Recovering from a substance use addiction is an ongoing process that doesn’t end after attending rehabilitation. Maintaining abstinence from substances takes time, patience, resilience, and support. That’s why it is important that your rehabilitation program offers effective skills to prevent relapse, and a realistic duration of support upon program completion.
Many people are under the misconception that one rehabilitation program will provide an end-all solution. In reality, rehab only scratches the surface, helping patients to stabilize, collect their bearings, and develop further awareness about their addiction. It is the continuing care following rehabilitation that produces long-term results for recovery. By following through with your program’s aftercare, or enrolling in a step-down program, you can help reduce the likelihood of relapsing.
Why does relapse occur?
A number of factors can contribute to relapse, despite completing a program for recovery. Returning to a familiar environment or social setting in which you once used a substance can trigger memories and urges to use again. This can trigger the relapse cycle, which leads to recurring substance use;
- Stage 1: Emotional. This is where you are triggered by your environment or situation to crave substance use.
- Stage 2: Psychological. This is where you bargain with yourself to believe that using the substance again will not lead to a relapse in your addiction.
- Stage 3: Physical. Once you have made peace with the idea of using again, the physical act of using drugs or alcohol becomes much easier. The euphoria that you feel from reuniting with the substance then makes it difficult for this act to be a one time occurrence.
Relapse is not uncommon, in fact, research shows that the relapse rate for substance use disorder is 40-60%. This likelihood is similar to that of other chronic disorders and diseases such as asthma and type 1 diabetes. These relapses should all be recognized under the same chronic disorder umbrella, serving as a sign for resumed, modified, or new treatment. 
Relapse is so common that it is a frequently cited reason for seeking addiction recovery in the first place. Most individuals who seek help for substance use have already attempted to abstain on their own and are seeking a more permanent solution for recovery . Understanding that you need a more structured approach to recovery means that you are prepared to find a lasting solution.
How to avoid relapse
The purpose of planning ahead for relapse prevention is to identify early warning signs and develop effective coping skills to catch relapse in its earliest stages. Addressing relapse and using a prevention plan as soon as you begin to recognize warning signs has shown to significantly reduce your risk of relapsing.  There are many things to keep in mind when striving to prevent relapse.
- Avoid triggers such people or places connected to your substance use, situations which cause extreme stress, or situations in which you may witness substance use
- Ensure that you have a positive support network, or an emergency contact person for difficult or triggering situations
- Create a clear relapse-prevention plan and set measures to ensure accountability (such as recording progress and triggers, or checking in with a counsellor or group)
- Continue therapy or enrol in a program with an aftercare solution
Maintaining accountability and self-awareness plays an important role in relapse prevention. The goal of recovery programs is to set patients up for success for life, as opposed to short-term success. When seeking recovery support, consider programs that offer relapse-specific education and aftercare so that you are prepared to continue down the path of recovery.
How Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) support relapse-prevention
EHN Online’s IOP for Substance Use Disorder provides patients with the tools they need to prevent future relapse. Beginning with eight weeks of intensive therapy, patients will virtually attend both group therapy and individual therapy each week.
Group therapy plays an important role in continued recovery by creating an intimate support network. This allows participants to provide information and support to peers with similar experiences, while meeting one-on-one with a therapist creates an opportunity to build a personalized recovery plan and focus on their own journey.
By accessing an intensive program that does not require inpatient admission, IOP participants can learn and use relapse prevention strategies in real time. Working recovery into your ongoing life and schedule helps to eliminate the shock of returning to life outside of rehabilitation upon program completion.
Following the eight weeks of intensive therapy, the program offers ten months of aftercare support. This includes access to the Wagon app and one hour of group therapy per week. Because humans are social creatures by nature, formal therapy groups are proven to be effective in recovery as a source of persuasion, stabilization, and support. This creates an opportunity for healthy relationships, positive peer reinforcement, and way to develop new social skills. The rewarding nature of group therapy can at times produce even more positive benefits than individual therapy  . Accessing a combination of group and individual therapy lets participants reap the benefits of both methods.
Staying on top of your recovery
Because addiction is a life-long fight, it is helpful for people in recovery to enrol in an IOP as a way to refresh their knowledge. If you have attended a form of rehabilitation in the past but fear relapse or would benefit from intensive aftercare support, an IOP is a great step-down solution. Participants in the IOP for Substance Use Disorder can re-immerse themselves in recovery education, make adjustments to their recovery plan, and stay connected to a network of support.
Recovery from a substance use disorder is an ongoing process, and completing a treatment program is only the first step towards healing. The journey to sobriety takes time, patience and support. Enrolling in the right program is the first step towards getting and staying sober.
Not sure if this program matches where you are in your own journey to recovery? We’ve got you covered. Check out these group therapy options.
Socialization and Stabilization Group Therapy
Eight week group designed to support individuals, regardless of their position on the recovery continuum. Suitable for those at the precontemplation stage, who are resistant to “formal” programming, or are looking for a starting point to explore available recovery options. Read more.
Relapse Prevention Group Therapy
Eight week group primarily for those who have undergone treatment before. Individuals will be introduced to practical skills, create their own high risk prevention plan, develop a personal commitment statement and participate in exercises that will empower them to live a life without alcohol, drugs and/or other unhealthy behaviours. Read more.
A Team That Supports Your Recovery Goals
EHN Canada and EHN Online make the process of getting the qualified help you need easy. Give us a call to learn more about our services and how we can support you on your journey to recovery. With facilities online and across Canada, we can find a program that’s right for you.
Bellwood (Toronto, ON): 1-800-387-6198
Edgewood (Vancouver Island, BC): 1‑800‑683‑0111
Ledgehill (Lawrencetown, NS): 1-800-676-3393
Sandstone (Calgary, AB): 1-587-350-6818
Gateway (Peterborough, Ontario): 1-705-535-0636
Nouveau Depart (Montreal, Quebec): 1-888-488-2611
EHN Online: 1-888-767-3711
Or contact us by email.
After finding the right program, you can get started on your recovery, supported by EHN Canada, a recognized leader in addiction and mental health services. Wherever your symptoms fall, we can help you find a new and better place to thrive.
 NIDA. (2020). Treatment and Recovery. Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery
 Melemis S. M. (2015). Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 88(3), 325–332.
 Scheidlinger S. (2000). The Group Psychotherapy Movement at the Millennium: Some Historical Perspectives. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 50(3), 315-339, DOI: 10.1080/00207284.2000.11491012
 McRoberts, Chris et al. (1998). Comparative Efficacy of Individual and Group Psychotherapy: A Meta-Analytic Perspective. Group Dynamics Theory Research and Practice 2(2):101-117, DOI:10.1037/1089-2622.214.171.124