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  • Gabrielle Morreale

What’s so Radical About Radical Acceptance?




By: Breanna Potts, Clinical Intern


DBT is a therapy that helps people understand and navigate their uncomfortable feelings in a way that allows them to explore how to deal with those feelings in a helpful way. Radical Acceptance is one of those ways! You might be wondering what this acceptance thing is or what’s so radical about radical acceptance? Radical Acceptance is not simply accepting what happened, being okay with it, and moving on with life, but rather it is when you stop fighting or denying the reality that you are in and stop responding in ways that are not healthy nor helpful. In other words, radical acceptance helps you move away from these cycles of suffering and self-destruction and move towards healing and healthier emotional regulation. In radical acceptance, no one is telling you that you have to be okay with the hard things in life that you feel you just can’t accept and by no means do you have to approve of them. As therapists, we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t encourage you sit with your feelings!! Radical acceptance is not suppressing your feelings and it is not a sign of giving up. It is choosing to acknowledge and accept the reality, allow any and all feelings to arise, and focus on what you can do to continue living your life to the full.


When it comes to eating disorder recovery, radical acceptance is so important! For example, restriction is a common eating disorder behavior that individuals may struggle with. We hear a lot of people talk about how restricting is a way for them to have control over how their body looks. While restriction offers a feeling of control, it is not actually allowing you to be in control because what’s really happening is your eating disorder is controlling you. Sometimes in ED recovery, when it comes to restriction, the person is struggling to accept the reality of their body, causing them to work so hard to try and change it, which is keeping them stuck and not leading to a life of fullness and happiness. One way to apply radical acceptance in recovery is by accepting the reality that our bodies will change and fluctuate throughout life! We know, this is a scary thought for some people, but imagine what your life could be like if you were able to accept this as a reality, acknowledged your feelings associated with this reality, but instead of trying to change it, you focused on how you can still show up in your life and work on living a life you love despite how your body looks!! You deserve (and can have) that!! So, instead of judging your body as “bad,” and working so hard to try and change it, instead accept your body as it is and over time you will see your focus switching to the important things in your life! Radical acceptance can apply to all things in life.


Here is just one example of many ways this concept can come in handy during recovery as well as day to day life. Lets say you and your best friend had a very hard breakup and are no longer friends, you might be feeling sad, angry, hopeless, guilty, or maybe something else. These feelings are not bad nor are they wrong!! These feelings are valid and need to be felt, but we don’t want you to stay in that place forever. Also quick reminder feelings at their greatest intensity can only last for 90-120 seconds! That’s a max of 2 minutes…you’ve got this! Maybe because you are feeling these uncomfortable feelings, you are feeling the urge to engage in your eating disorder behaviors to feel relief from them. Using radical acceptance, a response to this situation with your friend would be to acknowledge the situation you are in, validate how you are feeling, accept that you cannot change what happened nor can you change your friend, but that you can control what you do in response. So instead of using your ED behaviors to cope with those uncomfortable feelings, you can choose to acknowledge the reality of what happened, notice your feelings, and use healthy coping skills to cope with those feelings, such as practicing mindfulness. Here are steps to help you practice radical acceptance:

1. Observe that you are fighting reality.

2. Remind yourself that while this reality is unpleasant, it is what happened.

3. Allow the emotions you feel to be there and acknowledge how you are feeling.

4. List all the behaviors you would engage in if you did accept the reality of what happened.

5. Acknowledge that life is still worth living even when painful and unfair situations happen.


Radical acceptance is a tremendously useful tool when unfair or heartbreaking things out of our control happen, but it also takes practice. Trying something new is hard, so be patient and gentle with yourself as you are learning to engage with the reality of life in a different way. There will always be things in life that we can’t change or control, from the weather to the devastating losses and unfairness in our personal lives, but despite these things, there is so much life ahead and always a reason to keep going! You are so strong!!! We believe in you! If you want to learn more about this concept click the link below to read more about radical acceptance or book with one of our team members today.


https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pieces-mind/201207/radical-acceptance

https://www.recoveredandrestoredtherapy.com/meet-the-team