SUDS: Seemingly Unimportant Decisions

The current blogpost will be based on the question “What are SUDS Seemingly Unimportant Decisions?”. We will learn about the seemingly unimportant decisions. We will also discuss their effect on our routine life actions and relationships.

What are SUDS Seemingly Unimportant Decisions?

SUDS are called seemingly unimportant decisions. Seemingly unimportant decisions are those decisions that appear to be reasonable, factual and unrelated to the target behavior in counseling or therapy. However in reality, they have a strong direct impact on the target behavior and they seem to negatively influence the course of psychotherapy or counseling

It usually happens that many of our daily mundane and ordinary decisions seem to have zero or a minimum impact on our life. When it comes to therapy or counseling, the target area or the short term goal is often made inaccessible due to the decisions based actions and behaviors that appear unimportant .

The seemingly unimportant decisions may seem to have nothing to do with our problem area but often they have a strong and direct impact on what we do in life and what happens to us.

For example, a case of alcohol withdrawal may involve many seemingly unimportant decisions that are not directly related to alcohol or drug intake, but in the long term they may push the person towards relapse or a step closer towards the relapse.

Our small decisions in life based on our daily choices may take us towards recovery or away from recovery towards relapse based on our seemingly unimportant decisions. 

Some of the most common seemingly unimportant decisions include the following :

  • Going to a place where you first started taking drugs.
  • Going to a party with your group of friends who take drugs
  • Taking a drive with someone who takes drugs
  • Sharing with your old group of smoking friends that you are trying to quit smoking
  • Making weekend plans with same old group of friends who offered you to start drugs for recreation

What is the role of seemingly unimportant decisions in therapy and counseling?

The role of seemingly unimportant decisions in therapy and counseling is very crucial. The seemingly unimportant decisions are the decision points in life of a person that lead a person towards any of the two extremes, abstinence or relapse in therapy.

Abstinence in therapy is the client’s prevention from a particular behavior that they tend to minimize or get rid of completely. Against abstinence is a client’s tendency to get involved in high risk situations and get back to the same problem behavior in the form of relapse. 

Abstinence is based on the client’s healthy coping mechanisms and includes a client’s self efficacy and self expectancy. If a client gets involved into any of the seemingly unimportant decisions , the abstinence gets negatively influenced and the client has a greater chance to move towards high risk situations that trigger the client’s thoughts and feelings related to the problem behavior. Thus there is a greater chance of dysfunctional coping leading to a lapse of the problem behavior based on deviant behaviors or impulsive behaviors that take the client more towards the initial problem behavior. As a result there is a greater chance for the client to return towards the initial behavior and get involved in the same behavior once again. Thus relapse may occur due to a seemingly unimportant decision that apparently appeared to be of no value.

Thus these seemingly unimportant decisions are based on the client’s routine life choices that have a power to lead the client either away from relapse or towards the relapse. 

The tricky thing is that these decisions appear to be of no or minimum significance in the road to recovery but their impact is manifold. The difficulty that the client usually faces is that the client is mostly unaware of thecchoice’s importance and thus they mindlessly take a decision that is seemingly unimportant but actually has a great impact on their life.

Some of the situations that may lead to seemingly unimportant decisions are as follows :

  • Denying fears.
  • Convincing oneself that “I’ll never drink or use again.”
  •  Deciding that “not” drinking or using is all we need.
  •  Trying to force sobriety on others vs. helping someone who wants recovery.
  •  Becoming overconfident about recovery.
  •  Behaving compulsively (i.e., something you feel you must do and must repeat, and that others
  • would see as unnecessary).
  •  Making unrealistic or haphazard plans.
  •  Being trapped in the “there and then” rather than living in the “here and now.”
  •  Day dreaming about failure.
  •  Viewing problems as unsolvable.
  •  Avoiding having healthy fun.
  •  Overanalyzing oneself. 
  •  Becoming irritated by friends or family.
  •  Becoming easily angered.
  •  Beginning to blaming people, places, things, and conditions, for my own problems.
  •  Beginning to doubt my disease (addiction).
  •  Eating irregularly (i.e., eating too much or too little, not caring for nutrition).
  •  Experiencing periods of listlessness (low energy).
  •  Sleeping irregularly (i.e., sleeping too much, too little or at unusual times).
  •  Developing an “I don’t care attitude.”
  •  Hoarding – money, sex, objects, or power.
  •  Openly rejecting help from others, especially those familiar with recovery.
  •  Rationalizing that drinking or using cannot make life worse than it is now. It not only can, it will.
  •  Feeling sorry for yourself.
  •  Day dreaming, fantasizing about drinking or using.
  •  Beginning to lie consciously.
  •  Increasing use of aspirin or other nonprescription medications.
  •  Feeling overwhelmed with loneliness, frustration, anger or tension.
  •  Begin visiting “friends” and places associated with drinking or using.
  •  Convincing oneself that you are cured.
  •  Losing control.
  •  Telling yourself that it is okay to deal. “It will be quick and easy and I can use the money.”

It is noteworthy to mention here that in the counseling and therapy process the value of seemingly unimportant decisions is of great significance. It is crucial for the therapists and counselors to psychoeducate their clients for the seemingly unimportant decisions and help them analyze their behaviors in the light of seemingly unimportant decisions. A graphical representation in the form of a flowchart can be used to explain the importance of the seemingly unimportant decisions in the course of therapy.

The most important areas related to psychoeducation of seemingly unimportant decisions lie in drug addiction and behavioral addiction cases. By helping the clients in therapy or counseling identify their seemingly unimportant decisions the counselors can enable them to take control of their life and avoid the path to relapse.

In order to prevent the client from relapse as a result of seemingly unimportant decisions, the counselor or therapist can tell them to :

  • Be consistent
  • Be mindful of their actions and behaviors
  • Analyze if a behavior might end up in abstinence or relapse
  • Be persistent
  • Seek social support
  • Call a helpline
  • Contact your therapist or counselor

How do we prevent ourselves from life altering results as a consequence of Seemingly unimportant decisions ?

We can prevent ourselves from the ;life altering results of seemingly unimportant decisions by the following necessary steps :

  • Identify the areas of susceptibility
  • Work with a life coach to understand the life areas that may seem vulnerable
  • Accept the fact that the consequences of seemingly unimportant decisions can be undone


The current blogpost was based on the question “What are SUDS Seemingly Unimportant Decisions?”. We learned in detail about the seemingly unimportant decisions. We also discussed the impact of seemingly unimportant decisions on our routine life and their impact on our adaptive functioning.

Frequently asked questions : SUDS Seemingly Unimportant Decisions

What is the abstinence violation effect?

Abstinence violation effect is defined as a human’s tendency to continue to engage in a prohibited behavior following the violation of a personal goal to abstain. The abstinence violation effect is mostly related to relapse of client’s target behavior in therapy or counseling sessions.

What are some examples of high-risk situations?

Some examples of high risk situations are as follows :

  • Feeling physical pain.
  • Being in the presence of other people who are using drugs or alcohol.
  • Getting a paycheck.
  • Being in a place where you used to drink or get high.
  • Attending a celebratory event
  • An urge to engage in impulsive behaviors 

How do you identify risky situations?

Risky situations are identified by anyone of the following warning signs :

  • negative feelings.
  • cravings to use.
  • pleasant emotions (feeling good)
  • physical pain or illness.
  • tests of personal control over substances.
  • social pressure to drink alcohol or use other drugs.
  • having fun with others (for example, at parties or other social events)

What is considered a risk factor?

A risk factor is any trigger based on feeling , thought or behavior that increases a person’s tendency to get engaged in a particular behavior. Risk factors are often significantly connected to relapse of target behaviors in therapy and counseling.


Seemingly Unimportant Decisions (SUDs) are decisions that appear to be reasonable and unrelated to your anger problem—but they have a direct impact on what you do later and what will happen to you,%20Fort%20Campbell.pdf

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!