The Role of Acceptance and Change in Recovery from Substance Use Disorders

Gila Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Long-term recovery (LTR) from substance use disorders (SUDs) has been described as a complex process. It has been proposed that psychological mechanisms can influence the resolution of problematic substance using behaviors and may explain how and why a recovery process works. The aims of this narrative review were to (a) examine acceptance and change as an underlying mechanism in LTR from SUDs; (b) examine the practice of acceptance and change in the Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) programs; and (c) present a conceptual model of self-acceptance and change in LTR from SUDs. Based on dialectical behavioral philosophy and mindfulness-based intervention, I posited that self-acceptance is an underlying mechanism that addresses the cyclical nature of shame, guilt, and SUDs; improves emotion dysregulation; psychological well-being; and activates a change process of recovery from SUDs. This article contributes to the field by presenting the opposing forces of acceptance versus change and their synthesis in promoting LTR from SUDs, and by discussing the practice of acceptance and change in the AA and NA programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)340-347
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychoactive Drugs
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I declare that I have had no funding resources or grant for this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Substance use
  • acceptance
  • change
  • guilt
  • recovery
  • shame


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