May 12 2011

Cognitive Restructuring Approach to Alcohol Self-Evaluation

Published by at 8:57 pm under Counseling & Psychotherapy

If you are reading my blog or know me, you realize I like to use the cognitive restructuring exercise a lot. It is a great tool to help clients evaluate their own thoughts, beliefs, feelings and behavior.

It works great in evaluating alcohol problems. Here is how it works…

A- Activating Event: you or someone you know worries about your drinking…this may cause an internal or inter-personal conflict.


B-Automatic Beliefs: so, when you or someone worries about your drinking, you have automatic beliefs that may or may not be rational.

If they are irrational,then they will cause you to continue to behave in the same way over and over.

Your wife may complain about your drinking, especially when you drink and pass out on the couch. When she complains, you may have the following automatic thoughts:

  • I do not have a drinking problem
  • I do not drink any more than any of my friends
  • I don’t drink and drive
  • You (the wife) are hypersensitive about my drinking
  • I am really sick of hearing you (the wife) complaining

As you can see, these automatic thoughts are quite negative and usually lead to one of two options:

  • flight (avoidance, disconnection, running away, discounting, running away from the problem)
  • or fight (yelling back, blaming the (wife) for false judgments, arguing, denial, tons and tons of unresolved fights)

C-Consequence: The consequence is the flight or fight described above…all in all, not a good outcome.
Many people who are confronted about their drinking feel defensive and angry. This often leads to fighting or running away from confronting whether or not there is a problem with their drinking.
D-Debate (with yourself): this is the best strategy. Challenge your automatic beliefs and any defensiveness, anger or other strong feelings you experience.

To make any progress here, you MUST start to be realistic and rationale about the role of drinking in your life.

Go back and do the 3 Step evaluation process…be scientific about this…

Maybe your (wife) is right about this…there are many ways to look at the use of alcohol that may be a source of good information about yourself.

Just because all of your friends will drink 5-8 drinks when out may mean your friends drink too much, not that you are all normal drinkers.
When embrace someone’s concerns for you and really look at the way you drink more objectively, you and your partner are entering into an intimate and helpful problem-solving process.

So,here are some of the key questions you can use to debate and challenge yourself:

  • What is the role alcohol plays in your life?
  • Why do you drink?
  • Are you able to stop drinking easily or does one lead to more?
  • What would you miss if you stopped drinking?
  • How would your life change if you stopped drinking?

E-Effective Plan: Answer these questions as best you can, and then develop an action plan with more effective coping behaviors to address this issue.
For example, if your drinking is not a problem, you will have plenty of evidence to argue your case.
If you need to reduce or cut back, you can work on a strategy to do this.
Maybe you need to stop completely…again, you can develop a plan that fits you.

Approach this scientifically, using research based methods. It will help.

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