Woman with hand on her heart balancing acceptance and change

The Balance Between Acceptance and Change

Two critical demands of the recovery process are the concepts of acceptance and change and the balancing act required to hold these two ideas in tandem. We may hear and accept these ideas superficially, although only upon deeper reflection do we realize that they are actually opposites. How can we accept what needs to change? Conversely, how can we change what we accept?

When it comes to having acceptance for yourself while also desiring change, there can be some difficulty wrapping your mind around the concept. Cognitive dissonance and some heated internal arguments can occur where you feel torn between being content where you are and moving in the direction of change.

These ideas do not have to be mutually exclusive. In recovery, there is room to be thankful for where you came from and currently are (acceptance), but also remain motivated to know where you’re going (change).

Acceptance and Change in DBT Therapy

In substance abuse recovery settings, neither the practice of solely focusing on change-oriented or acceptance-oriented therapy efforts was successful—finding the balance between acceptance and change is essential. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy built in the space between these concepts that is an effective tool in addiction recovery. At the core of DBT therapy lies the development of mindfulness skills that give the user the tools to see reality clearly.

Being able to step back from a Wise Mind perspective and recognize the need for both acceptance and change makes accepting the truth of what is happening more relevant. Developing radical acceptance of what is happening without trying to fight it allows us to refocus energy on only what we can control. This sort of mindfulness that comes with the balance between acceptance and change can also decrease anxiety and depression symptoms. Embodying mindfulness allows the present moment to become more enjoyable.

Accepting where you are and when knowing that things could be better is a natural state of self-reflection. It is actually an excellent place to be—simultaneously thankful for your current circumstances and still taking steps in the direction of personal progress. When a patient and therapist work to resolve this apparent contradiction between self-acceptance and change, it will only bring about positive growth in the individual. These impacts can be noted throughout the entirety of the treatment plan.

Beyond acceptance and change, there are other important dialectics central to the work of DBT therapy:

  • Mindfulness and emotion regulation
  • Distract and control attention
  • Experience with attention
  • Letting go of control while taking control

The benefits of finding the balance between acceptance and change using methods developed from DBT include more effectively regulating emotions and increasing attention to the experience of the present moment. These shifts assist in navigating interpersonal situations effectively and add increased distress tolerance skills. Together, this creates the four pillars of DBT therapy: mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness. 

Using distress tolerance techniques helps prepare those in recovery for the intense emotions of sobriety and long-term recovery. The emotion-regulatory skills learned will empower one to cope with stressors with a more positive long-term outlook. We can fully integrate these skills into everyday life to become new habits. 
If you or someone you know struggles with addiction recovery, Promises Behavioral Health is here to help. Throughout Promises Behavioral Health drug rehab centers, the highly trained staff work tirelessly to fill in the gaps of treatment, including helping you find the balance between acceptance and change.

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