Impulse Control Strategies

By following these strategies it is possible to control impulsive behaviors that lead to irrational thinking.

Write your answers to the questions below. Review what you write, and analyze your answers. Find supporting information to verify what you believe.


Q: How do you define impulse control?

A: Impulse control is the process of learning to STOP and LOOK at the consequences of your actions before you commit yourself to something. When we have impulse control, we have the ability to STOP and THINK who else will be affected by our actions. We see the consequences ahead of our action.

Simulation: Timmy commits himself by following impulses. Timmy obviously has a problem of saying no and a problem of setting his own boundaries. When someone asks Timmy to do something, he instantly ignores his own responsibility to help that person. How can we help Timmy? Timmy has his own responsibilities in which he has fallen behind because he took time that he did not have to help others.

To help Timmy with impulse control, we must look at the signs of lost control:

1. Acting impulsively consumes our time, burns our energies, and robs us of our resources.

2. The person feels driven, impelled and thinks of nothing else.

3. The person feels like the decision is the only possible answer (seeing inside the box only), which leads to irrational thinking.

Obviously, Timmy is setting himself up for more problems. Therefore, to help him after seeing the signs, we can teach him:

Strategies for Impulse Control

1. Ask Timmy to ask himself who else will be affected by his behaviors.

2. How do impulsive behaviors affect Timmy?

3. Delay the action: allow yourself time to think through your decision while considering the consequences and alternatives: your choices are important.

4. Find a way to borrow time so you have time to meditate on your decision.

5. Regroup your mind, think back into your past - consider situations you had to get yourself out of because of your impulsive behaviors. (Practice these control strategies each time you make a decision for the best results)

By following the strategies above, it is possible to control impulsive behaviors that lead to irrational thinking. Yet, we must help Timmy grow by offering him:


Self-help strategies

Because we need to depend on ourselves and not others, it is important to learn self-help strategies.

1. Reward yourself each time you stop and think through a situation instead of acting impulsively.

2. Keep a journal, record your thoughts and feelings about your decisions you make. Consider if you made the decision impulsively.

3. Write a "Bill of Rights' for yourself and read it when you get ready to make a decision.

Reminders for yourself:

Choices are critical and mean a lot when we can make our own choices devoid of persuasion from others. When we make our own choices, we have the freedom to act on our choices or say no. Choices put us in charge of ourselves rather than allowing others to control us.

Consequences of acting impulsively:

1. Consequences from impulsive behaviors include: confusion, self-loathing and feeling out of control. What stem from these consequences are selfishness, guilt, shame and doubt.

2. The results of acting impulsively leads to struggle, because a lot of your time is wasted trying to resolve conflicts in your own mind. Problems develop in relationships, money is spent wastefully and time is consumed.

Role-Play Simulation

Timmy: Hey Liza, I just saw this great ad in the paper, they are selling the new iPods. I think I will buy one.

Liza: What is the cost of the iPod?

Timmy: only $300

Liza: I realize you really want this new iPod Timmy, but honestly can you afford it? You said last week that you are struggling for cash to pay your bills.

Timmy: It means working harder, but I think I can afford it.

Liza: Remember how stressed you were last week trying to find the money to pay your rent? Did you pay your rent?

Timmy: No, I owe my property owner $20,0 still. I used some of the money to buy a new stereo.

Liza: Timmy, look at your "plus vs. minus ratio." How will this new iPod benefit you? How will it affect you if you choose to buy it?

Timmy: Well, I will have more choices in audio. But, if I don't pay my rent next week, I am being evicted.

Liza: Timmy, do you think that you can think on this decision more before you go out and buy the new iPod? Perhaps talk it over with your family and friends first.

Timmy: I suppose I can, but what if it sells out by the time I make my choice?

Liza: Good point, but let's keep talking about this issue before you make a decision.


Elicit feedback from Liza and Timmy in the role-play setting allowed them to focus on the behavior and not the personality.

Now, assign yourself a Decision-Balance Matrix (Example Table 10:4)

Personal time commitment for self and others

(+) Positive consequences         (+) negative consequences

Social and family relationships
Education responsibilities
Job and career responsibilities
Leisure time pursuits
Religion and community obligations


Follow the instructions and complete the form below on a piece of paper:

Name ___________________________

Date Assigned __________________

Date Completed _________________

Instructions: Your social skills assignment follows. You will need to practice the social skills five times with other people or your peers. 1) Write a description of what happened, when it happened, and where it happened in each practice example. 2) Record what you said and did. 3) Record what the other person said and did.

Behavioral Definition: _______________________________________________________________

What happened?

What you said and did (and what the other person said and did)





Life Skills Own-Work Form

Own-Work differs from academic homework, in that own-work enforces critical thinking, transferring and reinforcement to other social settings to share successes and to combat impulsive behaviors.


Anger stems from our thoughts and feelings. Anger can be displayed appropriately to others or inappropriately. When we act inappropriately to others, expressing aggressive anger of rage, we only tell others how irresponsible and immature we are. We are the owners of our own thoughts and feelings and we are solely responsible for our behaviors and actions. Therefore, to conquer anger entirely, you must be willing to learn and grow.

Learn more: Overcome anger problems with online therapy.

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