Relapse prevention is a term used in addiction treatment and recovery. It is an abstinence strategy that forms part of the post-treatment or continuing care services provided by rehab centers across the United States, including Begin Again Institute. These particular aftercare services involve teaching individuals recovering from various forms of addiction how to spot and manage environmental and psychological cues and triggers.
Triggers include people, places, things, thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Preventing relapse is crucial. However, the use of the term “relapse” itself may be counterproductive in a recovery setting. Recognizing the potential adverse effects of talking about preventing relapse caused a shift toward using the term “recovery maintenance.”
The Stigma of Sex Addiction
Someone with a hypersexuality disorder may also have a sex addiction. This means the person is unable to control their sexual thoughts, urges, or behaviors to the detriment of their personal lives. They compulsively seek and engage in behaviours despite how it may affect their health, job, or relationships.
Hypersexual disorder, or sex addiction, is an umbrella term used to cover various types of behaviors that include:
- Excessive Masturbation
- Pornography Addiction
- Sexual Behavior w/ Consenting Adults,
- Phone Sex
- Strip Club Visitation
The negative consequences of sex addiction are similar to those of other addictive disorders.
Even though sex addiction has a negative psychosocial impact on those who suffer from it, psychiatrists have largely ignored it. Lack of data on the disorder has kept it from being an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Despite its absence from the DSM-5, the prevalence rates of sex addiction disorders stand at 3-6%.
Language Matters in Recovery
Words can encourage you or discourage you from getting the help you need or doing the work necessary to remain in recovery.
Incidentally, stigmatizing language crosses over to the healthcare setting and may negatively influence health care providers’ view of people with addictions and co-occurring disorders. This can affect the care they provide, according to a publication by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Words Matter: Terms to Use and Avoid When Talking About Addiction. Though this is aimed at language used in substance use recovery, the general idea is the same. The importance of people-first language – referring to someone as a “person in recovery” versus a “former addict” – is paramount to reducing stigma surrounding addiction.
While treatment specialists have no control over terms used in the individual’s social setting, they can show leadership by using language to reduce stigma and negative bias.
Examples of stigmatizing language in a treatment setting include:
- Relapse prevention
- Former addict
- Reformed addict
Preferred Language in Therapy
Treatment specialists are encouraged to substitute demeaning terms, words, or phrases for ones that promote self-confidence, self-esteem, recovery, and long-term wellness.
Some preferred language examples:
- Person living with hypersexuality disorder instead of “sex addict”
- Person in recovery instead of “former sex addict”
- Recovery maintenance instead of “relapse prevention”
The idea is to identify the problem without suggesting that the individual is the problem. Furthermore, using the right words and focusing on recovery maintenance can help clients feel motivated to do the work necessary to live an addiction-free life.
What is Recovery Maintenance?
Addiction is a chronic and relapsing disorder. Recovery maintenance is an aftercare plan that requires you to take positive action to avoid cues and triggers that could cause a relapse. It is not the same as relapse prevention although the general principles and objectives focus on sustaining your recovery. You will learn to manage cues and triggers and develop skills for maintaining behaviors that support long-term wellness.
Some treatment centers are moving away from the idea of preventing relapse because it can cause the person in long-term recovery to think they won’t get over their addiction. Instead, the term recovery maintenance seems to be a better strategy in promoting long-term wellness. It allows you to worry less about relapse and focus more on sustaining your recovery. Your therapist will also encourage you to build a support system of people that can help you cope with life stressors, cravings, and compulsive urges.
What Does Recovery Maintenance Mean?
Like relapse prevention, recovery maintenance is an aftercare or continuing care strategy. However, recovery maintenance is a much bigger plan than preventing relapse. The plan may even feature a, “what if relapse happens,” section. Relapse can and does happen, so this will help you prepare in the event it occurs. Nevertheless, the focus at this stage of rehabilitation is more on helping you abstain from compulsive behaviors and urges that could compromise your recovery.
Relapse Prevention is a cognitive-behavioural approach to helping clients avoid triggers and situations that may negatively impact their recovery following treatment. The overall goal is to help you identify and address situations that increase the risk of relapse.
Planning for a relapse acts as a safety net. However, it assumes that treatment will fail once you return to your old environment. But the idea of relapse and the extensive efforts placed on preventing it can create a sense of imminent doom in your mind. Besides, constantly focusing on avoiding relapse can become a source of stress, which can be a trigger for many living with hypersexuality disorder.
Recovery Maintenance vs Relapse Prevention: A New Approach
Rehabilitation experts recognised the impact the idea of relapse has on the brain and started focusing on the concept of recovery maintenance instead. Why? Because language matters.
How you speak about a myriad of topics can shape the narrative – much like using gender-inclusive language, choosing language that destigmatizes hypersexuality disorders (and other addictions or co-occurring diagnoses) will help reduce the negative stereotypes linked to addictions.
Recovery Maintenance Programs
Recovery maintenance is about teaching you skills to help you manage triggers and cope with stressful situations and problematic behaviors after leaving treatment. It teaches life skills to help you set and achieve goals and live a productive life.
Your recovery maintenance plan will be tailored to suit your needs and may include the following services, resources, or interventions:
- Outpatient individual or group counseling
- Alumni programs
- Continuing Care Programs
- Medication therapy
- 12-step programs or recovery meetings
These programs and services are in keeping with the notion that recovery from addiction is a long-term process and involving various stages. Providing these and similar aftercare resources helps to increase your chances of recovery maintenance long after formal treatment ends. In other words, it helps you achieve the goals of preventing relapse without focusing on relapse.
Continuing Care at Begin Again Institute
Stigma remains the biggest barrier to addiction treatment faced by people with a sex addiction. At Begin Institute, we understand the critical role continuing care plays in helping you to remain in recovery. Our treatment professionals and recovery maintenance specialists are trained to use language that does not stigmatize and promotes abstinence without suggesting that a relapse looms.
We’ve seen how this approach increased the chance of long-term sobriety in our clients. We want you to enjoy the same level of confidence when you return home. Contact us to find out more about our 14-Day Men’s Intensive, other treatment programs and therapies, as well as continuing care services.