Acceptance Vs. Change

This dialectic (two things that feel opposite but actually exist together) is one of the foundations of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). And it can be a really hard thing to understand! We reviewed it this week in our DBT-Informed skills groups for teens, and we *think* they got!!

Acceptance means understanding yourself, others, situations, and the world around you in a non-judgmental way. Acceptance does not mean liking something or being happy with the way it is. It means we simply are taking it for what it is.


Examples of acceptance include:

- Accepting your emotions

- Self-acceptance – accepting yourself just the way you are

- Accepting a situation over which we have no control

The pro side to this dialectic is promoting happiness and, well… acceptance. The downside is that, if we get stuck here, it does very little to promote growth, change, or improvement.

Speaking of change… change means doing something different – either problem solving or using skills to address something that’s not working. When we are working on change, we aren’t working on acceptance.

I know. It’s confusing.

So how to we balance these two dialectics?? First, we have to change our mindset from accepting OR changing to accepting AND changing. DBT believes that in order to create change, we have to first accept. So for your teen… DBT would teach them the skills or accept him/herself AND help him/her explore ways they’d like to change.

There’s nothing wrong with them. Or you! And there’s power in balancing both acceptance and change. There’s a vastly different mindset between:

-  “I HATE that I’m so depressed. There’s something wrong with me and I need to fix it.”


-  “My feelings of depression are a part of me right now. I’m frustrated that I feel this way, but it’s there, and I know I can learn skills to manage it.”

The second statement holds so much more self-compassion, and when we show ourselves compassion (and acceptance), it makes it so much easier to see ways that we can change – without change representing something wrong with us that needs to be fixed.

For more information on this dialectic and on other dialectics that parents often face (balancing being strict and lenient, balancing providing independence and support), leave your email below to receive our {FREE} DBT-Informed Parent Guide.

This is a worksheet that we use in group to help learn this topic. Print it to use with your teen.

This is a worksheet that we use in group to help learn this topic. Print it to use with your teen.