Course Description

Relapse prevention (RP) is a broad term that refers to a wide range of therapeutic techniques that aid in the prevention of lapses and the relapse of addictive behaviours. The term relapse was initially used in the medical field to refer to those people who re-experience a disease stage (Marlatt and Donovan, 2005). In the addiction field, this term is commonly associated with returning to addictive behaviours/substances after a period of abstinence.

RP is essentially cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with a focus on the maintenance stage of addictive behaviour change that has three main goals:

  • Prevent a return to addictive behaviours/substances.
  • Prevent a slip or lapse from turning into a relapse.
  • Stop relapse quickly should it occur.
  • RP aims to increase the client’s awareness of high-risk situations and increase coping skills, self-efficacy and control of internal and external triggers that may make the client more vulnerable to relapse. Relapse prevention is highly educational and a specialized skill set that is integral to addressing all types of addictions.

CACCF: 12 continuing education hours.

Learner Outcomes

  • Create an understanding of relapse as an unfolding process rather than an event.
  • Develop an understanding of relapse terminology.
  • Review key philosophies and theoretical approaches (Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention).
  • Understand the role of relapse in the stages of change model.
  • Identify the three most common high-risk situations that precipitate relapse.
  • Understand the role that seemingly unrelated decisions (SUD) play in the relapse chain.
  • Explore how healthy lifestyle changes aid in RP.
  • Increase understanding about the power of distraction in coping with cravings.
  • Learn about the value of a support system.
  • Address common myths associated with relapse.
  • Increase the helping provider’s confidence in engaging in a discussion about the essential components of relapse prevention: high-risk situations, urges and triggers.
  • Learn and apply practical skills that will assist the client in developing an individualized relapse prevention plan.


For more information contact the Faculty of Social Work Professional Development office:

Email: fswprofessionaldevelopment@wlu.ca
Kitchener: 519-884-0710 ext. 5234
Milton: 519-884-0710 ext. 5235
Online: 519-884-0710 ext. 5235


Supplementary Resources
For additional learning, the following books are recommended by instructor:

Structured Relapse Prevention: An Outpatient Counselling Approach (2nd Edition) by Marilyn A. Herie and Lyn Watkin-Merek

Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention for Addictive Behaviours, A Clinicians Guide by Sarah Bowen, Neha Chawla, G. Alan Marlatt

Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention for Problem Gambling by Peter Chen, Farah Jindani, and Nigel E. Turner

Applies Towards the Following Certificates


This workshop is currently not available. The 2021/2022 Faculty of Social Work Professional Development course and workshop dates will be available in early July 2021.

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