleeping issues
  • Bad eating habits
  • Poor hygiene and appearance
  • Skipping therapy or recovery group meetings

Signs of a Mental Relapse (Second):

  • Hanging out in places where they previously used
  • Talking about the “good old times”
  • Making plans/hanging with friends who use
  • Lying 
  • Secretiveness

Signs of Physical Relapse (Third):

  • Lapse (initial use)
  • Relapse (continued use)
  • Inability to stop using

Making a relapse plan with your teen is a good way to be cautious and supportive, without judgment. Let your teen know you are on their side and want them to get through this but understand we sometimes take a step backward.

Example Relapse Plan:

  • Create an emergency list on your and your teen’s phone. Include the contact information of their counselors, therapist, close family members, sobriety program companions, and any other person your teen trusts   
  • Have a list of emergency hotlines and crisis center lines saved on your phones
  • Carry an overdose kit with you


You do not have to wait until you notice signs of relapse to implement prevention strategies. Taking precautionary steps with your teen can help them sustain their sobriety.


Relapse Prevention Strategies

  • Find Support: Addiction treatment aftercare is vital for your teen’s success. Keep them enrolled in teen group therapy and attend meetings with them if appropriate. Or, join family therapy in drug rehabilitation for teens center.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Take a few minutes a day to practice mindfulness meditation and breathing techniques with your teen. This coping mechanism can come in handy when they feel anxious.
  • Be Grateful: Make it a habit before a meal for each person in your household to say what they are grateful for that day. Acknowledging the positives can help your teen shift their perspective if they feel hopeless.
  • Express Feelings: You can lead by example by discussing your feelings about what is going on in your, your teen’s life, and society to let them know it is okay to share and that their feelings are valid. You can also buy yourself and them a journal to disclose private thoughts. 


For more information on teen rehab in Los Angeles, call Insight Treatment at 888.295.9995.