Relapse Prevention Strategy

15.02.2018 |

Episode #9 of the course How to heal yourself from phobia step by step by Gracelynn Lau, MWS


Welcome back again! According to studies conducted by Texas A&M University, a large percentage of individuals experienced a return of fear after behavioral therapies to reduce it. Today, we’ll focus on developing your own relapse prevention strategy to reduce the length and intensity if a relapse does occur.


What Can You Do When a Relapse Occurs?

If a relapse has occurred, it is important that you try not to become too discouraged or feel guilty. Having a relapse can be scary and frustrating, but there are things you can learn from it and try to move on again. Keep in mind that recovery is a spiral process, and that ups and downs are part of the journey.

Here are a few tips to manage a relapse:

• Bombard yourself with the positive achievements you have made. Remember how good you had been feeling before the relapse happened.

• Return to Lessons 3, 5, and 6, and follow the exercises to anchor in your body, activate your imagination, and practice mindfulness. It will strengthen your capacities to counter fear again.

• In your healing journal, identify what has changed or caused the relapse. Compare how you were before the relapse to how you are now. Write down how you felt before and now. What are the situations/feelings that led to the relapse? Make a plan of how you will try to handle it if it happens again.

• Modify your treatment plan. You can always move a few steps backward. Find the step that you can handle now without moving into avoidance. It’ll be a good place to start again.


How to Create a Relapse Prevention Strategy

The best time to create a relapse prevention plan is when you are making progress and feeling positive. Many people don’t realize that they are sick until the symptoms become severe. Our task here is to maintain a gradual, regular practice that works toward avoiding any future relapses. So, you can do the following:

1. Track your emotions daily. Monitoring your emotional currents every day helps develop an awareness of how you are feeling in general. By rating your feelings using a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being calm and 10 being extreme, you will be able to determine how well you are managing your emotions. I keep a daily emotions tracker that looks like this:


Month: _________

Mood \ Date 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Anxious 7 5 6 5
Anger 4 2 6 3
Worry 9 7 9 8
Rapid breath 4 4 3 4


In the left column, I write down dominating moods and body-states that I have been experiencing. I rate the intensity of each mood or body-state on a scale of 0 to 10 on a daily basis. Once I am more aware of my overall emotional climate, then I can decide if I need to make any lifestyle changes for better adjustment.

2. Identify high-risk situations. One of the good ways to prevent future relapses is to know your “red flags.” Most relapses occur during vulnerable times, including arguments with a partner, feeling physically ill, or stress at work. Understanding your own emotional triggers and patterns will be helpful to plan for positive responses. It’s important to identify possible high-risk situations where you could be overwhelmed with fear or find it too much to cope. Make a list of specific situations and events that cause extreme levels of anxiety for you. Then you can avoid them or have a plan in place to cope with them effectively.

3. Develop a “Red Flag” emergency action plan. Look again at the list of situations and events that cause extreme levels of anxiety for you.Think ahead of time: How would you choose to respond if those symptoms happen? Here is an example:

When I notice I am avoiding ___________, I need to ___________ before the avoidance tendency intensifies.

Make a list of actions you can follow immediately to improve your mood, thoughts, and behaviors. For example: What positive thoughts can give you an emotional boost?

What thoughts or behaviors will keep you motivated to maintain positive ways of managing your fear? Who can you talk to when a symptom intensifies? What behaviors can encourage you to stop giving in to avoidance?

Tomorrow will be our last lesson. We will summarize everything we learned throughout this course, which will be a step-by-step manual of healing for you as a reference.

Cheers to healing,



Recommended book

Freeing Your Child from Anxiety: Practical Strategies to Overcome Fears, Worries, and Phobias and Be Prepared for Life–from Toddlers to Teens by Tamar Chansky Ph.D.


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