Toolbox - ABC

ABC - Facilitators' Edition

Point 1, Point 2, Point 3, Point 4


When to use this tool: This tool can help participants understand that their thoughts and feelings about a specific issue or event that causes them discomfort impacts how they respond to it.

Example of its use in a SMART meeting: Using an actual example or issue from the meeting, say to the participants: The ABC tool can help you change the emotional consequences of a situation by changing your beliefs about the situation. Can we walk through an ABC on this issue?

Assuming they agree, ask the participant with the issue the following questions about the issue, and write down the Consequences at C:

  • Think of the consequences of this event.
  • How exactly did you feel?
  • What was the particular negative emotion?
  • What did you do or want to do?
  • How bad was the urge?

Ask the following questions and write down the activating event or adversity at A:

  • Think of the activating event.
  • What was the situation that led to how you felt?
  • What was the single most upsetting thing, the adversity, about this situation?

Ask the following questions and write down the beliefs at B:

  • Think about your beliefs about the event.
  • What were you telling yourself about the adversity that led to how you felt?
  • What were the demands you were making in those thoughts?

Say to the Participant:

  • Which of these were actually irrational beliefs?
  • Now let’s turn each of these into a question.
  • What is the answer to that question?

DISCUSS the answer and get the thought into a more balanced belief. Write the more balanced belief as the dispute at D and then say:

  • Think about these more rational beliefs. How do they make you feel?
  • If you think these thoughts about the activating event at A, what changes?

PAUSE for the participant to reflect on the rational beliefs and ask:

  • Do you find these new thoughts to be more accurate and helpful to you? Do you feel they are true? How does that make you feel differently about the activating event? What would you do differently from what you originally wanted to do at C?

Write these feelings and what they want to do differently down at E and say:

  • Feeling this way and wanting to do these different things are the effect of changing your beliefs about the activating even. We can change how we feel and how we act by changing what we think about something.

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