Learning to Distract Yourself through DBT Therapy

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Did you know that dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) teaches people to distract themselves from their stressors?

Distraction has proven to be a useful skill for many people. Here we will discuss the ACCEPTS skill.

As you may have guessed, ACCEPTS stands for seven separate groups of ideas one can try for distraction.

Continue reading to learn what ACCEPTS stands for within DBT therapy, and ideas for things to try within each skill!

Coping Skills Therapists in Colorado

Marie Whatley LPCC

Marie Whatley LPCC

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Seth Boughton, SWC

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Melody Reynalds, LPC

Melody Reynalds, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
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Dominique Schweinhardt, MA, LPCC, LPP

Dominique Schweinhardt, MA, LPCC, LPP

Colorado Springs, Colorado
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Noah Suess, MA, LPC

Noah Suess, MA, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
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Tracey Lundy, LCSW

Tracey Lundy, LCSW

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Sarah Munk, LPC

Sarah Munk, LPC

(719) 345-2424
Deja Howard, MSW, SWC

Deja Howard, MSW, SWC

(719) 345-2424
Laura Hunt, LPC

Laura Hunt, LPC

(719) 452-4374
Sarah Webster, SWC

Sarah Webster, SWC

(719) 696-3439

"A" Is for "Activities"

Whatever stressful situation you are dealing with, take up an activity to distract yourself as part of your DBT therapy.

Choose the activity mindfully, and lose yourself within it. Until you have finished the activity, do your best to not let yourself think about your distress.

Ideas for activities include shopping, gardening, fishing, cooking, watching a video online, going for a walk, playing a sport, or practicing a hobby.

The more you participate in the activity you choose, the easier it will be to forget about your distress.

You may find it useful to make a list of the activities you feel you could undertake, and then put it on your refrigerator in your kitchen, or in another room you frequent.

You want to be able to find your skills when you really need them, after all.

On this list, you want to put down activities that you feel most always work, and perhaps some new ones you would like to try.

There are many lists of distraction activities online; feel free to look them up and read more about DBT therapy if you are stuck!

The First "C" Is for "Contributing," the Second for "Comparisons"

When you focus on someone else, you will distract yourself from your own issues.

Perhaps you can do something surprising or nice for someone, call a friend and listen to them vent, babysit for a friend, or do volunteer work.

When you contribute, you will feel better in DBT therapy. There is no need to do anything huge; do not feel like you have to solve a big world problem.

You can even just be nice to the checkout person at the grocery store.

The second "C" stands for "Comparisons." Compare yourself to when you may not have been doing so well.

It could have been five years ago, last year, or even just yesterday. You will remind yourself that things have been worse for you.

"E" Is for "Emotions," "P" for "Pushing Away"

If you are experiencing an intense emotion that has brought you to DBT therapy, you may want to find a different one.

Find music to lift your mood. To do this you may want to create a playlist of "Happy Songs," or whatever name you can come up with that suits you.

You may want to watch a funny movie or read a book that makes you laugh out loud.

The idea is to put yourself in a different, more positive state of mind.

"P" means to literally push away a stressful situation. This means you leave it alone for a bit.

This skill is helpful for situations you cannot resolve immediately but are causing you emotional pain.

Do not use pushing away for an issue you can solve right now, though.

When it is appropriate to use this skill, tell the situation to go away when it shows up in your mind.

Perhaps put more pleasant thoughts in their place as you participate in this part of DBT therapy.

The idea is to get the situation to "disappear" and to return to it later when you can think better and really need to resolve it.

You will find that you have gotten to live life for a bit without having to deal with it.

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"T" Is for "Thoughts"

This means that at any one time, you can only truly focus on one thing.

If you are thinking about something other than the thing bothering you, then you can only think about the former.

You could count to ten, or count stars in the sky, panes of a window, or floor tiles.

With those examples, you are focusing on the county. You could also name items in the room.

That's perfect to use in an emergency when you have to come up with something really quickly.

You really don't need anything than your surroundings for that!

It can be hard to fully focus on these things, and the goal here, in this piece of DBT therapy, is to prevent your distressing thoughts from creeping back in.

If your mind does wander, as minds naturally do, nudge it back to whichever activity you were participating in. 

"S" Is for "Sensations"

If you want to distract yourself from pain and lose connection from it, you can use strong physical stimuli to help yourself practice DBT therapy.

This could come in especially handy if you self-injure. One thing you could do is go to your freezer, take out some ice cubes, and hold them in your hand.

You could also put a pack of frozen vegetables on the back of your neck.

You could put on loud music, or take either a really hot or really cold shower.

After participating in an "S" activity DBT therapy skill, it might be helpful to go back to another ACCEPTS letter and tack on another skill for the maximum mental health benefits of this DBT therapy component.


DBT therapy has many skills, and one can distract themselves through ACCEPTS.

Although this is an acronym, once you put it into practice you will find it easier to implement it into your life each day when a stressful situation arises that you cannot resolve right away.

We have given you ideas here of what to try to practice each skill, and again we invite you to go search online or reach out to a mental health professional, for more skills ideas.


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July 14th, 2024

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