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Relapse Prevention Exercises

By Joshua McCarron

Relapse prevention refers to a systematic process of educating recovering addicts about relapse warning signs and how best to manage them if they show up. Relapse often begins with a mistaken belief that can lead to addictive thinking patterns and a return to compulsive, destructive behavior, according to the Addiction Alternatives website. Performing various relapse prevention exercises can help get a patient back on track.

The Centering Exercise

The centering exercise is designed to calm the mind of racing thoughts and relax the body. Have the patient sit comfortably and straight, with feet on the floor. Instruct him to close his eyes and breathe slowly in through the nose, hold the breath for a moment, then breathe out through the mouth until his lungs are empty. Ask him to notice any negative thoughts that come into his mind. Instruct him to keep breathing in the same pattern, then open his eyes when ready.

Warning Sign Management Exercise

Warning sign management refers to the actions a patient will take if she notices her personal warning signs of an impending relapse begin to surface. During a warning sign management exercise, the patient reads her strategies to the group and the group responds with a series of "what if" questions, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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Life and Addiction History Exercise

The patient must give a 10 minute talk to the rest of the group in a life and addiction history exercise. In the talk, he gives a summary of his addiction, any criminal behavior, and other important aspects that may have led him to his current place. The group will then ask questions about his life in an effort to determine the turning points that started the downward progression.

Sentence Completion Exercise

The ability to identify thoughts that aren't true and mistaken beliefs about herself, the world, and other people, is a key tool in preventing a relapse, says Addiction Alternatives. With the group, have the patient create a sentence stem, the beginning of a sentence that has meaning to her. It will typically be about some aspect of her addiction. Have her write down the stem, then say six to eight different endings to the sentence out loud. Have a group member write down each ending, then read the endings with the group to look for any recurring theme that may be a mistaken belief and possible trouble in the future.

The Daily Recovery Plan

Have each patient make a recovery plan for each day, detailing the actions and thoughts that will bring them closer to their goals. Review the daily recovery plans with the group and have each member give feedback in an effort to make the plan more feasible.

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