Relapse Prevention Therapy: Know Your Triggers

You have connections with people, places or things that remind you of good or bad times. A song can remind you of when you were out with friends, broke up with your significant other or learned about an event. Whether it’s music, art, a person or a thing, there’s something that can bring up feelings of joy, sadness or anger. 

Emotions or reactions to the people, places or objects that trigger your responses can cause you to harm or improve your health. How you feel or respond to these triggers is essential for understanding why you seek comfort or strength in certain people, places or substances. When you’re on the road to recovery, you’ll learn about your triggers and how relapse prevention therapy can help you stay the course.


What sets you off? A trigger is something that brings your memory back to a particular person, time or event. In some cases, a trigger could be a smell, sound or object. Whatever the trigger is, it can release an emotional or physical response. When something causes an emotional or physical reaction, that trigger can be a catalyst for your feelings — depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Let’s consider how standard practices or rituals can affect your response to a person or place. Think about how you respond to specific social traditions or act when you are with friends or family. Do you associate the clink of an ice cube in a glass with drinking alcohol? What about getting together with friends to hang out? Maybe when you get together, you would smoke marijuana, drink alcohol or use cocaine. The shared behaviors or triggers can affect how you perceive social situations. Before you can begin to replace harmful habits with healthy habits, you can learn what triggers your urge to use a substance.

Here are some examples of common triggers:

  • An anniversary of a traumatic event like a death, a loss or a sexual assault
  • Upsetting news
  • Feeling like you have too much to do and not enough time
  • Stress or tension caused by relationships
  • A break-up
  • Friends, family or co-workers who tease you, put you down or criticize you
  • Economic concerns like not being able to pay a bill or losing your job

To learn how to replace harmful routines with healthy routines, you need to understand why or what causes you to respond with the unhealthy habit. Therapy can help you implement healthy coping skills – and in turn, prevent relapse when you face certain triggers.

Relapse Prevention Therapy

Entering addiction treatment shows how strong you are because you made the tough decision to face your substance dependence. Addiction treatment helps you identify triggers, address mental health issues, relationships and provides holistic therapies like yoga and relapse prevention therapy. While in treatment, you can explore and discuss ways to prevent relapse, such as recognizing your triggers and learning healthy coping skills. 

There are warning signs associated with relapse. Often these signs are linked with returning to familiar haunts, social gatherings or an environment. Relapse prevention therapy helps you process what makes you turn to substances. When you work with your therapist on identifying what leads to your use, you can also learn how to employ the healthy coping skills you learned while in therapy. You can learn how to remove yourself from unhealthy relationships or environments. In some cases, this can mean cutting ties with those who are dangerous to your recovery process.

Sober Living

What if you don’t have a safe environment to return to after addiction treatment? Or what if you find yourself in an environment where you fear you can relapse? You can either transition to sober living after you finish treatment or enter sober living if you feel you may relapse. A sober living facility can provide you with everything you need, physically and psychologically, while healing. The healing process can take time, and you should have the security and comfort you need to continue your healing process. 

To avoid making unhealthy choices, you can benefit from individual and group therapy that focuses on what triggers your substance use. When you learn to process mental health, environmental or social triggers, you can start healing by finding healthy coping skills. Healthy coping skills can aid you in preventing relapse. If you feel you aren’t ready to transition from treatment to your former environment, talk with your therapist about sober living. Cliffside Malibu supports your road to recovery with relapse prevention therapy, aftercare plans and the option to transition to our sober living facility. Call (855) 403-5641 for information about our relapse prevention therapy.