By: April Trettel, LPCC
DBT Therapist
Resilience Treatment Center

“Suffering is pain, while not accepting that pain”. This provoking phrase has stuck so strongly with me since I first learned about the skill of Radical Acceptance. It took a while for me to really understand the concept of this skill and to be able to practice this skill in my daily living. Pain is a part of life and cannot be avoided. We can though reduce our suffering around the pain that we experience and in doing so, we can increase freedom.

DBT teaches that the skill of Radical Acceptance is to accept reality as it is. Radical Acceptance is letting go of fighting reality, and by doing this releasing yourself from suffering. This skill also acknowledges that we must accept that the painful situation we are in has causes. Events and behaviors have led us to this reality and to the pain we are experiencing. Finally we recognize that through practicing this skill we accept that we can experience pain while still having a life worth living.

By practicing acceptance, we are not providing our approval and we are not fighting against change. This is an active skill. It that calls for commitment and does not allow us to practice this skill while being passive. Through radical acceptance we practice letting go by letting go of bitterness, resistance and trying to change things outside of our control. DBT asks us to practice this skill “totally and completely”. In committing to practicing radical acceptance, we try to do so with our minds, hearts and body. When visualizing the thing that we are practicing accepting, we can ask our bodies to support our hearts and mind by practicing other DBT skills, such as half smile and willing hands.

This skill can be used in contexts of varying intensity. One can practice radical acceptance around both enduring the end of a significant relationship and acceptance around having to take out the trash. We all experience pain, this is part of being a human. But when we can learn to accept, totally, with our whole selves, the pain that is our current reality, we can release the experience of suffering.