The ABCs | SMART Recovery


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SMART Recovery is a science-based mutual-help group that helps individuals recover from all types of addictions, including substances like alcohol, drugs and tobacco as well as behavioral addictions such as gambling.

The ABC is an REBT-based component of the SMART Recovery Toolbox. SMART Recovery participants use the ABC tool as part of the SMART Recovery 4-Point Program which focuses on Increasing Motivation, Coping with Urges, Problem Solving, and Lifestyle Balance.

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The ABCs | SMART Recovery

  1. 1. Introduction to the ABC's
  2. 2. • • • • In this tutorial, you’ll learn what the ABC process is and how to use it. First, we’ll briefly look at REBT theory, the basis for the SMART ABC Tool. Then, we’ll do an example ABC to help you get started. You may want to print out an ABC Worksheet to fill in as we go along.
  3. 3. • • • The ABC process is a method to identify and dispute our irrational beliefs, thoughts and feelings. By doing so we can come up with new, rational beliefs, thoughts and feelings. This helps us resist urges and regain control.
  4. 4. • There are 3 aspects of human functioning: – Thoughts – Feelings – Behaviors • • • People or events don’t make us feel good or bad. It is our perceptions of them that result in our feeling good or bad. These perceptions influence our behavior.
  5. 5. • • REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) was developed by Dr. Albert Ellis in the 1950’s. His proposal that thinking creates feelings and actions was in direct opposition to his training in and practice of psychoanalysis.
  6. 6. • • • At SMART Recovery we do not label ourselves “alcoholics” or “addicts”. REBT is supported by research on relapse prevention, motivational enhancement, and behavioral change processes. REBT emphasizes self-responsibility, self-motivation, and self-discipline as the primary means of stopping substance use.
  7. 7. • • • A = Activating Event – What do you think happened? – What would a camera see? B = Beliefs about Activating Event – What did you tell yourself? C = Consequences – How did you act? – How did you feel?
  8. 8. Activating Event A Belief Consequence B C
  9. 9. • A = Activating Event – I’m at a party. • B = Belief – – – – • Parties must be exciting, or I feel left out. I must have a drink to relax and have fun. This is awful and I can’t stand being here. I’m a bad person because I need a drink. C = Consequences – I feel anxiety. – I have a drink.
  10. 10. • • • • Dogmatic demands – Musts, absolutes, shoulds Awfulizing – It’s awful, terrible, horrible Low Frustration Tolerance (LFT) – I can’t stand it, I need it Self/Other Rating – I’m or he/she is bad, worthless
  11. 11. • • After identifying A, B and C, we move on to D. D = Disputing Irrational Beliefs (iB’s) – Where is holding this belief getting me? Is it helpful or selfdefeating? – Where is the evidence to support my belief? It is consistent with reality? – Is my belief logical? Does it follow from my preferences? – Is it really awful (as bad as it could be)? – Can I really not stand it?
  12. 12. • D = Dispute Irrational Beliefs (iB’s) – Why is this so terrible? – Where’s the proof that I can’t handle it? – What does it mean when I say I can’t handle it? Will I actually explode? – Must I always get what I want? – Is it in my long-term best interest to believe that I must have a drink? – Is this belief going to lead to my desired behavior?
  13. 13. • • • • Irrational beliefs are the result of irrational thoughts. Irrational beliefs lead to unhealthy feelings and behaviors. Rational beliefs are reasonable, objective, flexible and constructive. Rational beliefs lead to survival, happiness and healthy feelings and behaviors.
  14. 14. Rational Belief rB Activating Event A Healthy Consequence C Rational Beliefs lead to healthy feelings & behaviors Irrational Beliefs lead to unhealthy feelings & behaviors Irrational Belief Unhealthy Consequence iB C
  15. 15. • After Disputing (D), we move on to E. • E = New Effect (New Rational Beliefs) New healthy negative emotions Disappointment-Concern-Annoyance-Sadness-Regret-Frustration – New constructive behaviors
  16. 16. Activating Event Irrational Belief A iB C I’m at a party Parties must be exciting, or I feel left out Anxiety Drink to feel accepted & therefore reduce anxiety Consequence D Dispute iB and remain abstinent
  17. 17. • E = New Effect (New Rational Beliefs) – This is difficult, but I can have fun without drinking. – This is uncomfortable, but I can handle being here. – It is in my long-term interest to abstain from using. I want to be a clean and sober person. – While it may be upsetting, it’s not life-threatening. – I may strongly desire a drink, but I can survive without one. – While drinking may bring short-term relaxation, I know from my past that it leads to trouble.
  18. 18. • E = New Effect (New constructive behaviors) – I remain abstinent. – I stay at the party and have fun. – I move closer to my goal of being clean and sober.
  19. 19. Activating Event Irrational Belief Unhealthy Consequence (A) (iB) (C) Rational Belief Healthy Consequence (rB) (C) Disputation (D) Effective Change (E)
  20. 20. • • Some facilitators extend the Basic ABC (with it’s D and E) to include F and G. F = New Feelings – After disputing irrational beliefs and making them rational, how do you feel? – Annoyed not angry, concerned not anxious, sad not depressed? • G = Goals – How does the E (New Effect) help you reach your goals? – In the short-term? In the long-term?
  21. 21. • F = New Feelings – I feel uncomfortable and frustrated, but those are healthy negative emotions I can handle. – I feel stronger and proud of myself for meeting the challenge. • G = Goals – I met my goal of not drinking today. – I am closer to being the clean and sober person I want to be. – With a clear mind I will be able to achieve my medium- and long-term goals.
  22. 22. • Short-term – Why are you at this SMART meeting today? – Because I want to stop drinking. • Medium-term – Why do you want to stop drinking? – So I can finish my bachelor’s/master’s degree. • Long-term – Why do you want to finish your degree? – So I can get married and start a family. • Very long-term – Why do you want to get married and start a family? – So I can live a full, happy and healthy life.
  23. 23. • • • • ABC’s can be chained together to deal with secondary upsets. The C of the ABC for the secondary upset becomes the A of the ABC for the primary upset. This is sometimes called “being upset about being upset”. Ask you meeting facilitator for more details.
  24. 24. • • • • • ABC’s are helpful in resisting urges. When possible, it is best to anticipate those urges and prepare an ABC ahead of time. With practice, you will be able to remember and apply your ABC in the heat of the moment. Eventually, applying them will become automatic and you may not even notice you’re doing it. Urges will weaken over time.
  25. 25. • In SMART, we frequently refer to PPP: – Practice – Patience – Persistence • • • Keep practicing your ABC’s and other tools. They get easier over time. This is a process. Be patient with yourself and give yourself time to learn to apply these new tools. Persist in pursuing abstinence. If you lapse or relapse, come discuss what happened.
  26. 26. • • • • Print out a few copies of an ABC Worksheet. Think of a few A’s (Activating Events) that frequently lead you to use, and fill out a worksheet for each. In this way you’ll be better prepared to resist the urge the next time you face those A’s. Move on to the CBA Tutorial to help build motivation to abstain.