Eighteen Ways Acceptance is Important in Psychotherapy

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the importance of acceptance in psychotherapy
  • Recognize how acceptance can facilitate change and improvement in therapy
  • Explore the relationship between acceptance and self-empowerment

Getting healthier psychologically proceeds along two broad fronts. First, you can solve your problems. This approach may be exhausting, but it also very effective. Some problems, however, cannot be solved. For these, there is only acceptance. Here are 18 ways that acceptance is important in psychotherapy. Identifying what cannot change and must be accepted is a superpower that few people even know exists.

#1 Acceptance is an important concept in CBT because it does not insist that clients change what they are thinking but rather how they interpret their thoughts. For example, if a client has the thought “My heart is beating too fast” and interprets this as meaning “I am about to die,” he or she will experience severe anxiety. However, if the client interprets their rapid heartbeat simply as a rapid heartbeat, their anxiety will not increase.

#2 Acceptance is an important concept in CBT because it allows therapists to be helpful even when a client has a thought that is very unlikely or unattainable, such as being able to cope with a catastrophic event. If a client cannot accept this possibility, they will not be able to function in their everyday lives. On the other hand, if they do accept that they can cope with their catastrophic ideas, these ideas are no longer so powerful and fearsome.

#3 Acceptance is important for the therapist and client to work together. The client is accepting that the therapist is an expert guide to recovery from the client’s problem, and agrees to make use of the therapist’s reflections and advice, and to accept more healthy interpretations when they are offered.

#4 Acceptance is important for improvement in psychotherapy because after acceptance, the client feels a sense of wholeness. In contrast, clients that are defending against threatening self-concepts feel a sense of self-division.

#5 Acceptance can be considered the opposite of avoidance and helps clients face what they fear most.

#6 Acceptance creates a sense of hope that was not previously possible. With acceptance, the client is dealing with reality, about the world, about themselves, about their thoughts, about their emotions, about their strengths and flaws. This sense of realism makes it possible for them to become unstuck and make progress on their issues.

#7 Acceptance, with its emphasis on self-related cognitions (thoughts and emotions), allows the client to gain insights about themselves. These insights develop a sense of self-empowerment, which cannot exist before acceptance.

#8 Acceptance helps clients see clearly what is in their control and what isn’t. Clients are able to make decisions based on reality instead of on distortions of illusions about reality. They are able to make decisions that guide them towards their goals.

#9 Acceptance in cognitive therapy means prioritizing a logical approach to finding solutions and making changes, which in turn requires a curiosity about habitual patterns of thinking and feeling, and how these might result in symptoms.

#10 Acceptance helps client realize that what they are feeling is not dangerous, but instead is part of what they are. Acceptance is not only the acceptance of thoughts, it is the acceptance of feelings—a full range of feelings—without the need to suppress or deny these feelings because they are negative.

#11 Acceptance helps client develop a fuller appreciation of reality for what it is. In contrast, non-acceptance always involves some distortion of reality. When we distort reality, we upset ourselves about something that is not really a problem.

#12 Acceptance teaches clients to live more in the present and thus frees them from worrying about the future and ruminating on the past.

#13 With acceptance of unpleasant feelings comes a new awareness: One can choose how to react toward those feelings. By contrast, without acceptance, the only choice is whether to avoid or escape from them.

#14 With acceptance of thoughts and feels comes a sense of self-acceptance and the possibility for peace and security that accompany this. Although self-acceptance may sometimes very uncomfortable, mindful awareness about the reality of one’s own issues is a requirement for change.

#15 With acceptance comes the ability to explore new behaviors without fear of failure, which promotes new learning.

#16 Acceptance enables the individual to distance themselves from problems and view them as separate objects rather than as part of themselves. As such, one is no longer directly threatened by these issues, and may even embrace the individuality of them. This allows for the individual to take more control of their lives and make changes without experiencing overwhelming anxiety or fears.

#17 Acceptance helps the client develop coping skills rather than trying to avoid, get rid of, or numb unwanted thoughts, feelings, memories , and sensations.

#18 With acceptance comes emotional stability, which enables the client to face negative emotions without being overwhelmed by them.

Reading Comprehension Questions

1. Which of the following is important in recovering from anxiety?

  • A. Fear
  • B. Acceptance
  • C. Avoidance
  • D. Control

2. Acceptance in psychotherapy allows clients to:

  • A. Avoid reality
  • B. Make decisions based on distortions
  • C. Face what they fear
  • D. Deny their feelings

3. Acceptance and self-empowerment are:

  • A. Unrelated concepts
  • B. Mutually exclusive
  • C. Indispensable in therapy
  • D. Contradictory principles

4. Acceptance helps clients to:

  • A. Suppress negative feelings
  • B. Explore new behaviors
  • C. Avoid coping skills
  • D. Overwhelm themselves with emotions

5. What does acceptance contribute to emotional stability?

  • A. Overwhelming negative emotions
  • B. Fear of failure
  • C. Avoidance of unwanted thoughts
  • D. The ability to face negative emotions


1. B. Acceptance

2. C. Face what they fear

3. C. Indispensable in therapy

4. B. Explore new behaviors

5. D. The ability to face negative emotions