Artwork © 2015 Jocelyn Patrick


Containment can be a very valuable tool for anyone dealing with overwhelming emotions, thoughts, feelings, memories, or urges. It is a way to manage disruptive thoughts, feelings, situations, and other triggers that can lead to flashbacks, pain attacks, explosive behaviors, self-harm, and dissociative episodes.

Containment can also be used to store positive thoughts and feelings that can be drawn upon in difficult times to assist you with coping. There are a variety of things you can use for your positive containment store.

These Include:

For the containment store you can use any type of box or container. Try to be creative, such as collaging or drawing positive images on a wooden box for your positive containment store.

The primary purposes of containment are:

  1. prevent you from feeling overwhelmed
  2. increase your ability to cope with stressors
  3. decrease dissociative episodes
  4. prevent potentially dangerous behaviors
  5. allow you to feel more in control of your thoughts and emotions.

People often confuse containment with "stuffing feelings." It is important to know that these concepts are not the same thing. Containment is a temporary method to manage disruptive thoughts, feelings, or situations, until it is the appropriate time to deal with them.

For example, it would not be helpful to process a flashback just prior to going to bed but it may be helpful to discuss it with your therapist the next day.

Containment allows you to feel more in control of the situation, rather than feeling out of control. "Stuffing your feelings" is a method that encourages denial and not dealing with situations. This strategy often results in long-term negative consequences.

Many people initially find the skill of containment difficult to grasp; however, with practice it is something that you can apply to your life daily to improve you quality of living. It is extremely important that you practice containment daily. You should initially do this practice when you are not feeling overly stressed. As you gain increased understanding of you triggers and waring isgns, you can begin to use containment ot prevent potentially dangerous behaviors.

Step One:
The first step in learning containment is to begin to recognize disruptive thoughts, feelings, and situations. There are a variety of ways in which you can accomplish this. You may choose to keep a journal or log of events, such as flashbacks, panic attacks, and dissociative episodes. You can use this to assist you in identifying problem areas specific for you.
Step Two:
It is also important for you to learn to identify both internal and environmental factors that occur prior to the behavior occurring. These factors are referred to as triggers.
Step Three:
After you have begun to identify potentially overwhelming factors, the next step is to decide what types of containment strategies you will use. Most people have to experiment with several methods until they find one that works well for them. Remember that the goal is to contain thoughts or feelings until it is a safe time to deal with them.

Strageties that you may choose to use are:


Two Rivers Psychiatric Hospital. (2003). Containment [patient informational handout].