5 Ways to Help Someone Overcome a Relapse

header curve background image

5 Ways to Help Someone Overcome a Relapse

If there’s one certainty about addiction recovery, it is that many people will relapse at least once. In fact, according to the National Institute on Health (NIH), about 40% to 60% of people relapse within the first year after leaving rehab.  With that in mind, let’s look at some ways to help a person overcome a relapse.

It’s important to remember that a relapse does not mean treatment failed.  Relapse should not be seen as a sign that the person is a hopeless case.  It simply means more work needs to be done.  The person may need to return to rehab, change their environment, or find a stronger support team.

When a relapse occurs, the last thing the person needs is a bunch of negative remarks or judgment.  They are probably already feeling discouraged and regretful about the incident.  The best way to help the individual is with positive actions and words that will help them move ahead.  Furthermore, ignoring the relapse or placing blame won’t solve anything for the person.

Helping Someone Overcome a Relapse

Helping a person accept the relapse and take action to avoid another one can be tricky.  The best way to begin is to help the individual identify the cause of the relapse so they can learn from the mistake.  Of course, there are a few other ways to help someone who has relapsed such as:

#1.  Show understanding and compassion.

Generally, society expects us to apply “tough love” when dealing with addicted individuals.  However, studies show that most people respond more favorably when treated with genuine respect and compassion.  Let the individual know that understand that this is simply a small setback.  Offer to help them get back into treatment.  Or, find a support group and attend with the person.

#2.  Offer encouragement.

When you show confidence in their ability to succeed, you help the individual believe in themselves.  Let the person know you believe he or she is capable of overcoming the relapse and maintaining sobriety in the future.

#3.  Show an interest in their needs

Instead of focusing so much on finding solutions to the relapse, focus on offering support.  Ask the individual what you can do to help.  Let them know you respect the courage they’ve shown so far in overcoming addiction.

#4.  Remind them that future setbacks can be avoided.

Relapse is only one setback in the overall process of change.  The person who can use the experience as a learning opportunity will succeed.  Friends and family can also learn more about how to support the individual.

#5.  Encourage personal responsibility.

The last thing you should do is to take over and try to fix things for the person.  It’s important that he or she figure things out for themselves.  They need to learn to identify and avoid triggers and find better ways to cope.  You don’t want to make the individual feel that he or she is incapable of doing what needs to be done.  Just let them know you’re there to help if they need you.

Overall, the five best ways to help someone overcome a relapse is with compassion, encouragement, respect, support, and guidance.

How Rehab Facilities Can Help Prevent Relapse

When relapse happens it may mean that the person left rehab too soon, or that the program didn’t provide aftercare services or guidance.  Aftercare is a vital component of continued sobriety.

At A Forever Recovery, we strongly recommend having a plan for continued support after leaving our program. The plan should be comprehensive enough to address all aspects of transitioning back into society after rehab.  It’s vital that the individual not feel all alone at this sensitive time.  That’s why we work with our clients to tailor an aftercare program that is right for their needs and will help them overcome relapse and prevent future setbacks.


drugabuse.gov – Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction/Treatment and Recovery

Add Your Comment