Distress Tolerance in Practice: The Container Exercise


United States Department of Homeland Security

Key Points

  1. In order for clients to feel safe enough to process trauma memories, they need to feel they will not be overwhelmed by their trauma memories within sessions or between sessions.
  2. One way to achieve this is through the “container exercise“.
  3. In this exercise, the client learns to visualize the container of their choice.
  4. Clients can take whatever psychological material (thoughts, feelings, memories) they do not feel they can handle, and visualize placing them in the container until the client feels ready to retrieve them.
  5. Only the client has the key to open the container, so the client maintains full control over this material.

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Distress Tolerance in Practice: The Container Exercise

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