incredible-marketing Arrow

Pros and Cons Lists: Do They Really Help?

We’ve all been faced with difficult decisions throughout our lives. As we enter recovery or continue our journey recovering from addiction or trauma, there will be more decisions to come.

If we are unsure of how to behave or act in a situation, many times our peers will suggest making a list of pros and cons. Hearing this so frequently, you may wonder how effective this list can be.

Making a list of pros and cons to outline the potential consequences of your urges can actually help you to visualize how your actions will play out ahead of time. 


During times of crisis or stress, we may find ourselves having urges to engage in damaging behaviors. If we are in recovery from addiction, these urges might be focused on relapsing or acting out in impulsive ways.

Working through trauma and mental illness, our urges may involve self-harm or negative emotional patterns. When we find ourselves considering returning to these behaviors, walk through the idea first.

In recovery, this is similar to playing the tape. This means looking into the future and envisioning the consequences of our actions, or the succession of events that will take place. 


As we create a pros and cons list, try to first step back and approach it from Wise Mind. This is a skill in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). There are two prevalent mindsets with which we approach most situations.

We sometimes use Emotion Mind, which is a compilation of our feelings and instincts. Reasonable Mind is the mentality that is based entirely on facts and logic.

When we use our Wise Mind, we are honoring both Emotion Mind and Reasonable Mind to find what we can fully accept as true. Working on using our Wise Mind is a skill that we can practice, and composing a pros and cons list can be a great opportunity to exercise it. 


Looking at the potential outcomes for acting on your urges, compare the results. Will it be satisfying in the present moment? Once the moment ends, will you still feel satisfied?

Will the action bring up emotions of shame or guilt? Will the action or aftermath hurt those around you? Is acting on this urge truly the best way to find relief?

Weigh the options with as much honesty as you can. Sometimes, when we write out these ideas we get the best sense of how our action will play out.

The sequence of events may seem minimal if we just consider it in our mind, and we tend to focus solely on the present moment, and not what may happen later on.

Even if you are sure of your decision, take a few minutes to create a list to consider the repercussions of your actions. It may be enlightening and help you to choose the healthiest option moving forward. 


At The Guest House Ocala, you will be treated with dignity, respect, and compassion through every stage of recovery. Call 855-483-7800 today for more information about our treatment programs.