Posted by: RealisticRecovery | January 24, 2011

Thought Stopping in Recovery

Thought Stopping in Recovery

What is thought stopping?
Thought stopping is the:

  • Process by which you are able to cease dwelling on a thought bothersome to you.
  • Procedure used to stop thoughts that are cues to acting impulsively or compulsively.
  • Process by which you are able to break the power of the cues that lead you into addictive or binge-like behavior.
  • Substitution of a healthy thought for an unhealthy thought.
  • Act of deliberately turning to cues that break unhealthy patterns or habits.
  • Ability to discontinue obsessing on an idea, image, thought, fear or stimuli that is a cue for unhealthy behavior.
  • Practice of using mental energy in a positive way.
  • Technique used to reduce the negative impact of stress, unhealthy emotional cues and fears.
  • Stress-reduction technique that eliminates the overwhelming impact of stress and/or crisis events.

How does thought stopping work?
In thought stopping you could use one of the following or a combination of them:

  • Replace one thought for another, i.e., the thought of eating is replaced by the thought of exercising.
  • Hear “stop” literally or figuratively whenever a negative or unhealthy thought arises, e.g., the desire for a cigarette appears and “stop” is immediately heard.
  • Are able to break an obsessive, unhealthy thought pattern by substituting a healthy thought pattern.
  • Are able to replace a negative or unhealthy image with a positive visual image.
  • Find you divert or detour your mind from unhealthy or negative thoughts.
  • Clear your mind of all unnecessary and unhealthy thoughts that create stress or cues for acting out in unhealthy ways.

What are some thought stopping techniques?
Thought replacement: When an unwanted thought enters, immediately replace the thought with a healthy, rational one.
Yelling “stop”: on thinking the unwanted thought, immediately yell “stop!” The yell can be out loud or only in the mind. Continue to yell “stop!” until the unwanted thought ceases.
Substituting a healthy thought pattern: If you have a tendency to think irrationally due to irrational beliefs, you can develop a rational pattern of thinking by challenging every thought that comes to mind, asking: Is this a rational thought? If not, what is irrational about it? What would be a rational replacement for this thought?
Replacement visual image: If you have a tendency to visualize negative images, replace these negative images by positive, healthy images.
Aversive replacements: If you have a tendency to think of an unhealthy behavior in an acceptable manner, immediately replace these acceptable images with more honest images, i.e., thoughts of alcohol, drugs, junk foods can be replaced by the words “poison,” “unhealthy,” “disgusting,” “barf” or “killers.” Thoughts of cigarettes can be replaced by “cancer sticks” or “coffin nails.”
Irrational thinking that blocks you from letting thought stopping work for you:

  • It’s OK if I just think about it and do nothing about it.
  • What’s the harm of thinking about it?
  • People will never know if I just think about it for a little while.
  • I’ve denied myself so much, why can’t I just think about it once in a while?
  • You can’t condemn me for thinking.
  • I never thought about it before I acted so why should I avoid thinking about it now?
  • It is too much of a battle to fight these thoughts. It’s easier to give in and then start over again in the morning.
  • What difference does it make if I think about it?
  • It seems so silly to control my mind from having thoughts about it.
  • This feels like brainwashing and I think brainwashing is bad.
  • I don’t have time to do this.
  • I don’t need this in order to be successful in achieving recovery.
  • This is another far-out psychological gimmick too stupid to try.

Directions for Thought Stopping
First: Use relaxation training and breathing exercises to get yourself relaxed. It is important that you be at ease to stop a recurring thought.
Second: Record the word “stop” in alternating 1-, 2- and 3-minute intervals on a 30-minute tape. Using the “stop” tape in a relaxed state, think your unwanted thought and every time you hear “stop,” discontinue the thought. Go back to the thought again and cease the thought only when you hear “stop.” Do this for 30 minutes every night for 2 weeks or until you can consistently discontinue the thought when you hear “stop.”
Third: After you are trained to arrest your thought using the “stop” tape, you are ready to try arresting your thought by yelling “stop” out loud. Think of your unwanted thought for 30 minutes and yell “stop” to discontinue the thought. Once you arrest the thought, go back to thinking about it for awhile, then yell “stop” again. Do this for 30 minutes each night for 2 weeks or until you are able to consistently discontinue the thought by yelling “stop.”
Fourth: After you have trained yourself to stop thoughts by yelling “stop,” you are ready to train your thoughts to end by whispering “stop.” For 30 minutes, repeat the process of dwelling on your unwanted thought, but this time whisper “stop” to halt them. Do this 30 minutes nightly for 2 weeks or until you are able to consistently discontinue the thought by whispering “stop.”
Fifth: After you have trained yourself to discontinue unwanted thoughts by whispering “stop,” you are ready to train your thoughts to discontinue by thinking the word “stop.” Repeat the process of dwelling on your thought for 30 minutes, but this time simply think “stop” to discontinue unwanted thoughts. Do this for 30 minutes nightly for 2 weeks or until you are able to consistently discontinue unwanted thoughts by thinking the word “stop.”
Sixth: The technique of either taping, yelling, whispering or thinking “stop” can be effective in discontinuing unwanted thoughts. Ideally you could get to the point where simply thinking “stop” would work; however, use whichever mode works best for you and keep practicing. Remember to start the process in a relaxed state.

original source: – Thought Stopping in Recovery



  1. Whoever wrote this is clueless.

    • You: “Whoever wrote this is clueless.”

      Me: Stop!!!


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