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Get Rid of Your Excuses: Three Minute Refutations

Three Minute Refutations are a part of Three Minute Therapy involve a powerful exercise to change your thinking. It serves as a supplement to the Three Minute Exercise. While the Three Minute Exercise (in my book, see pp. 9, 18, 32, 40, etc.) helps you dispute your demands — your “musts” and “shoulds” — Three Minute Refutations target your rationalizations or excuses, which arise from your demands.

For example, if you have bills to pay and find it uncomfortable to do so, you may tell yourself you “must” avoid that discomfort. Or if you have the urge to eat chocolate when eating it is prohibited on your diet, you may think you “must” satisfy this urge. These “musts” lead to self-defeating behaviors. The Three Minute Exercise is ideal for targeting the “musts.”

However, the “musts” may encourage you to make excuses for not paying the bills or not abstaining from the chocolate, excuses such as, “I don’t have enough time to pay all the bills tonight, I’ll pay them tomorrow” or “I’ll have only one piece of chocolate, then I’ll stop.”

Irrational Belief: “I absolutely MUST satisfy my urge for chocolate right now. I can’t stand feeling frustrated.”

Excuse or rationalization: “I’ll have only one piece, then I’ll stop.”

This is where Three Minute Refutations comes in. It targets these excuses and rationalizations. Along with the Three Minute Exercises target your demands, while the Three Minute Refutations target your excuses.

Putting Three Minute Refutations Into Practice

Three Minute Refutations prove effective for behavioral difficulties including procrastination and addictions. It consists of two elements: excuses and refuting the excuses. Let’s begin with excuses.

Excuses are statements we make to ourselves that make procrastinating, overeating, overdrinking, or smoking seem reasonable, when in reality they’re destructive because they block, interfere, or sabotage your goals. Refutations put the lie to the excuses and state how they’re false or self-destructive.

Here’s an example of a completed Three Minute Refutation:


“It’s okay to drink or get high right now because it’ll be the last time.”


1. I’ve used this excuse hundreds of times. It hasn’t worked before and it won’t work now. It always has led to the next time.

2. This “last time” could mean losing my job and ruining my career.

3. How many days is this one going to last?

4. I don’t HAVE TO indulge this “last time.”

5. This “last time” could destroy my relationship.

6. I’m lying to myself, pure and simple.

7. I can change this statement to: “No more times!”

8. I’ll be better off now, better off tomorrow, and better off for the rest of my life with: “No more drugs or alcohol!”

9. Since I choose to use, I can choose not to use.

10. If I choose not to use, the discomfort I’ll feel will be temporary, not forever.

Instructions for Using the Refutations:

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1. Read these refutations five times a day until you’ve memorized them. Then repeat them by memory five times a day.

2. Whenever you have the urge for alcohol or drugs, identify the thoughts that make using seem reasonable. Then refute these excuses.

3. If the excuses seem to be gaining the upper hand, externalize the debate by writing down the dialogue or saying it out loud.

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Dr. Michael R. Edelstein, a licensed clinical psychologist with over 25 years experience, is in private practice in San Francisco. He is the author of Three Minute Therapy: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life, a self-help book for overcoming common emotional and behavioral problems. He was awarded Author of the Year for the book. In his practice, Dr. Edelstein specializes in the treatment of anxiety, depression, relationship problems, and addictions, and is one of the few practitioners of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) in the Bay Area. Dr. Edelstein lectures nationally and internationally, appears on radio and television, and is published in psychological journals. He writes the advice column, “Ask Dr. Mike,” which appears in the San Francisco Intelligencer.

Get Rid of Your Excuses: Three Minute Refutations

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Michael R. Edelstein, Ph.D.

APA Reference
Edelstein, M. (2018). Get Rid of Your Excuses: Three Minute Refutations. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 5, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
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