DBT Skills: Radical Acceptance


Dialectical behavioral therapy, DBT, is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy which helps people with a wide range of mental health disorders learn to effectively communicate their emotions. Living with a mental illness often includes living with high amounts of emotion which can make normal communication a challenge. Feelings are not facts, but they can be overwhelming. Without the tools and skills like those presented in DBT, words get lost in translation, drowning beneath the urgency of emotional experiences. Through a selection of themes and skills, DBT gives access to communication strategies which help not only verbalize emotions, but organize thoughts and feelings within the mind.

Radical acceptance is a tool for DBT as well as a spiritual principle in many disciplines. Jennifer Rollin, an MSW, LCSW and contributor to Huffington Post writes that radical acceptance is the answer to a common problem people create for themselves. Confronted with any kind of pain, people refuse to accept that pain, as if refusing to accept the pain makes it go away or not real. Pain, plus the act of not accepting the pain, results in suffering. “When A  situation, event, or emotion is out of our control, fighting against it (i.e. non-acceptance) often leads to suffering,” she explains. “When a reality is painful, it’s natural to try to push it away, fight against it, or numb out through unhealthy coping mechanisms,” she continues, “These strategies might cause a temporary sense of “relief”. However, they only serve to bury the underlying issues and cause people to feel even worse in the long-term.” Radical acceptance is the way to accept life on life’s terms, understanding that there are parts of as well as people in life which are beyond personal control. Embracing reality no matter how uncomfortable retrains the brain to cope with discomfort without using drugs and alcohol.

Drug and alcohol addiction can be a coping mechanism against a number of realities. Trauma, abuse, mental health disorders, adjustment disorders, grief, loss, and any other difficult reality can create a disturbance so deep in the mind that the euphoric effect of drugs and alcohol is the only way to “relieve” it. One of the most critical lessons for addicts and alcoholics in recovery to learn is that the problem is still there after seeking drug and alcohol as a solution. Thus, drugs and alcohol are not the solution. Typically, they’re part of the problem.


You can live without drugs, alcohol, and harmful coping mechanisms. You are capable of coping with life and living it to the fullest. LEAD Recovery Center welcomes you to our multiphase transitional care programs where clients learn how to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle on their journey to autonomy in recovery. For information on our clinical treatment and lifestyle approach, call us today at 800-380-0012.