Now we have looked at prevention and preparedness, we need to consider how we will respond if lapse or relapse does occur.
Despite a young person being able to identify a range of high risk situations and having or developing coping skills and strategies to cope with these, lapse and relapse can still occur. Nevertheless, it needs to be noted that lapse does not necessarily equate to, or lead to, relapse. The earlier in the lapse or relapse process the young person can receive support and assistance, the better the likely outcome for the young person. A young person needs to feel comfortable talking about the experience of a lapse with their worker. This conversation requires that the practitioner provide an empathic response while maintaining the young person’s responsibility in their choices.
Recovering from a lapse involves a very quick review of the situation that has triggered the lapse and construction of some safety barriers should the same high-risk situation recur. At this time, it is important that the practitioner remain solution focused.
Revisiting some of the skills, or contracts that were previously discussed in treatment can be useful at this time to “reignite” motivation and commitment to goals.
Should a young person return to a more continued pattern of use, the practitioner will need to assist the young person to re-establish goals and hopes that had been previously important in their recovery. This process can begin by revisiting thoughts and feelings the young person had when they first started their journey of recovery. Reassurance from the practitioner that these goals were realistic and sustained for some time (no matter how short) can be useful. Enabling the young person to assess their behaviour, thoughts and feelings prior to relapse, can assist them in understanding how the relapse occurred. Strategies and skills can then be developed to avoid it happening again. Revisiting the skills development and relapse prevention strategies is useful at this time. Focusing on solutions and learning from the relapse is also helpful along with a supportive but frank discussion about possible choices that could lead to a different outcome in the future.