Thought stopping – –A top counseling tool

Trying to change the way you think, that affects the way you then act, can be accomplished by an exercise--made consistent--called thought stopping. I started my professional career out in the area of substance abuse, and did so for many years in different settings.

In case you are not aware, the habit of addiction is a very hard one to break.  I’ve seen people permanently lose their battles with addiction, go to jail for not being able to make it through programs that would help them expunge drug charges, go to prison for years or for the rest of their life, lose their families, and lose themselves. There were plenty of opportunities to convey how this thought stopping process could help when someone was in crisis, but it is definitely easier said than done.  However, there were success stories within all of those really tough struggles.

When you have been engaging in any kind of behavior that you decide you now want to change, change asks that you make the time, practice new ways, become dedicated to your goal, bounce back from relapses—addiction or otherwise—and it asks for YOU.  Nothing is impossible.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is one modality that can help you cease a behavior you want to stop. Your thoughts can then become new actions. Thought stopping is one of those cognitive behavioral techniques.  Anything you are trying to stop is not always easy.  To be patient with the process, step out of your comfort zone, get support, and have self compassion for yourself, and your efforts, can only benefit you.

If you are reading this now, my guess is that you are at some stage in your life where you are thinking about making some kind of change.  I also thought I’d write this out so I can send this to my present clients as we find out change is wanted and needed.

So, where do you start? 

Be able to recognize when urges are coming on.  Knowing really is half the battle.  Whether it is addiction of any kind, anxiety, depression, anger, codependency, or self esteem, identifying your thoughts and feelings and signs and symptoms is a good place to start.

STOP!  Once you have became accustomed to recognizing when an urge, a feeling, or a sign that something you are trying to change is coming on, stopping yourself is the next step.  If alone, you can yell, “STOP!”.  You can say it in your head.  You can wear a rubber band on your wrist to “snap” you out of or into what you’re trying to stop.  Taking one to three slow, deep diaphragmatic breaths helps as well.  Breathing in this way can also help to calm your mind so you are able to move on to the next step, and is one of the more common ways to center yourself to be able to move forward.

Reframe your thoughts.  Your thoughts, feelings, and actions are related. What is the thought or feeling that keeps telling you that it’s okay to not change your actions?  After you have identified and recognized your urges, your thoughts, or your feelings—and having been able to give yourself a moment to stop them in the moment--the next step is to re-frame them.  Usually a way to re-frame what you are thinking is the opposite of what you are thinking, or a rebuttal that motivates you towards doing things differently.  For example:  “I can’t do anything right.”  STOP!  “I have the ability to change, and I am doing something right now about it.  I am proud of myself!”  Praising yourself for your efforts, or rewarding yourself for small victories towards your bigger goal can help you get there.

Just as much as people don’t change, people can.  It is a choice you have to make for YOU.  What is one small step you can take today towards making a change that will better your life?

Always feel free to reach out for support if you need it. 

All the best,


1.  Be able to recognize when urges are coming on. 

2.  STOP!

3.  Reframe your thoughts.