Change Continued

Change Continued . . .

In the article, Relapse on the Road to Recovery:  Learning the Lessons of Failure on the Way to Successful Behavior Change, DiClemente & Crisafulli  deconstruct factors that contributed to a relapse during recovery.  They believe clients and mental health programs could benefit from lessons from other industries’ knowledge of “failure”.  DiClemente and Crisafulli cite the work of Matthew Syed, the author of Dealing with Failure:  Black Box Thinking.


For example, the book Black Box Thinking, by Matthew Syed, discusses how the airline industry understands failure.  Planes are equipped with two black boxes: a data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.  If a flight has a problem they use the information from the boxes to reconstruct what happened.  They examine the individuals’ behavior, interactions, communication and technical data.  They also reenact events to see what happened and what went wrong.  They then suggest solutions so changes can improve operational functioning.  Many experts believe this “autopsy” or analysis helps make airplanes the safest mode of transportation.  DiClemente and Crisafulli believe this process could be applied to better help addicts struggling with relapse.

When a client relapses, some appropriate questions are:

  • What was the context of the relapse?
  • What social factors played into the relapse?
  • Is there any appropriate data that would be helpful to know surrounding the relapse.
  • What happened before, during and after the relapse.
  • They believe this type of examination could really help people better understand what went wrong and what changes can be made to help maintain sobriety in the future.

Syed suggests that everyone makes mistakes.  The main difference between getting stuck in failure or having success is how we respond to our mistakes.  He says, “It is about being able to see failure in a clear-eyed, non-judgmental manner.  It is using failure as a learning opportunity.”  He also thinks that using “blame” is counter productive.  It is more helpful to have a growth mindset when learning from failure or relapse.

For more information, please see the DiClemente & Crisafulli article and Syed book.



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