Woman smiling out in field from radical acceptance and dbt

Practicing Radical Acceptance on Your Recovery Journey

You may have heard of the idea of “Radical Acceptance,” but what does it mean to embody this practice? And how can it help those on their recovery journey? How does DBT play a part?

When faced with situations and experiences that can cause suffering, such as the loss of a loved one or relationship, or even the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is natural for people to feel anxious and overwhelmed. The discomfort brought on by these realities can drive many people to a state of denial. This is a point where they may disengage with the truth of their situation and engage in destructive or impulsive behaviors because things are not going the way they want them to.

Rather than ending up in a cycle of bitterness that only exacerbates pain, it is best to recognize reality as it is. You are practicing radical acceptance when you can acknowledge your existence for what it truly is, not what you think it should be. 

This concept of radical acceptance originates from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), an evidence-based form of psychotherapy you can receive at a counseling and treatment center like The Ranch Tennessee. Patients can receive DBT in treatment programs that treat mood and substance use disorders. This approach helps participants make life-enhancing behavior changes.

Radical Acceptance: What is It?

Radical acceptance is a tool for distress tolerance that intends to keep pain from developing into suffering. Practicing this skill is understanding that no matter how much we wish things were different, our wishes do not change the reality of our situation. For radical acceptance to work, you don’t even have to approve of your reality or begin liking it—you just have to stop fighting it.

Getting through tough times isn’t an easy task. But acknowledging that you’re feeling pain instead of trying to numb it with substances and other unhealthy coping habits can empower you to make changes rather than remain stuck in a cycle of suffering.

The Steps of Practicing Radical Acceptance

The founder of DBT, Marsha Linehan, identified ten steps to practicing radical acceptance:

  1. Observe that you fight reality (Ex: “It shouldn’t be this way”)
  2. Remind yourself that you cannot change the unpleasant reality (Ex: “This is what happened”)
  3. Acknowledge that something led to this reality (Ex: “This is how things happened”)
  4. Practice acceptance with your mind, body and spirit (Use accepting self-talk, mindfulness or imagery)
  5. List how you would behave if you accepted the facts and acted accordingly
  6. Imagine unacceptable events or situations and think about how to cope with them appropriately.
  7. Remain mindful of body sensations like stress or tension
  8. Allow yourself to feel emotions like disappointment, sadness or grief
  9. Acknowledge that even with pain, life can be worth living
  10. Do pros and cons exercises if you find yourself resisting practicing acceptance

Pain occurs naturally, signaling to us that something has gone wrong in life. In addition to the pain itself, how we deal with pain can significantly impact our overall well-being. Rejecting pain and turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms may diminish the pain temporarily, but it can also cause ongoing distress. But confronting pain and practicing the ten steps of radical acceptance can be an uncomfortable experience. As you implement this tool, consider seeking guidance and support from a mental health professional.

Accepting Yourself

Experienced clinicians and therapists, like the experts at The Ranch, understand that pain can be both physical and emotional. Still, some people may problem-solve to deal with pain: accepting their reality and doing what they can to change or alleviate their situation. Others may try to understand their situation, observe what it means and find the silver lining. In all of these cases, the guidance from mental health professionals and learning about DBT can help people find respite from suffering.

DBT At The Ranch

At The Ranch Tennessee, clinicians and therapists help patients improve mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, mindfulness and distress tolerance—the four facets of DBT. Patients are taught how to cope with damaging effects caused by problematic thoughts, mental illness, substance use, addiction and other unhealthy behavioral patterns. Treatment and therapy programs provided by The Ranch include:

A call to The Ranch at 888-969-8618 can be the first step to receiving the education and treatment that can help you identify personal strengths and hone them. But knowing your strengths and how to utilize them can help you cope with your reality and develop a better attitude about yourself and life in general.

Scroll to Top