Thought Terminating Cliches

October 3, 2015

by Terence T. Gorski

No Need To Think!

A thought terminating cliché is something that we memorize and start to use automatically that keeps us from thinking clearly and deeply about something. For example: “Screw it, I don’t need this now!” 

The key to identifying a thought terminating cliché is to recognize that we don’t really understand what the thought means and it turns off our thought process when we are confronting a problem that we really need to think through. As a result we become trapped using this thought terminating clichés to shut down our mind whenever we start thinking about something that makes us feel uncomfortable but that we need to confront in order to grow in our recovery.

We need tp recognize the difference between thought terminating clichés that stop us from thinking about issues we need to face, and healthy thought stopping commands that we use to turn off habitual irrational thinking, ruminations, and resentments.

In my definition of a thought stopping cliché presented above, it says very clearly tat it is: “something that we memorize and start to use automatically that keeps us from thinking clearly and deeply about something.” This is very different from thought redirecting phrases that have a deep personal meaning and change our way of thinking from old addictive thought patterns to new recovery supportive ways of thinking.

The slogans in 12-Step programs are a perfect example of thought redirecting phrases if they are used properly. And this is a big if! 

It is both “what we say to ourselves” and “how we have conditioned our brain / mind to respond to what we say to ourselves.” Let me explain. 

If our response to the slogan “Easy does it!” activates the belief “It’s OK to do nothing at all if I don’t feel like it!” the slogan is being used a a thought terminating cliche – a form of thinking without thought that gives us permission to only do what we feel like doing and not what we need to do to recover.  

If the same slogan “Easy does it!” helps us to start thinking about: 

• The need to slow down and lower stress;

• The importance of not biting off more than we can chew to avoid choking (Father Joe Martin’s concept of “not feeding spiritual steak to spiritual infants); 

• The real danger of running down as hill as fast as you can because it feels good in the moment while ignoring the long term consequence of falling flat on our face as gravity and momentum compel us to run faster than out legs can carry us; 

• Don’t take on so much that it takes us away from our recovery program and distracts us with other things we believe we must do now;; 

• We are not what we do! We are who we are as sober human beings. We are good people and it is OK to “just be and grow” in response toour spiritual voice within that tells us sobriety is necessary for us to stay alive and grow so staying sober need to come first.

If the phase Easy does It helps is to stop obsessively thinking addictive compulsive thoughts by telling ourselves to “do more and more and do it now or else” it gives us permission to slow down, turn off the mental chatter, practice patience, and just be.”

The question that determines the difference between thought stopping and thought redirecting is:

• “Does the memorized phrase stop me from thinking and reflecting on important issues that I need to face to move on in my recovery?. or

• Does the memorized phrase give me permission and motivational to go on doing self-defeating things that can lead to relapse? 

If the memorized word or phrase reminds me to stop and think about the new principles of recovery and personal responsibility it is a positive thought redirecting phrase because by thinking about it I am learning and growing in my recovery program.

If the memorized word or phrase keeps me locked into a pattern of addictive, compulsive and self-defeating ways of thinking it is a negative thought stopping cliché.

The difference between the two can be subtle and difficult to judge in the moment. This is why discussing our thinking with our sponsor, fellow members of our program, and at meetings is so important. These conversations about how to evaluate what we are thinking should, in the best tradition of recovery, teach us to think more clearly and rationally about addiction oriented versus recovery oriented thinking and behavior. This distinction is difficult to understand and even more difficult to explain (I feel I have not done the concept justice here and will keep working on an explanation that is more clear and easy to understand). It is a distinction, however, that is critically important to make in our own minds so we can learn how to manage our mental and emotional life in recovery. 

I will end with the words of one of my favorite singers and song writers, Harry Chapin, when he says in one of his songs: “Sometimes words can serve me well and sometimes words can go to hell!”

To Start Using Thought Redirecting Phrases In The Workbook

The Cognitive Restructuring for Addiction: 

Gorski Books:

Gorski Home Studies: 

Black or White Thinking

January 14, 2015

By Terence T. Gorski
Author (The Books of Terence T. Gorski)

Black and white thinking, also known as all-or-nothing thinking, is the failure to bring together both positive and negative qualities of the self, other people, and the world into a cohesive and realistic whole.

It is a common defense mechanism used by many people that allows them to lock onto one aspect of things while blocking out others. This can make the world appear more manageable and comprehensible.

In reality, apparent opposites often live together in the real real world. Here are some examples.

The world is both …
– Good and evil;
– Loving and cruel;
– Safe and dangerous;
– Understandable and incomprehensible.

In reality, it is all of these things and much more all at the same time. What we see depends upon where we look and what point of view we choose to take.

Never underestimate our ability to lock onto to some things and block out other things based upon our belief in the truth.

It provides great comfort to shrink the world into something small and manageable. This can work in times of great stability. During times of great and radical change it is important to be able to view reality as it is, not as we would like it to be.

Read more about how black and white thinking can hurt us and what we can do about it.

Learn more about Cognitive Restructuring for Addiction. This is practical workbook and guide making cognitive restructuring tools readily available to both therapists and recovering people.

The Books of Terence T. Gorski)

GORSKI Relapse Prevention Certification School (RPCS)

August 5, 2014


Earn 44 CEUs, In 5 Days, for $695!


Instructed By: Terence T. Gorski and Dr. Stephen F. Grinstead

November 10-14, 2014
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Terence T. Gorski’s advanced relapse prevention training has been “a turning point” in both the professional and personal lives of many former participants. The Gorski schools began in 1982 in Chicago, IL. Since that time, over sixty schools have been conducted with over 4,000 people completing the training.

This advanced clinical skills training experience is designed for professional therapists who are good and want to get better. It may be the most challenging and effective training that you have ever attended.

Upon completion of this training, participants will be able to develop comprehensive Relapse Prevention Plans for identifying and managing both high risk situations in early recovery and the core personality and lifestyle problems that lead to relapse in later recovery, after initial stabilization.

The Gorski Relapse Prevention Certification School (RPCS) is continuously updated with the latest research and uses a proven training method that includes:

(1) Brief Lectures that explain the purpose of each technique and why it is important;
(2) Clinical Demonstrations of each RP technique,
(3) Role Play to practice and receive feedback on your use of each technique,
(4) Small Groups to discuss progress, problems, and applications to your personal style;
(5) Discussions of how to apply the techniques in your professional setting.

Do you want to take your current clinical skills and integrate them with new and powerful approaches for identifying and managing the high-risk situations and core personality and life-style patterns that lead to relapse? If you do, this is the training for you!

Important Notice: An optional RPT Competency Certification that requires the completion of a competency portfolio and an additional fee.

Training Fee: The cost of the training is $695 for the five-day training experience (travel, meals, and lodging are not included in this fee).

Florida Location: HYATT REGENCY PIER SIXTY SIX, 2301 SE 17th Street Causeway Fort Lauderdale FL 33316 USA Telephone: 1-954-525-6666 on November 10-14, 2014 (Special hotel rates will be available for those who register early!


For information and Registration:
Tresa Watson at 1-352-596-8000 or

Managing Grief and Loss In Recovery

June 13, 2014


By Terence T. Gorski, Author

If you lose someone you love and you don’t miss them there is something seriously wrong. Grief from the loss of a loved one is a normal part of life. People recovering from addiction need to learn how to cope with the loss Ina sober and responsible way. Mismanaging grief and loss lead to depression and activate the relapse process. (see Depression and Relapse).

I find the loss of a loved one is a strange thing. The better the relationship we had with someone we lose, the more it hurts to lose them. The pain never goes away because there remains a hole in our soul — an emptiness that cannot be filled by anyone else.

Anniversaries of a loss are tough. At best they are bitter-sweet. I find, however, that dealing with loss is a skill that can be learned — must be learned — if we want to mature as a human beings.

The stages of mourning and grief are universal and are experienced by people from all walks of life. Learning about the steps and stages of managing grief and loss can help us accept the process as normal and natural and develop skills for managing the different steps of the process. It still hurts, but the pain is more easily managed when we know we are not crazy for experiences.

Each of us must find our own way to cope with grief and loss. Their is no right or wrong way to do it and no universal time-frame for resolving it.

There is, however, a model that helps many people understand and accept the process. A five stage model of normal grief was first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.” I’m reality, however, the process is not as orderly or predictable as the five stages of grief make it seem.

I summarize the stages of grief with the acronym DABDA:

D = Denial. This can’t be happening!

A = Anger, usually at life and/or at God. “They can’t take you! You can’t leave me. You have no right to do this to me! What kind of a god would let this happen?”

B = Bargaining. I’ll do anything, pay any price, negotiate any deal to avoid losing this person.

D = Depression. There is a deep sense if traumatic loss that is biopsychosocial. Biologically there are brain chemistry crashes. Psychologically we feel empty and incomplete. Socially there is a big hole in the fabric of our lives.

A = Acceptance. We adapt to the loss, but acceptance does not mean we go back to feeling the way we did before the loss. The loss changes us and we learn to adapt to a new normal as we rebuild our lives.

The stages of grief model suggests people move through grief and get done with the process. In my experience that is not the case. Most people bounce from stage to stage and cues or triggers such as anniversaries and holidays can snap us back into the grief process.

I find that loss is easier to handle if I focus on the good memories and good things and consciously connect with gratitude for having those times with that special person. The only alternative is to stay in anger and forget the gifts this person gave us. This can leave us bitter.

In sobriety we learn to cope with the bitter taste of the loss while savoring the good things that we gained. And we must learn to do it in a sober and responsible way. That means feeling what we feel and developing deeper relationships with other people to help us through the process.

Using alcohol or other drugs to cope with the loss makes things more difficult and painful. It leads to a loss of control of our addiction and hitting a new bottom. When we get back in recovery the unresolved grief is waiting for us. It can complicate our new efforts at recovery and contribute to unnecessary relapse.

The good news is that we can learn to deal with grief and loss in a sober and responsible way. Cognitive Restructuring can help us when the skills are specifically applied to the process of managing grief and loss.


Positive Mental Attitude Plus

December 31, 2013

Don’t Worry – Be Positive

By Terence T. Gorski, Author
December 31, 2013

Positive mental attitude (PMA) is effective in many ways. There are limits to the effectiveness of positive thinking. It is not always enough to change deeply entrenched irrational core beliefs about self, others and the world that developed in early childhood. These core mistaken beliefs are often described using the idea of a  SCHEMA. When a core schema is challenged, it I feels like having a killer put a gun to our head and threaten to shoot. Our survival reactions kick in and our brains kick our body into action to get ready to fight or flee. These, of course are the classical fight or flight responses.

The consciously created positive thoughts are often unable to penetrate the survival responses (Fight, Flight, Freeze) that are activated in defense of our core beliefs.

Our core beliefs are developed in childhood to defend us from threats to our survival. Alfred Adler was the first to talk about the idea of core mistaken beliefs. Today, there is a method of therapy entirely devoted to identifying and changing core bore beliefs.

Our childhood beliefs have become the truth as we see t. As a result we defend these core irrational and destructive beliefs because we are firmly convinced that they are needed for survival.

Mindfulness meditation helps people to develop the skill of being detached and aware. As a result we can become aware of these core irrational beliefs about self, others, and the world without activating self-destructive survival behaviors driven by high stress. There are simple ways to get people into using mindfulness meditation.

Combining mindfulness meditation, which allows a detached awareness of emerging thoughts, without activating survival mechanisms, can add to the effectiveness of positive thinking and affirmations. Mindfulness meditation also stops the automatic self-talk, called rumination, driven by mistaken childhood beliefs from constantly running through our minds.

The final component is a learned system for emotional management and problems solving. A comprehensive system for managing thoughts and feelings and the core belies that drive them is described in the workbook entitled Cognitive Restructuring for Addiction.

These components can make an effective combined practice for recovery:
1. Positive (Rational) Thinking
2. Mindfulness Meditation
3. Emotional Management
4. Problem solving.

Treatment Manuals That Work

December 30, 2013

Well designed treatment manuals
make recovery easier for everyone.

By Terence T. Gorski, Author
December 30, 2013

Many clinicians feel frustrated when they are “mandated” to use TREATMENT MANUALS with patients. Here are some points to consider:

1. Treatment manuals are either well designed or poorly designed. WELL DESIGNED MANUALS are easy to use, present exercises in a logical series of progressive skill-building steps, and have exercises to practice the skills in real-life situations.


2. The language in well-designed manuals avoids both “PSYCHO-BABBLE”, highly technical psychological language, and RECOVERY TALK, the heavy use of 12-Step language, slogans, and platitudes.

Therapists require training in how to use a manual in individual and group therapy. They also need experience in treating the addiction or related problems that is the focus of each manual. Here are the basic steps that therapists need to take to become proficient in “manualized” treatment:

Step 1: Understand the therapeutic purpose of the workbook and the goal of each exercise. Review the way the sequence of information, questions, and suggested activities are used . Use each exercise to take the patient on a journey of new understanding.

STEP 2: Take ownership of the manual content by integrating it into your own personal style and be prepared to clarify or elaborate on the concepts in the manual in words, ideas, and examples that you are comfortable with.

STEP 3: Adapt the use of the manual to the structure and needs of the program you are working in.

STEP 4: Adapt the use of the manual to the needs of each individual patient. The key question is: Does the manual  meet the needs of the patients? If yes, the manual can be a valuable addition to traditional psychotherapy. If no, don’t use the manual.

Using a manual that does not address the important problems of a patient is the equivalent of giving patients the wrong medications. DON’T DO IT! Match specific manuals to the individual needs and treatment plans of patients.

It is important for therapist to work with management when adapting the use of manuals for use within a specific clinical program. How clinical staff negotiate with management for the appropriate use of treatment manuals is critical. Some negotiation styles cause head-to-head conflicts and power struggles. Others invite a collaborative process of evaluation that looks for the most effective way to use the manual with an individual patient.

Here are ways that the use of the manual can be adjusted to meet patient needs:

1. Sometimes the content of the manual needs to be delivered in smaller or bigger “chunks” of information that fit the patient’s cognitive ability and learning style.

2. Sometimes patients will respond better if the information is delivered in a different order. Feel free to adjust the sequence to match the patient’s interests and needs.

3. Skip sections of the manual that don’t fit the needs of the patient, or repeat knowledge and skills the patient already has.

4. The manual can be augmented with other handouts and exercises that can powerfully adjust the clinical approach guided by the manual.

5. Manuals are designed to have the exercises completed as homework assignments. These assignments help patients prepare for individual, group, and psycho-educational sessions.

6. When patients present workbook assignments in groups, it is usually not a good idea to have patients read their answers to each questions. This puts people to sleep. It is better to have a group reporting form that asks patients to answer these questions:

(1) What’s the most important thing that you learned from doing the exercise?

(2) What parts of the exercise were most difficult for you to complete?

(3) What parts do you want the group to help you understand and apply to your own situation?

(4) What can you do differently in your recovery as a result of what you learned by completing this exercise?

(5) How can what you learned help you to move forward in your recovery plan?

Treatment manuals provide guidelines and tools for patients to move forward in therapy. When used properly they can enhance the treatment process. Manuals ARE NOT straight jackets that restrict creativity and clinical reasoning.

Most importantly, treatment manuals don’t DO anything. The clinician who understands their value can use them to make their job easier and to improve the effectiveness of treatment. Well designed treatment manuals help therapists accomplish more while investing less time and energy.

Here are some well-designed and useful manuals to use in addiction treatment and relapse prevention:


Meeting My Addictive Self

December 26, 2013


By Spero Alexio

I met my addictive self one night. He was banging on the door at three in the morning like some kind of rage filled monster. I imagined that he was seven feet tall, scaly skin, demon eyes and intended to rip me to shreds.

I opened the door and found that my addicted self was only a frightened child who needed someone to talk to. So I invited him in.

We sat by the fireplace and ate a box of Fig Newtons while watching the flames do a relaxing dance in the hearth. I asked what had been bothering him and he replied cryptically, “a lot of things, you should know.”

I had to agree that I was aware of a variety of stressful situations in my life, but had neglected to acknowledge them.
“You see, I’m a very busy man.” I said to my addictive self.

“That’s why I came by,” my addicted self said. “I came here because you haven’t been paying attention to me.”

We talked about old times and had a few good laughs. After awhile, my addicted self began to drift away.

“I sorry but I don’t want you coming back,” I said.

He turned to me and shook his head, “Well, that’s really up to you.”…

%d bloggers like this: