Thought arrest technique: characteristics and use in therapy

The Thought Stopping Technique, also known as Thought Blocking or Stopping, Was invented by Bain in the 1920s and adapted and developed by Wolpe in the late 1950s. It is an effective self-control technique for reducing or preventing ruminant thoughts.

In this article we will know exactly how it is applied, its characteristics and the objectives pursued by the technique.

    Thought-stop technique: what does it consist of?

    The thinking stop technique involves interrupting ruminative thoughts with an associated word. In other words, and according to Wolpe, he trains the person so that he ends up excluding any ruminative thought (Unwanted or unproductive) even before its formulation.

    All this leads to reducing the chain of thoughts accompanied by negative emotions; thus, negative emotions are “cut off” before they arise.

    thought of ruminants

    The Thought Stop Technique is a type of exercise that is applied when you have ruminative thoughts (rumination), that is, when we turn things around without drawing conclusions, not reviewing in detail. that which worries us in a totally dysfunctional way (since we don’t get solutions, we just “think” in a kind of vicious cycle.

    In other words, ruminative thoughts are unwanted thoughts that are constantly repeated in our head and lead to unpleasant sensations; they even affect our mood. The ruminative thinking style is common in some disorders such as depression.

      How is it applied in therapy?

      The thinking stop technique consists of the following: first, when we are at the start of ruminating, we should go to a quiet space where we cannot be disturbed (eg a room). This is recommended for the first few times, but once we have acquired the practice, it will not be necessary to “isolate”, And we will be able to practice the thinking stop technique in almost any environment or context.

      Once alone and calm, we will devote ourselves to thinking intentionally (or unintentionally, letting it “flow”) in that thought that bothers us so much. We’ll try to focus on it, instead of trying to avoid it, Ignore it or run away from it.


      We will focus our attention on it (even if our anxiety increases), and stay that way for at least a minute. Just when the thought is at its “peak” and / or the anxiety or fear is intense or even unbearable, we will loudly shout the word “Stop!” or “Enough!”.

      Other words that are useful to us can also be used; the important thing is that by saying it, we realize that all these thoughts in our mind stop. This is the ultimate goal is that the act of calling the word “X” is associated with stopping thinking.


      Once we have done the procedure, we will leave the room or the place where we are. If the thinking stop technique is applied correctly and systematically, little by little we will realize that after shouting the word it feels a little more relaxed, And those thoughts really stopped.

      It’s also about being consistent and gaining some practice; the mind has to get used to it and combine these two actions.

      After all this, we will have to go back to the room or place that we have chosen and repeat the process. This time we will say the word in a slightly lower tone. We’re going to repeat the process, get in and out of the room, and shrink more and more.

      If the thinking stop technique is going well, in the end we won’t even have to say the word out loudWe can even think so, having the same effect of stopping thinking.


      The more we practice the technique, the more likely it is that the association between the thought and its arrest will occur during the shouting, pronunciation or thought of the keyword.

      The time will come when we can perform the thought stop technique. without anyone in our environment noticing, In situations such as public spaces, meetings, dinner with friends, driving, etc. We can even do it unconsciously. Ultimately, it will be our mind to react like this without having to “give it orders” when it realizes that it has entered a thought loop.


      Through the thought arrest technique, we can achieve or reduce the frequency and / or duration of our ruminant or obsessive thoughts, or eliminate them completely or make them less intrusive.

      If we achieve any of these three things, our quality of life and psychological well-being are likely to increase, allowing us to enjoy more of our daily life and even be able to focus on work or other things that are important to us. interest. .

      Bibliographical references:

      • Cavall, V. (2010). Behavior modification manual. Guayaquil: University of Guayaquil.
      • González, I. (2009). Cognitive-behavioral strategies for managing cravings. RET, Journal of Addictions, 57,12-17.

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