Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery

Yale J Biol Med. 2015 Sep 3;88(3):325-32. eCollection 2015 Sep.


There are four main ideas in relapse prevention. First, relapse is a gradual process with distinct stages. The goal of treatment is to help individuals recognize the early stages, in which the chances of success are greatest. Second, recovery is a process of personal growth with developmental milestones. Each stage of recovery has its own risks of relapse. Third, the main tools of relapse prevention are cognitive therapy and mind-body relaxation, which are used to develop healthy coping skills. Fourth, most relapses can be explained in terms of a few basic rules. Educating clients in these rules can help them focus on what is important: 1) change your life (recovery involves creating a new life where it is easier to not use); 2) be completely honest; 3) ask for help; 4) practice self-care; and 5) don't bend the rules.

Keywords: 12-step groups; Alcoholics Anonymous; Narcotics Anonymous; PAWS; abstinence stage; cognitive therapy; denial; denied user; emotional relapse; five rules of recovery; growth stage; high-risk situations; mental relapse; mind-body relaxation; mindfulness-based relapse prevention therapy; non-user; physical relapse; post-acute withdrawal; relapse; relapse prevention; repair stage; self-care; self-help groups; stages of recovery; stages of relapse.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior, Addictive / prevention & control*
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Recurrence
  • Secondary Prevention / methods*
  • Social Support*