Prevention consists of three aspects:
- Primary Prevention, which are activities and efforts that you make on your own time to stay in good health. This may include therapy, but on a very limited basis, such as mental health screens, a mental health assessment, or a few sessions about stress management, lifestyle issues, or specific short-term problems. It may also include a physical exam or advice from your doctor.
- Maintenance, which is the continuation of therapy over a course of time in order to maintain the progress made in therapy. Maintenance therapy is common to almost all forms of treatment (chemotherapy, occupational therapy, etc…). Maintenance is usually part of the treatment plan for more serious mental health problems, like Bipolar disorder, Recurrent Major Depression, Dysthymia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Eating Disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, PTSD, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a single episode of moderate to severe Major Depression, Asperger’s Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Marital problems, Family problems or other more serious issues.
Therapy often starts out as a weekly event, but the need to meet weekly declines as symptoms are alleviated and good health is restored. However, spreading meetings out to 1-2 times per month, every other month, or even once every 3 or six months may help keep symptoms at bay. Maintenance meetings are a time to review the presence and severity of symptoms and reinforce concepts and information that was previously provided. You will have a chance to bring the therapist “up to date,” on life stressors, problem resolution, and ask questions about symptoms or medications.
Maintenance sessions allow your therapist to continue to coordinate care with your doctor or psychiatrist, if necessary. You can continue a therapeutic relationship, so that if things do start to worsen, you have a professional there for you.
For other issuse, like marital or family problems, maintenance sessions can be of significant help. Couples and families can feel a sense of on-going support and accountability by continuing the professional relationship. As things become stable for a longer period of time, the dependency on therapy can be decreased and eventually terminated with more confidence. Another benefit is periodic phone calls for “quick questions,” to clarify or remind you about information, homework, or other previously covered interventions
Relapse Prevention, is a plan that is developed by the therapist and the client in order to help ensure that symptoms do not recur. Most of us are familiar with this term for the treatment of alcohol and substance abuse or dependence. “He relapsed,” is a commonly used phrase. But relapse is just as much a concern for mental illnesses as it is for drugs and alcohol.
Relapse prevention occurs throughout the course of theapy. As you participate in therapy, you will learn new ways to cope with problems. Ideally you will take these new coping skills with you and use them to prevent relapse of symptoms in the future.
It is important to understand that most everyone’s symptoms of mental illness will relapse at some point. How you deal with the symptoms as they re-appear is very important. For example, ignoring sypmtoms may not be effective at making them go away. If you feel that you need “skills,” or “tools,” to deal with stress or manage symptoms independently, be sure to ask you therapist.
Mental health problems are part of the human condition. If normal means, “common,” then depression and anxiety are surely normal. However, just because something is common, does not mean it is okay. For some people, depressive symptoms come and go with very little concern. But for others, depression can be more severe and long lasting. It can be very difficult for others to really understand what it feels like to be suffering from mental illness. So, determining who you can get good support from is a very important part of a relapse prevention plan.
Sometimes Maintenance therapy is included in the relapse prevention plan. Lifestyle changes may also be a part of relapse prevention, as well as medications.Putting your relaspe prevention plan in writing is highly recommended. Studies have shown that people are nearly 60% more likely to follow-through with an activity if they have it written down. Having it readily available to read and review is also important.
Don’t end therapy without a Relapse Prevention Plan!!!!!!!