So, what is ‘Acceptance’ and ‘Change’?

Acceptance and Change is another important part of DBT and the 4D Toolkit. Like the weather, there is much in life that is outside of our control. Despite this, we can prepare for what our environment is throwing at us, so we can react in ways that allow us to cope. There is a saying that ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing’! In a similar way, DBT focuses on what we can do to improve our experience of the situation.


is about supporting you to understand and accept yourself (including your experiences, emotions and behaviours).


is about encouraging you to change behaviours from those that may be harmful to you, to those that will help you to move your life forward.

Why is this important?

Often, people see ‘acceptance’ as giving in or giving up, and that only by ‘non-acceptance’, whether it’s denying or fighting their pain, can they start to make changes in their lives.  ’Acceptance’ is seen as the opposite of ‘change’ (we can do one or the other, but not both).

Change or Suffering


DBT suggests that pain is something that everyone will experience at some point in their lives, and to deny or fight pain can instead cause us to experience more negative emotions; turning pain into suffering as we preoccupy ourselves with concern about the pain and wish that things were different. And this suffering can make it difficult for us to identify changes that can help.

Pain is inevitable, suffering is not.

In DBT, acceptance is about focusing on the here and now and getting through the moment. It’s about using ‘Wise Mind’ to help you cope with the current situation, without letting past worries or future concerns or hopes effect how you experience the current situation; preventing pain from becoming suffering. It’s also about helping you to better understand yourself and make sense of how and why you behave in certain ways, even when your behaviour might sometimes be harmful.

Acceptance is not about saying that what happened or is happening is ok; instead it’s about accepting that it did happen, it is reality. In this way, acceptance can keep people from ‘giving in’ to the pain, and instead give them opportunity to make the choice to cope the best they can.

Different Outlook Different Experience

In DBT, acceptance provides the foundation for effective change. Where ‘change’ is about changing behaviours, by learning new ways to cope with pain and distress. Changing behaviours that may be harmful to behaviours that can help you lead a more satisfying life and move closer to the outcomes you want.

In fact, helping you to balance ‘Acceptance’ and ‘Change’ through ‘Wise Mind’ thinking is what DBT is all about. DBT offers four groups of skills to help you achieve this, these skills are not as hard as they might at first seem, and if you stick with them and practice them regularly, before you know it you will be using them everyday without even noticing it.

Though there is some overlap between the four groups of skills, each one has a main focus:


Mindfulness - for greater awareness of current experiences

Distress Tolerance - for coping with a stressful experience


Emotion Regulation - for managing your emotions

Interpersonal Effectiveness - for achieving what you want through communication

With practice, you will notice that you start to feel more content and relationships should start to improve or get stronger and the changes you want in your life are more likely to start happening.

Related – Wise Mind