The purpose of this paper is to provide an historical overview of the development of the taxonomy of high-risk situations for relapse in patients receiving abstinence-based treatment for alcoholism. Research conducted during the 1970s on determinants of relapse is briefly reviewed, beginning with a preliminary analysis of relapse patterns in alcoholics treated with aversion therapy. Theoretical foundations underlying the development of the taxonomy are then discussed with an emphasis on social-learning theory and its implications for cognitive-behavioral interventions for relapse prevention. Findings supporting the efficacy of coping-skills training for high-risk relapse situations, based on a prospective treatment outcome study for inpatient alcoholics, are also presented in support of the clinical validity of the relapse model. The paper concludes with a description of the refined and extended taxonomy of high-risk situations and the associated cognitive-behavioral model of relapse described in the Marlatt & Gordon (1985) text on relapse prevention.