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How to Build Healthy Coping Mechanisms After Rehab

Throughout addiction rehab treatment, patients learn how to build healthy coping mechanisms after rehab to maintain sobriety. However, even after someone completes treatment, they’re bound to face stressful situations, find themselves in triggering situations, or seeing people that might start their old habits. This is why building healthy coping mechanisms after rehab is a critical aspect of long-term sobriety. 

What are Coping Skills?

During aftercare programs, patients and therapists focus on developing healthy coping skills or mechanisms. But what are they? The word “coping” means “to invest a conscious effort, to learn how to solve personal and interpersonal problems, and try to master, minimize, or tolerate stress and conflict.”

In other words, building healthy mechanisms means learning how to leave behind reactive ways of dealing with stress, such as using drugs or drinking alcohol, to start learning new ways to deal with these stressors. 

Types of Coping Mechanisms

In essence, coping mechanisms are these techniques we use to deal with stress or other uncomfortable situations. However, not all coping mechanisms are healthy ones. For example, addiction is a coping strategy. Many people turn to substances like drugs or alcohol to deal with stress, co-occurring mental health disorders, and more. However, addiction isn’t a long-term solution to these stressors, not to mention it creates a whole new set of issues that could potentially be life-threatening. 


Although there are hundreds of coping strategies, one of the most common ones are appraisal-focused coping strategies. Also known as adaptive cognitive strategies, when someone can modify the way they think—for example, distancing themselves from the problem. 

  • Distraction
  • Reappraisal
  • Labeling 


Moving on, adaptive behavioral coping strategies or problem-focused strategies focus on the root cause of the problem. Those who learn these strategies learn to find out information about the issue and focus on practicing skills to manage it. Problem-focused strategies work on eliminating the source of the problem. While it can be helpful, sometimes, when people face an uncontrollable citation, these mechanisms might not serve effectively. 

  • Taking control of your situation
  • Looking for information on how to handle something
  • Evaluating the pros and cons of a situation


Lastly, emotion-focused coping strategies are the ones most of us use. They work towards managing the emotions that accompany the perception of stress. Emotional coping strategies help alleviate distress by minimizing the emotional components of stressors. 

  • Seeking social support
  • Accepting responsibility
  • Using avoidance
  • Exercising self-control
  • Distancing from the stressor
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness

Of course, there are other ways to practice coping mechanisms. Many people choose social coping and resort to friends and family members to cope with stressful situations. Others use humor as a positive mechanism. However, regardless of whatever coping mechanism someone uses, it must be done positively. 

The Dangers of No Coping

When recovering addicts choose to ignore their emotions and dismiss their stressors, it can be dangerous. When this happens, they’re more likely to relapse and go back to their old habits. Also, not coping can lead to:

  • Depression 
  • Increase suicidal thoughts
  • Reduces the effectiveness of the immune system
  • Further damages mental and physical health 

Negative Coping Techniques

Also known as maladaptive coping or non-coping techniques, someone reduces their symptoms but maintains the stressor. These are short-term coping mechanisms that don’t help. These behavior strategies include dissociation, anxious avoidance, and self-medication. These types of coping reactions can eventually lead to worsening problems, including substance abuse. 

The Role of Aftercare

Continual aftercare is the portion of the process that requires regular and frequent upkeep. For most recovering addicts and alcoholics, aftercare is a highly personalized and unique experience. The trick is finding what works for you and sticking to it. 

Therefore, for many individuals, continual aftercare comes from a 12-step program of recovery and support groups. The amount of dedication a program of recovery requires will vary from individual to individual. Take time to develop yours, and try to remember to trust in the process.

Depending on the individual, more stages may be required and for varying lengths of time. For example, individuals with co-occurring psychological disorders may need to complete partial hospitalization programs or dual diagnosis treatment programs.

Aftercare programs can cover things like:

  • Individual and group therapy sessions
  • 12-step group meetings and other support networks
  • Treatment with family members to promote healing
  • Training and life skills development courses
  • Relapse prevention technique classes
  • Medication-assisted therapy

Also, they might show you different alternative therapies that can help manage these potential triggers. Activities like breathing exercises that allow a person to clear their thoughts and refocus their awareness can be powerful prevention tools. 

Besides, the inclusion of holistic therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, journaling, meditation, and others can help recovering addicts focus on their well-being. These practices can be beneficial for managing emotional triggers. 

Seeking Help for Addiction

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorders, seek help today. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our substance abuse treatment options incorporate relapse prevention techniques throughout the program, helping those in recovery build a strong support system that can help them win the battle against drug addiction.

In addition, our aftercare recovery programs offer ongoing support to those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. We know how difficult addiction relapse can be for those in recovery, which is why we provide continuing support to those in early addiction recovery, helping them improve their daily routines and help them find the best ways to avoid relapse long-term.

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