Building Motivation to Overcome Addiction

  • Posted on: 11 March 2016
  • By: Dr Emma
Blog category: 
Alcohol Hypnotherapy Chester Hypnosis Cheshire

'Hierarchy of Values'

When it comes to overcoming an addiction, or breaking a maladaptive habit, there are a series of skills a person needs to master to achieve success.

These skills include:-

  • Building Motivation
  • Coping with Urges
  • Improved Ability to Manage Problems
  • Achieving Lifestyle Balance

To overcome an addiction/habit in a lasting way, these skills have to not only be achieved as a one off, but maintained to ensure long term lasting recovery.

One of the greatest hurdles early in a individuals journey, when they may well be still within the grips of active addiction, is building enough motivation to change. This is a process, not just a moment, for most people, and motivation has to be established, nurtured and gain enough momentum to be effective. Addiction is a misery of dis-ease and living with active addiction is often a living hell, compounded by shame, chaos, loss and conflict, but this suffering in itself is not enough to achieve success; a deeper source of inner resource and motivation needs to be tapped into to effect success.

Hypnosis can be an excellent tool here, to reconnect a person with their inner resourcefulness, creative problem-solving ability and intuitive healing, but other more cognitive tools are useful also. These tools evolve out of a Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy approach.

A lovely tool I often use with clients wishing to overcome addiction or break negative habits is the 'Hierarchy of Values' which comes from the work of Dr Joe Gerstein, a major player in the founding of Smart Recovery approach to addiction recovery. Smart recovery is now the second major peer based self management approach to addiction recovery, the first being a 12 Step approach (eg AA, Gamblers Anonymous etc)


HIERARCHY OF VALUES, seems surprisingly simple but can be highly effective, and goes something like this...

1. Take a few minutes or so to write a list of things that are important to you

2. From this list, look through and choose those you consider to be your 'Top Five', the 5 things you consider to be the MOST important to you (in no particular order). There are no right or wrong answers.

For example, 1. Happiness 2. Family 3. Health 4. Independence 5. Friends

Notice whats missing??  Its very rare for anyone to list their 'drug of choice' (DOC - be it cigarettes, alcohol, shopping, porn), or behaviour of choice in this list, even though it may well be consuming the majority of their time, resources and efforts.

You may be acting as if your DOC is the most important thing in your lives and feeling as if you can't contemplate life without it! But the truth is, it isn't even in your top 5 of things that matter to you!

Every time a person uses, they put in jeopardy the things that are most treasured to them...whether within awareness or not, its like playing Russian Roulette with what a person holds most dear.

Gaining awareness of these behaviours with the Hiearachy of Values tool, and realising that there is a choice, can really help to build motivation for change, to become 'sober', and the motivation to maintain abstinence long-term.

'Hierachy of Values' and others tools and support from the Smart Recovery can be found at Smart and is a value science-based resource for those recovering from addiction.


Dr Emma Rae Rhead. Providing Hypnotherapy, Hypnosis, Psychotherapy and recovery Coaching to overcome Addictions in Chester. Call 01244 470181 or email