Toolbox - ABC of Urges

ABC of Urges - Facilitators' Edition

Point 1, Point 2, Point 3, Point 4


When to use this tool:

  • Whenever a member gets upset about urges and/or gives in to urges.
  • To analyze a lapse/relapse or to develop coping statements for an anticipated lapse/relapse.

Common questions or statements that may prompt using this tool:

  • “What made me do it?”
  • “How will I handle the situation?”

Example of its use in a SMART meeting:

  • When you relapse, the question to ask is not “What made me do that”, but rather, “How did I talk myself into it?” When you get upset at an urge, then lapse or relapse, it is not the urge (A) that causes your relapse (C). It is your beliefs (B), your irrational self-talk.

Four common beliefs (self-talk) which can lead you to an emotional disturbance and a relapse are listed under the Bs below.

A = Activating event or Adversity: URGE TO USE.


  • This urge is UNBEARABLE. I CAN’T STAND IT!
  • This powerful urge MAKES ME USE!
  • This urge WON’T GO AWAY UNTIL I USE!
  • This urge is DRIVING ME CRAZY!

C = Emotional and Behavioral Consequences of your thoughts about urges such as discomfort, anxiety, and GREATER URGES.

D = Disputing Irrational Beliefs

  • You may effectively help yourself with low frustration tolerance and anxiety about urges when you DISPUTE your irrational Beliefs, and then forcefully replace them with rational alternatives. The following are some examples of DISPUTEs and Rational alternatives.

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