Module 9: working with young people on AOD issues: facilitator's guide

8.1 Relapse prevention/management

Page last updated: 2004

Relapse is common in any attempt to change behaviour, not just AOD-related behaviour (e.g. reducing coffee intake, quitting smoking or even trying to start and maintain an exercise routine, etc).

Relapse prevention/management should be an integral part of an entire intervention and play a major role in working with young people.

Learners should already be familiar with the Stages-of-Change model and the concept of relapse. The following exercise is intended to reinforce that learning.

Group activity
Relapse (lapse) prevention and management
Motivational interviews and relapse drills

Group activity

Ask learners to discuss in small groups what they think relapse, relapse prevention and relapse management mean. Clarify where necessary (Learner's Workbook is a source of information for this discussion). Learners to report to the large group.

Outline the essential ingredients of relapse (lapse) prevention.

Relapse (lapse) prevention and management

Overhead transparency

The essential ingredients of relapse (lapse) prevention and management include:
  • Acknowledging that a lapse is a normal experience and not be viewed negatively
  • Strengthening the motivation to change throughout the change process
  • Identifying high-risk situations
  • Developing coping strategies and skills to avoid high-risk situations and to deal with them when they are unavoidable
  • Developing coping strategies and skills to deal with lapses
  • Recognising and implementing changes to the client's environment and lifestyle to minimise the frequency of high-risk situations and to strengthen commitment to change.
  • Positive self-talk: the young person can be helped to develop a phrase or two to repeat to themselves when tempted to use (or go beyond their limit)
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Relaxation skills
  • Anger and depression management
  • Coping with craving
  • Identifying the build-up to relapse.Top of page

A work situation


Ask learners to recall a young person they are working with and in point form jot down their issues and characteristics. They should choose a particular situation or issue that they may have raised and, from the range of strategies above, draw up a plan to deal with it.

Then ask learners to 'role play' that young person, being interviewed by another learner. Ask them to choose a particular situation faced by that young person and develop a strategy to deal with it by re-establishing their resolve, then aim to learn from the 'lapse'.

Motivational interviews and relapse drills

Strategies that are helpful in the management of relapse can include relapse drills and motivational interviewing discussed in the Learner's Workbook.

When a young person continues to revert to drug-using behaviour it is advised that they be referred to a specialist alcohol and other drug worker.

Overhead transparency

Maintaining change

Long-term maintenance of change often requires significant changes to a young person's' lifestyle, such as:
  • establishing social contacts that are not AOD centred (new friendships/ peer group)
  • establishing new leisure activities and hobbies that are not AOD centred
  • living in a new place if needing to avoid a familiar group of heavy users
  • working in a new location to avoid heavy drug using scenes.


Ask learners to review the problem-solving work sheet in the previous topic and note how the young person is asked to identify a different situation, and to prepare in advance to deal with it.