6 DBT Distraction Techniques & a PLAN! Dialectical Behavior Therapy | Kati Morton

hey everybody today we’re going to go over yet another DBT technique and this is distraction and how to create a distraction plan so like I said today we’re going to talk about distraction and creating a distraction plan and as always because this is part of DBT I’m working from my handy-dandy dialectical behavioral therapy workbook and I want to read from it for just a second because they talk about why distract like why should we do this in the first place and it’s why DBT is so amazing so they say think about all the pain you’ve already been through in your life think about all the people who hurt you physically sexually emotionally and verbally does it make sense to continue hurting yourself even more in the present does it make more sense to start healing yourself and your wounds and I think it does it makes a lot of sense that we don’t need to keep hurting ourselves we should take this time to work on ourselves and heal the wounds that have been created and so one of the ways to do that is to distract ourselves from self-destructive behavior and they just call it self-destructive behavior because it could be any form of self-harm whether it’s actually cutting or burning or physically hurting ourselves to things that we do to kind of self-sabotage and they talk about some safer actions that you can use there are tons they have pages and pages these so I encourage all of you to pick this up because it’s so helpful but some of them we’ve talked about before like holding an ice cube snapping a rubber band taking a red marker and marking on yourself where you’d want to cut throwing pillows against the wall as hard as you can screaming into a pillow write letters to people that you hate or who hurt you cry dig your nails into your arm without breaking the skin there the list goes on and on and on but all of these are alternatives and ways to distract when the urges to self-harm get really strong the second way to distract is to distract pleasurable activity so the ones I talked about before are in the moment when you have the urges to self-harm you snap the rubber band right on yourself you squeeze the IceCube you do those things but there are so many and this is an even longer list of pleasurable activities you can do to distract yourself and could text a friend you can go eat your favorite ice cream you can go to the movie theater watch television listen to the radio watch a football game go hiking ride your bike stretch your muscles have sex exercise organize a party there are tons of things and they’re all very pleasurable sound really nice like take a nap I love it take a nap these are all ways to distract you in positive ways instead of turning into kind of that self-destructive self-harm behavior and it kind of gets us out of that negative spiral that self-harm can pull us into and that’s why that’s why I love DBT the third way to distract is to distract by thinking about someone else do something nice for someone else volunteer take attention off yourself go do it says go to a local store shopping center bookstore Park you can sit and watch people walk by something that’s kind of fun and there’s work for a lot of my clients is I’ll tell them to go to a public place and to sit and make up stories about the people that they see oh that girl her name is Susan she’s from Wisconsin but she moved to LA three years ago and she’s really making her you can make up anything you want and it just takes your mind out of that negative thought process that where the triggers and the urges to self-harm are intense and it pulls you into a whole nother thing it can be really fun and really distracting the fourth distraction technique is to distract your thoughts think about a time in your life when it was the best that’s ever been a really fun holiday you had with your family a vacation you took with your friends that weekend away with your boyfriend remembering these times and all the happy little details can just take you out of it almost like what I just talked about sitting down and you know thinking about someone else and making up pretend stories it takes us out of our head this instead of focusing on someone else just puts our attention into our own imagination like pretending you’re a superhero what would your superpowers be what would you do I have imagining your wildest fantasies coming true or keep a great quote or mantra with you and you can pull that out and read it to yourself too and those are great in the moment when it’s really hard to have the time to kind of space out for a while while you think about these things having a mantra you say over and over could be a quick easy thing that you can pull from your memory and do without anybody knowing that you’re doing it the fifth distraction technique is to distract by leaving I tell this to my clients all the time if you have a lot of self harm tools around you in your home and the urges are getting really bad get out of the house leave if it’s a bad situation and someone is really causing a lot of emotional disturbance and you’re feeling the triggers to self harm getting worse and worse get out of there I got to go oh my gosh I forgot to feed my cat oh I have to wash my hair again oh my friend is supposed to come over I totally forgot you can make up any excuse and get out of there there’s no reason to have to stay in a harmful situation weather or even by yourself or with if you’re with others and by ourselves I honestly find to be more more of a struggle for my clients and so getting out of the house going to a populated area like I was talking about before and focusing on someone else can be a great distraction tool the sixth and final distraction tool is to distract with chores I know a lot of you are like but I hate chores but it’s a great way to pass the time to get your mind off of things you can mow the lawn you can clean your bedroom you can organize your closet you can get rid of things and donate them to Goodwill you can do all sorts of goodies they have a whole list polish your shoes polish your jewelry clean the garage wash the laundry there are so many things that we can do whether we want to do them or not you could be a weird organizational freak like me and you actually like doing that stuff but if not it’s still no matter if you have people around if you can’t leave if you don’t drive yet and you can’t get out of the house that’s a nice way to distract when you’re stuck at home so now we have all these distraction tools all six options and a bunch of options under that now what do we do we have to make our distraction plan and the best way that we can do that is to go through some items think of things that may work for you we’re going to it’s a trial and error basis but we’re doing our best right we’re going to create the best distraction plan that we can now and then we’re going to find out what works and doesn’t and if it doesn’t we cross it out and we replace it with a new one now I would encourage all of you go get a three by five card write down one from each category at least there might be more that we can do in the moment keep that card with you all the time put it in your wallet put it in your purse make sure you have it with you all the time it could have your monitor on it it could have ways to distract and things to think about so to fantasize about what that person is doing or just pretend you’re superhero all sorts of clues and tricks to help you distract in the moment now we’ll put it together what are you waiting for make sure you carry it with you all the time because we never know what will trigger us am i right okay now if you like this video give it a thumbs up it really helps youtube to know that these videos are cool and people like them like you and if you’d like more DBT videos that tells me that I need to make some more of these and as always if you’re new to my channel welcome and don’t forget to subscribe I put out videos all the time and if you haven’t checked at katimorton.com please do there’s a great chat area where you can get some support from people in the moment and there’s also my goodies I have a new shop with sweatshirts and t-shirts and iPhone covers in all sorts of wonderful things so hop on and check it out stress tolerance in order now the next um the next portion of DBT is emotion regulation because like I talked about in my borderline personality disorder video which you could click here to view


  1. Journal topic:

    Give people High fives just for getting out of bed! Being a person is hard sometimes


  2. I have pretty much all of the symptoms of Avoidant Personality Disorder. How do I get a diagnosis and how do I bring up this conversation with my parents? Thank you for your help x

  3. Hi Kati Morton, thank you for your videos, they are very helpful!
    I don't know how to give topic suggestions, do you have anywhere else than the comment section for them?

  4. I have a few different techniques to help me but I do find that doing chores help a lot. Just look around the house and find something that needs to be done. If you need to clean your room or your bathroom or go through storage. Something. I just turn on some music and start cleaning. It really helps me distract myself.

  5. I have seen a lot of your videos and i love them are you a therapist or someone in recovery? do you have a facebook page? 

  6. The first technique actually makes it worse for me (rubber band, ice cubes etc.) And in my opinion it is still selfharm although it does not leave any marks/it does not break the skin. Because the thoughts behind it are the same and we get relase for the same reason and we still take our feelings out on ourselves. So I don't use it. 
    I can understand that it might help some people who just cannot go without that pain.

  7. I hate to say that a lot of these techniques DON'T work for me.. I want them to, but I have concurring issues that make it difficult for these to work. For examples, chores & thinking of others means responsibility which causes such overwhelming feelings that I isolate from it all. Secondly, distracting my thoughts sends me into manic (I'm bipolar) daydreams and sprees of research & buying to accomplish unrealistic fantasies. Not only that, but I'm extremely agoraphobic so leaving my house and being around other people causes intense anxiety and paranoia… Any advice? 🙁

  8. Thank you Kati for let me know all about DBT throw all of your videos. I was badly needed it . Thank you so………… much ! One more thing , I like your gesture too .

  9. Your video offers useful examples of distraction and needs to clarify the difference between distracting as a skill and avoidance as a problem behavior. Furthermore, it is important to reiterate to those new to DBT that the goal is not to eliminate suffering, which is an unavoidable fact of life, but to learn how to live in spite of suffering. Would you agree?

  10. The raised points are valid. People who inflict harm on themselves need to be treated with care. Some are undergoing a lot of pain and some just want an escape. Thank you for this video, Kati.

  11. I get trigger by people and the sayings of people. that is why I keep a book at hand while i am out in the public. ha ha ha ha.. lol with Smile's.

  12. Hello Kati Morton.

    Imho, #3 is probably the most potent. A new/different individual to focus on distracts way more than 'x' activity. Once again in my opinion. And of course the chores option LOL.

  13. No offense intended, but you're a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Why should your videos mean anything to me, since I'm not married & don't have a family of my own?

  14. Running or working out I find is a good distraction. It burns up that pent up negativity / anger ect . I was boiling with rage and I went for a hard run .. it seemed to calm me .

  15. When I listen to some of these suggestions I feel like they would just make me feel more alone and more like a loser than I already feel. Pretending to be super woman or drawing red marks on my arm just makes me feel crazier.

  16. I have never understood how you are supposed to do these things when you are working to the bone just trying to make ends meet. I can't do most of the things in this video when I need to the most because I am working. Guess I just do the best I can do.

  17. Thank you. I'm enjoying your videos. my distractions include walking around the street saying in my mind "may I have a still mind, may I have peace", I take my camera out and do photography, I talk to one particular friend who I can be honest with.

  18. So dbt sounds very manic and i have naturally been doing these things u suggest as distraction for years…..i thought dbt was observing stress non judgementally. That is what i need to learn HOW to do!!

  19. If I distract myself with work, I would be so consumed and feel too safe that I won't come back to the issue that I was suppose to deal with.

  20. it was suggested I have BPD over 25 years ago. understatement…tons more trauma bc of mis-medication and bad hospitals suicide attempts blah blah blah. I'm 50. my whole life has been a pile of disappointment and trauma with a few moments of positive breakthrus but still nothing feels different inside. I'm lonelier than ever and so socially maladapted…idk if I can ever be fixed to the point where I'm not disabled and waiting to die. There are no therapists doing DBT in my area and I cannot afford what I've found online. So I have a therapist that's got amazing potential and skills but does not have a ton of experience and seems to know less about CBT than I do. Does not know DBT. So I got a workbook and here I am. it will guide both of us thru me.

  21. I don't cut myself. but I do drink when I feel overwhelmed. I'm trying to figure out if I truly have bpd or cptsd. they diagnosed me with bipolar and borderline. I think I may be a quiet borderline.

  22. So struggling severe depression, naturally looking for ways to distract myself to break the link of bad thoughts I was unwittingly doing DBT 😋

  23. You keep showing up in every search I do over the last year. I think I will just Subscribe takes less work I can just search your videos now. 🙂

  24. Right now I'm in a dark mood. Everything seems very unenjoyable. Nothing seems happy to me. what do i do? I feel like everything is falling down around me. I'm sabotaging my relationship. I need help and nothing is working.

  25. I went through that same workbook on my own and found it extremely helpful! Probably the best therapy workbook I have personally used.

  26. One of the distraction techniques mention was to go to a public place…!
    Pepole with BPD could also be assimilated with other disorders such as social anxiety disorder so that technique could not be a very good idea as it could be a trigger for elevated emotional outbursts due to low self-esteem. Fortunately there are other options of the DBD distraction techniques listing !
    I just want to make comment..!

  27. This is literally the best most useful video I've seen on self-help for borderline. The way you describe each category and the emotion you put into your voice mean that I know I'll remember these techniques and think of your lovely caring face when shit gets tough. Thank you Kati! ❤

  28. Please do more DBT videos. Im doing DBT and on a waiting list for the DBT group skills. In my country the age limit for DBT was just dropped so Im able to get into a group now and Im really nervous and would like to know a bit about it before I start.

    When we are suffering to where it becomes unbearable (to the point of self harm), do people have the motivation to go get ice cream?

    Would having sex while symptomatic be healthy for our partners (especially severe depression or severe agitation)?

    A distraction is usually something STRONGER than what we are feeling, or it wouldn’t distract us from symptoms for long. “People watching” or ice cream might not help those with symptoms strong enough to engage in self harm. I love the ice cube one though!

    Wouldn’t using a red marker keep someone fixated on the unhealthy subconscious pattern of resorting to self harm considering how similar the act is? I’d love your feedback here Katie and thanks for your dedication to helping others. Mindfulness is a great tool for any human being. The present moment is everything 😊👍

  30. I work a job where I am not allowed many distractions at my desk job and have very little actual work to do. How do I keep my mind occupied with healthy thoughts 40 hours a week when many times it just spirals down with too much time to think?

  31. Awesome video, first one I watched after my psych told me to watch this!! Thanks so much!!! MashaAllah!

  32. Thank you for this Video! I have struggles finding a therapist because where i live we have no therapist doing dbt therapy so this was really helpful!

  33. Thank your for your suggestions. I use my happy planner to put my reminders about technics I have learned from DBT. Wish I could send you a picture of it.

  34. I love your DBT videos, I have the workbook. Me & my husband are both working it, using separate journals. It's not easy, like the very first three questions. Thank you for being out there, I need guidance. No luck with a therapist in my po-dunk town, but maybe it isn't them. I should try again, it's been about 10 years.

  35. Kati, you are a life saver. Thank you for these videos. I just put on this video a few mins ago after a tough argument with someone who was being insensitive to my emotional reactions (Autonomic Dysfunction, BPD-like symptoms, ESFP personality type, hx of undiagnosed family illness). I work constantly on improving my emotional regulation skills and of course I’m going to be sensitive to any sort of snarky, dismissive micro emotions I believe I’m seeing.

    So.. It’s tough, and your DBT videos have honestly helped me grow so much over the past couple of weeks.

    “Sometimes pain can’t be avoided… but many times suffering can”. That quote alone… there are just no words to appropriately describe the empowerment and hope I experienced when I took in its true meaning. Thank you!

    (PS I totally just used expressing my gratitude to you in this comment as a distraction technique from my spiral of self-harm in the form of self-sabotage. Dope. )

  36. I've never really understood how snapping elastic bamds, digging nails into skin or holding ice cubes are alternatives to self harm. Yes, they distract you. But they still hurt so it's essentially self harm to me :/ I already self harm in ways that don't leave any marks but they do hurt so they're still an unhealthy way of coping

  37. Interesting. I have that book. It was recommended to read because it is a easy book to understand about DBT. I spend the whole weekend reading the book. Well Alexia read it to me. I followed along. And hearing it from you made it clear. Thank you.

  38. I would like to add two more for anybody who wants them:
    Memorize all the words to a song, poem, or significant number that is long enough to actually distract you and then recite it to yourself. Try to pick something that you can keep adding to like your favorite Shakespeare monologue or something you can brag about when you get a little bit carried away and want to show off. I don’t know how you like to live. Lol.

    Also, I found this one by accident but it’s effective nonetheless, try to learn a song in a different language. Not a song that you like that’s translated to a different language but a genuine song that is actually from the cultural of people that commonly speak that language. It’s a great journey to find the song as long as you have headphones, lol

  39. I always find that when I try to distract the negative thoughts are just building up in the background until it becomes too much and the distraction no longer works
    And I feel worse than before

  40. Never distract. What you resist will persist. Embrace your thoughts and feelings, as they are meaningless. They always have been. Come back to presence. Realize this, and suffering ends. The cure is through it, not around it. If you run from it, it will always follow you. The problem will always become worse if you keep running from it. I can’t believe this is a therapy you’re actually teaching.

  41. I wish I had known about this sooner, I have had this issue for years and now I am having social issues and I find stress makes it worse . PLEASE can more videos be done on this. Thank you kati!🙂 I am new to this, can you advise beginners what books you recommend? I will e-mail you on Google plus. I am grateful for your videos! 🙂👍 x

  42. I’m always distracting myself to where I can’t accomplish daily tasks :/ I can’t stay home I’m always going out driving or shopping or doing anything to distract my mind!

  43. There are people with BPD who don't self harm but their actions are equally destructive such as heavy drinking, missing deadlines on purpose etc same no focus is given to these aspects.

  44. I recently found out why i was addicted to food. When I was a child I was very lonely and kept trying to get attention by excelling in all subjects but no one cared. I tried to make friends but found out no one wanted to be my friend. My father was an addict. Everything and everyone disappointed me. Food was the only thing that made me happy. Now I realize i need a distraction from food. I'm sick of hurting myself. And yes it's hurting me. I deserve better. I have great friends now. I have talents. I'm luckier than i know.

  45. With two BPDers I am involved with I found soothing stuff helps..electric blankets to comfort and super large teddy bears. BPDers love inanimate objects of confort.. a "safe" form of comfort…

  46. This video is very helpful and hear is what it helped me to come to a deeper sense of awareness of:  Do I want to Stay in my state of "Self Empowerment and Peace of Mind",, or would I want to "RE-Visit Old War Zones" of the Past, (Dysfunctional Painful Relationships), Family, Old Friendship's, Behavioral Practices of this World that are self destructive. As long as I am a "Refugee of Heart" in this World. It is with in my Own Rights to "Choose to be Free in, Spirit, Mind and Body".  Awesome!!

  47. Im binge listening katie morton while doing chores.. I hate chores, but it really helps you distracted and make yourself feel better about yourself.

  48. This was incredibly helpful. I need to find out more about DBT. Like everyone, I have my challenges, but overall I have a beautiful life. My husband is loving and caring, and the relationship with our children, their husbands and our grandson is close. Even my in-laws rock! lol The problem is with my family. They are always at war. And my being very sensitive, gets me hurt easily and often. Avoiding them isn't always possible, so maybe DBT will teach me ways of coping.

  49. It has happened to me that when I'm in a bad situation at home is in the moment I have to leave with my children, in the moment I'm in my pijama or cooking dinner, then I can't leave because I feel embarrased of going out in those conditions.

  50. Alot of these sound exhausting, I have social anxiety and introversion too and normally find being around people stressful

  51. What if we (as mentally/personality illness diagnosed) try to get a therapist and cant get sufficient treatment because we're too "difficult". I am a girl, diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, PTSD with substance abuse issues-stemming back from the age of 13, now 37. What if we've seeked treatment for 9 years now, and we keep getting pushed aside for "easier" diagnosed people?

  52. I have BPD and I think all your thoughts on distraction are great
    However, what does a person do when the continually keep experiencing problems. Financial, car problems, relationship problems all at the same time and I have no family to help me.

  53. Had this horrible illness since 14 years old .this illness is devastating it really is .its nearly killed me many of times I'm 44 now I tock me 25 years getting help begging for real help for years was self medicating for years my drinking at it worse was so bad up to 3 half liters of vodka a day .was terrible drug addict on top of the drinking . I really don't no how still walking still hear .not drank or tock drugs since 2007 some time now but I'm back to the person as kid very very shy .still dealing with this illness .started DBT 6 mouths ago yesterday at 4 o'clock in the morning started to panic that I wasn't just getting this .we have a year to learn the basics of it all the big words just not going in .been watch couple people on make sound just easier to understand so thank you. Sex .be nice but im not a drunk any more so.shy only thing I hate about being sober n clean this being honest it gave me so confidence .now just back to shy quit man of 45 I find I littel .sad no partner .never going ask.any one aut .the fault spending rest my life alone !!!! I shut up thank you for helping people bless you

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