Emotional Sobriety Checklist

Learn about Emotional Sobriety Checklists, then download our PDF template and use it for your practice!

By Matt Olivares on Jun 03, 2024.

Fact Checked by Nate Lacson.

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What is emotional sobriety?

Before we discuss what the Emotional Sobriety Checklist is, let’s discuss what emotional sobriety is first.

When we speak of sobriety, we speak of the state of being sober, the ability to remain sober, and the constant choice to abstain from alcoholic beverages and substances (legal or illicit drugs) that intoxicate and impair us.

Most of the time, people use the word sober to refer to people who are recovering or have recovered from dependence and/or addiction to alcohol and other substances.

When we speak of emotional sobriety, we’re referring to the ability of a person to manage, navigate, and work through their emotions and feelings in healthy ways to prevent intrusive thoughts and other mental health problems from overtaking them, disrupting their days, and leading them to make terrible decisions that may jeopardize their mental health and physical well-being.

Emotional sobriety entails total awareness and understanding of one’s emotions and what triggers can set off negative emotions and negative responses to those emotions. They can acknowledge and accept negative emotions and decide to confront or manage them instead of running away and engaging in destructive behaviors (like taking drugs or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol).

Other characteristics of an emotionally sober person include the following:

  • They know how to set boundaries
  • They know how to communicate effectively
  • They know how to establish and maintain healthy relationships
  • They don’t dwell on the past
  • They don’t worry about the future
  • They don’t worry about worst-case scenarios
  • They are driven by and act with a sense of purpose, sometimes greater than themselves

Printable Emotional Sobriety Checklist

Download this Emotional Sobriety Checklist to help clients manage and navigate their emotions and feelings healthily.

How to use an Emotional Sobriety Checklist:

If you’re a mental healthcare professional who conducts therapy or counseling for people with mental health issues, especially if these issues have resulted in addictions and destructive behaviors, one way to check on their recovery is to examine the current state of their emotional sobriety. You can do so by using an Emotional Sobriety Checklist.

Emotional Sobriety Checklists are nifty tools that some mental health facilities use to gauge recovering patients or clients. It’s meant to help professionals such as yourself see how far the patient has come regarding emotional healing and maturity.

Our Emotional Sobriety Checklist template is made up of I statements. Anyone engaging with this checklist only needs to tick as many I statements as they believe apply to their current emotional state. Here are some examples of such statements:

  • I accept things as they are
  • I no longer blame others for my actions
  • I no longer judge myself for experiencing difficult emotions
  • I always look at the light at the end of the tunnel during horrible times
  • I look at the silver lining whenever I’m facing something difficult
  • I am grateful and appreciate what I have
  • I no longer feel bad about not having things I want
  • I no longer allow my emotions to dictate my behavior
  • I constantly practice letting go of jealousy
  • I constantly practice letting go of my resentments
  • I no longer allow social pressure to get to me

That’s it!

Emotional Sobriety Checklist example:

Now that you know the gist of emotional sobriety and know what our Emotional Sobriety Checklist is all about, it’s time to get acquainted with our checklist by showing you what it looks like when filled out!

Besides the I statements and their respective checkboxes, our template also has an Additional Comments section. The person answering the checklist can discuss their current emotional state and recovery in depth to explain why they ticked certain statements and why they didn’t for some. This is entirely optional.

You can print physical copies and hand them to patients during therapy or counseling sessions. You can still use this template if you've gone paperless because the PDF file has interactive components. You can tick the checkboxes with clicks or screen taps and write in the Additional Comments box.

If you believe this is a good way to check on the recovery progress and emotional sobriety of your patients/clients, feel free to download our free Emotional Sobriety Checklist!

Download this Emotional Sobriety Checklist example

Emotional Sobriety Checklist example

When is it best to use an Emotional Sobriety Checklist?

At the beginning of therapy or counseling programs for patients.

During the start of therapy or counseling programs, your goal is to get to know patients in light of their emotions, struggles, and issues that have led them to their current emotional states. One way to get to know them is using the Emotional Sobriety Checklist.

By having them fill out the checklist, you’ll be able to identify points of concern that can help you shape your upcoming therapy or counseling sessions for them and focus on reconfiguring how they think about themselves, how they view their emotions, and how they act as responses to their emotions.

When checking on a patient or client’s recovery progress.

Suppose you’re in the meat of your therapy or counseling program, and your patient is slowly progressing in recovery. They’ve been applying what you’ve taught them, and you can see that there have been changes in how they think about themselves and act.

Reissue this checklist to see what statements they’ve finally ticked compared to the first time, and have them engage with the optional additional comments box to explain their reasoning behind what they’ve ticked and what they haven’t.

Since you can issue this electronically, you can have them return a fully accomplished checklist between the days of each session to see their progress and then discuss it accordingly once they attend a session.

When talking to a patient or client one more time after they complete your therapy or counseling program.

After your patient or client finishes your therapy or counseling program, you can reissue this checklist one more time. Hopefully, they tick all of the boxes. It’s an excellent way to show and remind them how far they’ve come in understanding, accepting, confronting, and maintaining their emotions and emotional responses. You can even let them keep it so they have something to look at that may keep them from regressing.

What are the benefits of using an Emotional Sobriety Checklist?

It can help mental healthcare professionals determine what to focus on.

The Emotional Sobriety Checklist asks users to check the statements that apply to them. The statements that they don’t check should help indicate what potential problems they have that are detrimental to their mental health. Mental healthcare professionals can zoom into the statements they didn’t check, and they can shape their programs to address these points of concern.

It can be used to monitor patients/clients over time.

The Emotional Sobriety Checklist can be a monitoring tool as you review your therapy or counseling programs for your patients/clients. You can send copies of the checklist to your patient/client, and they can answer them at home or wherever they are. By having them submit fully accomplished copies of the checklist to you routinely, you can track any changes in their views of themselves.

It can make patients/clients reflect on themselves and become more self-aware.

The reason why we settled for I statements for this checklist is to give patients/clients who are not emotionally sober to look at themselves and think about how they’ve been feeling, how they view themselves, how they act when dealing with difficult emotions, etc.

Becoming more cognizant about themselves, that’s half the battle! They will identify which statements apply to them and which don’t. Knowing which statements don’t apply to them yet might encourage them to improve themselves so they can say that particular I statements apply to them down the line.

How often should I issue this checklist to patients/clients?
How often should I issue this checklist to patients/clients?

Commonly asked questions

How often should I issue this checklist to patients/clients?

It depends on how long your therapy or counseling program is. You can issue this every session to gauge your patient's progress since the previous session. You can issue copies of these for them to send routinely so you can monitor how they’re doing and if there are any significant changes to their emotional sobriety.

How do you interpret the findings of this checklist?

You simply look at what’s been ticked and what hasn’t been ticked. The statements that haven’t been ticked are things you might want to look into as you go through your therapy or counseling program. This checklist has no scoring and designations. It’s meant to show you where your patient is regarding their emotional sobriety.

I’m not a mental healthcare professional. Am I allowed to use this?

Yes. Even if you’re not a mental healthcare professional, you can download our template for free! We hope it helps you become more aware of your emotional sobriety. If you feel like you’re not emotionally sober, we recommend seeing a therapist or counselor to help you get to the point where you are emotionally sober.

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