How To Dispute Difficult Thoughts

by Kimberly Winters, SMART Recovery Volunteer Meeting Facilitator

Do you sometimes experience difficult thoughts and emotions…the kind that lead to unwanted behaviors?

Emotional upsets can wreak havoc with addiction recovery. SMART Recovery offers tools for disputing difficult thoughts, by examining those thoughts to see if they are true, helpful, hopeful, flexible and nurturing!

Did you know that having a tangible object for each of those questions can be helpful?  Below are some suggestions for items to help with that!

 All of these items can be found around the house, outdoors or at the craft store!

  1. Is this thought TRUE? Find a nice smooth and heavy rock and write TRUE? on it with a black sharpie.  Put that rock in your hand and hold onto it while you help your thought pass through the truth test.
  1. Is this thought HELPING me?  Find something with a smiley on it like a small yellow ball with a smiley face on it or a sticker or even a little kid toy that looks friendly.

  1. Is this thought FLEXIBLE? Try a stretchy hair band, rubber band, a flexible clothes pin or a chip bag holder to remind you.  Open and close the chip bag holder, clothes pin, or stretch the band while you help your thought become more flexible.
  1. Is this thought HOPEFUL?  Try a sparkly object, a tiny mirror or some really pretty blue or green glass – or any other object that reminds you to dream and hope and keep looking up!
  1. Is this thought NURTURING?  Get a small plastic baby or anything that reminds you of a little person (to help think about whether or not this is the type of thought a really good parent or grandparent would say to someone in their care) or a metal charm with a kind or nurturing phrase on it like – “You can do this!”

Take these reminders with you wherever you go!  As you hold each one, use the object to help you remember to ask your thoughts those disputing questions.

If you’ve been with SMART for a while you may recognize some of these questions from our ABC Tool for disputing difficult thoughts.   Rather than just allowing our thoughts to automatically lead to difficult emotions, we can use the answers to these disputing questions to change our thinking to be more realistic, flexible and helpful…and reduce unwanted, unhelpful responses in the process.

For more information on local face-to-face or online meetings visit:

About the author:
Kimberly has been a SMART Recovery Facilitator since starting her support group in Mechanicsburg, PA in January of 2015.  She is also a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CAADC), trained Emotionally Focused Therapist (EFT), a Conference Speaker and a Mediator with the Office of the Victim’s Advocate in their Victim Offender Dialogue Program.  Kim enjoys running, hiking and listening to podcasts.  Kim is married for 27 years to her husband Nate and they have two adult children.



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