Relapse prevention

Download or print this module:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

You’ve got this far – well done. Think about what you’ve achieved so far.

You came here because you wanted to address your problem

You’ve learnt a lot about yourself and your behaviour

You’ve challenged unhelpful thoughts and feelings

This module will:

  • help you to avoid repeating previous inappropriate behaviour or thoughts
  • keep you moving forward positively


Developing a risk prevention/management plan

One of the biggest problems in managing risk is what happens next. It is not sufficient to understand your behaviour and make changes. It is maintaining the momentum for change after the intensive work has been done. The essence of a risk prevention and management plan is anticipating and avoiding risk situations and making plans to fall back on.

You should by now have learned a lot about your unhelpful patterns of behaviour and be able to spot your thinking errors and the early warning signs of your cycle of problematic behaviour. Having a risk prevention and management plan which contains information about these elements and how to manage risky situations will assist in preventing lapse and relapse.

  • lapse is when you slide back into the beginning of the cycle without actually engaging in the abusive behaviour and/or offending. An example would be having inappropriate thoughts which you masturbate to.
  • relapse is an actual recurrence of the problematic behaviour which in some cases might also be an offence.

We have already identified interventions which can assist in risk management. Having an actual strategy involves bringing what you know about your behaviour and these interventions together to produce a coherent plan that you can refer to which will help in both maintaining healthy behaviours and during the occasions when you may lapse.

What to include in your plan

Risky thoughts, feelings and behaviours

Bullet point thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are risky to you so it is clear to you exactly what you need to look out for.

Think about why they are risky.

Avoidant goals

Identify what to do to avoid the above and identify coping strategies to do this.

Note: It is important to be aware that simply avoiding the thoughts and/or abstaining from the behaviours that influenced the abusive behaviour may have a short term limited effect. Unless they are replaced with other more appropriate thoughts and behaviours, simply seeking to suppress thinking or abstaining from a behaviour in the absence of anything to fill the gap could trigger a relapse.

Approach goals

Identify what you will think, feel and do instead, including lifestyle changes that will enable you to meet the needs that were previously being met by the abusive behaviour in more healthy ways.

An escape strategy

Write down what you will do if you feel you are in a ‘high risk’ situation. An escape route is a back up plan.

Positive support network

Right the contact details down of who will you turn to if you need support. This can include professional and personal supports depending on who is aware of your problematic behaviour.

Short and long term goals

These should be regularly reviewed along with the risk prevention and management plan overall. These could involve goals aimed at achieving lifestyle changes which it has been identified contributed to the abusive behaviour e.g. anger management, substance misuse, addictions, relationship counselling and the acquisition of social and communication skills.

Access to potential victims

Detail how you will avoid/manage situations which could bring you into contact with potential victims. This is especially important if other people are not aware of these risk issues and cannot therefore be part of any external controls such as supervising contact with children.

Maintaining change

In order to maintain change it is important to regularly review your risk prevention and management plan. Risk is dynamic – it changes and is influenced by many factors. Being alert to changes in your situation, thinking and behaviour is essential.

Keeping a diary or journal is an effective way of observing and monitoring your responses to different situations, thoughts and feelings and will help you to identify patterns of behaviour early on. Examples of diaries which can be used are those that focus on thoughts and feelings – which help identify thinking errors, patterns and negative responses and those that focus on behaviours.

If you want to discuss anything covered in this module, have struggled with working through the self-help material or just want the opportunity to work through the self-help site with a practitioner to guide you then please call the Stop It Now! Helpline for confidential support from our trained staff.

Back to top

Can you help us improve the effectiveness of this website?

To keep this website and its self-help resources as effective as possible for its users, we would very much appreciate you taking a short survey. The survey is completely confidential and you will not need to provide any identifying details. It should take about ten minutes to complete.

To take the survey, please click here.

Thank you.