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3 Huge Benefits of Self-Monitoring in Addiction Recovery


Self-monitoring is an intervention that is commonly used alongside other cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques in drug and alcohol addiction treatment. This practice of observing, regulating and recording provides a wealth of benefits for those who are seeking to modify negative behaviors and achieve continued personal growth.

What Is Self-Monitoring?

Psych Central defines self-monitoring as the act of observing and regulating one’s own behavior in a social setting. In many rehab and sober living programs, individuals in recovery are encouraged to self-monitor regularly and report back to a therapist or counselor in rehab. The honest act of self-reporting provides insight for the therapist. The feedback from the therapist also encourages clients to modify current behaviors that are harmful.

There are many different forms of self-regulation, and none are particularly better or more beneficial than the other. In addiction recovery, it’s more important that you find a method of self-monitoring that works for you and you feel comfortable continuing this for weeks, months or even years as you continue your sobriety journey.

One of the most common ways people self-monitor while enrolled in rehab or a transitional living program is by keeping a personal journal. Most often, individuals will keep notes on how they’re feeling, what they’re doing and what they’re thinking throughout the day. Other individuals may feel more comfortable using an app on their phone to monitor their emotions, thoughts and actions each day. Studies have found this is effective in providing treatment via self-monitoring almost anywhere and at any time. Website blogging or video blogs are also great ways to monitor these things, and your blog can be made public or private — whichever you are most comfortable with.

Why Self-Monitor?

There are three main benefits of self-monitoring while you are enrolled in rehab or sober living, and even long after you’ve completed these programs.

1. You’ll learn more about yourself and your triggers.

One study found that women were more likely to relapse because of negative emotions and interpersonal issues, while men were more likely to justify or rationalize a relapse as a result of positive emotions. Although this is not always the case for all men or all women, many people may not understand their own motivations for drug use. You may also be unaware of the negative habits you’ve developed, or you may not recognize that certain emotions, places or events can create cravings for drugs or alcohol. One of the primary benefits of self-monitoring is that you’ll be forced to acknowledge the habits and behaviors you may have chosen to ignore or unintentionally avoided for years. This provides an excellent opportunity to uncover your triggers and learn how to prevent relapse in the future.

2. You’ll gain insight and motivation to change.

If you are resistant to change or you don’t believe you have an addiction problem, it can be difficult to see your actions as being harmful. Monitoring your behaviors will require that you are honest with yourself and your counselor while reporting back about your behaviors. In doing so, you may begin to recognize negative behaviors and thought patterns and how those relate to your addiction. You may even begin to see why change is necessary and how it could improve your life.

3. You’ll be able to monitor your progress.

It’s not always easy to see change and feeling like you haven’t made any progress is discouraging. If you’re enrolled in drug rehab or a transitional housing program, seeing definitive proof of your progress can be rewarding and motivating. One way to track your own progress is to review the older entries in your journal or blog and then compare those to your current entries. This will provide an eye-opening peek into the progress you’ve made and all the things you have achieved in your recovery.

How to Self-Monitor in Recovery

Residents of sober living homes and rehabs can easily begin to implement self-monitoring behaviors and activities throughout their daily routines. If you aren’t currently self-monitoring in any way, here are a few tips for getting started.

First, you will want to create an organized system for yourself. How often will you monitor? What will you be monitoring? Triggers, behaviors, thought patterns or all three? What times during the day will you make note of these things? How will you record this information?

Next, try your system out to make sure it works for you. If you need to adjust the number of times you record each day, or the type of things you record, take the time to do so! Just make sure you are doing it in a way that provides insight into your behavior.

For example, if you are recording habits or activities, such as having a drink, make sure to make note of how you were feeling and what you were thinking before you decided to have the drink. Similarly, if you are monitoring negative thoughts about yourself, make sure to pay attention to events or things that occurred immediately before those thoughts entered your mind.

Of course, one of the most important aspects of self-monitoring is learning how to read your results. Using your data to create a histogram is an excellent way to track your progress and view personal growth.

If you would like assistance implementing a self-monitoring strategy into your everyday life, talk to your therapist or counselor, or consider enrolling in a transitional living program in which residents of the sober living homes are required to participate in a monitoring program.

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash