The Space Between Stimulus and Response

Reflections on addictions counseling and creating change


I named this blog for a quote I recently read:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”   -Viktor Frankl

I have always been inspired by the psychiatrist and existential therapist, Viktor Frankl. He was a Holocaust survivor who proclaimed that personal integrity can never be taken from you, even if you find yourself in dire circumstances. This quote reminds me that we always have the power to exercise choice. Though we cannot always change our circumstances, we always have the power to choose how we perceive them. If we let them, our perceptions can create more distress than our actual circumstances themselves (a fundamental principle of CBT). This relates to addictions and mental health counseling because unhelpful thought and perception lie at the core of distress, relapse and substance use. It seems that the “space” Viktor Frankl describes is the place where therapists work with clients to support self-exploration and awareness. And perhaps awareness is the first step to change.


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