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Acceptance First

Have you been to coaches and therapists who promised to change you?

What happens if you do not?


The world of coaching and therapy is unfortunately steeped in the language of trying to change people. After struggling as a therapist for his first decade, Dr. Luttrell realized that something had to change. When he tried to change others, it resulted in poor outcomes. It is hard to unlearn the language of the whole profession that we are here to "change" people.

Paradoxical Change

Dr. Luttrell was inspired by his exposure to Gestalt therapy and Carl Rogers’ humanistic approach that emphasized unconditional acceptance. Writing about how Gestalt therapy works, Dr. Arnold Beisser described his "Paradoxical Theory of Change":

acceptance therapy

"Change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not. Change does not take place through a coercive attempt by the individual or by another person to change him, but it does take place if one takes the time and effort to be what he is -- to be fully invested in his current positions. By rejecting the role of change agent, we make meaningful and orderly change possible. ...

"The Gestalt therapist rejects the role of 'changer,' for his strategy is to encourage, even insist, that the patient be where and what he is. He believes change does not take place by 'trying,' coercion, or persuasion, or by insight, interpretation, or any other such means. Rather, change can occur when the patient abandons, at least for the moment, what he would like to become and attempts to be what he is.”

Many therapists and coaches have defined their success by helping clients achieve their goals, but putting your success in the hands of someone else is very volatile. When your success is defined by external circumstances, it's a roller coaster ride!

Realizing this, one day, Dr. Luttrell wrote a post that said, “I quit….being a change agent.” He has not looked back. Of course, clients still come to Dr. Luttrell looking for change. It's not that goals are unimportant, but that we must start with a foundation of acceptance. Since adopting this position, he feels that his work with clients radically transformed and is more fulfilling. Ironically, clients seem to grow more as a result. 

Growth or Grace?

Which is more important: growth or grace? How do we balance the two?

There is truth in both sides, but if we had to pick a place to start with, we would start with acknowledging our need for grace and acceptance first and then working through healing and growth second. Both sides need the other. Grace without growth ultimately does not satisfy, but then growth without grace will lead you into a trap of shame. Grace and acceptance should naturally lead to growth. While Christians tend to put a lot of emphasis on change, we should also be aware that change can only happen after we find grace and accept ourselves for the way we are, not the way we want to be or "ought" to be.

The philosophy of HigherChange is summarized by our motto, "Acceptance First.” We believe that accepting people for who they are is the key to bring about genuine healing and transformational change. But acceptance does not mean settling for less. It's about embracing the present while inspiring positive change. This approach recognizes the significance of unconditional acceptance as a fundamental step in fostering personal growth in your relationships and your emotional well-being.

Dr. Luttrell was also reminded that in the Bible, only God can "create in me a clean heart." God promises to "take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh." He also looks to the example of Christ. When the woman who was caught in adultery was brought before Jesus, rather than focusing on "leave your life of sin," Jesus first told her, "Neither do I condemn you.” A lot of Christians skip over that part. God invites us to "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." If the One who created us chooses to accept us the way we are first, then certainly we cannot do better than God.


Outcomes of Acceptance


Here are several reasons why "Acceptance First" or acceptance as a first step is important for the healing and change of individuals:

  1. Psychological Safety: Acceptance creates a safe and non-judgmental environment where individuals feel comfortable expressing themselves without fear of rejection or criticism. This psychological safety encourages them to explore their emotions and vulnerabilities, which are essential for healing and change.

  2. Building Trust: When people feel accepted for who they are, trust is established between them and their support network, whether it be friends, family, or therapists. Trust is vital in promoting open communication and cooperation, which are key factors in the healing process.

  3. Self-Compassion: Acceptance encourages self-compassion, which is crucial for personal growth. When individuals accept their strengths and weaknesses, they are more likely to treat themselves with kindness, understanding, and forgiveness. Self-compassion enables them to confront their challenges and mistakes with a growth mindset, fostering positive change.

  4. Reducing Shame and Stigma: Often, individuals struggling with issues such as mental health, addiction, or trauma may experience shame and stigma associated with their condition. Acceptance helps break down these barriers, allowing them to seek help and support without feeling ashamed or stigmatized.

  5. Empowerment and Autonomy: When people are accepted for who they are, they gain a sense of empowerment and autonomy. This empowerment is a catalyst for change as they become more motivated to take ownership of their healing journey and actively work towards positive transformations.

  6. Authentic Self-Exploration: Acceptance allows individuals to explore their thoughts, emotions, and experiences more authentically. By acknowledging their true selves without judgment, they can gain deeper insights into their needs and motivations, facilitating meaningful personal growth.

  7. Resilience and Coping: A foundation of acceptance helps build resilience and coping skills. When individuals know they are accepted, they can better cope with life's challenges, setbacks, and stressors, leading to increased emotional strength and adaptability.

  8. Fostering Supportive Relationships: An "Acceptance First" approach cultivates more supportive and understanding relationships. When people feel accepted, they are more likely to surround themselves with others who value and respect them, creating a positive support network for healing and growth.

  9. Encouraging Vulnerability and Openness: Acceptance reduces the fear of being vulnerable and promotes openness in sharing experiences and emotions. This vulnerability allows for deeper connections with others, which can be immensely therapeutic and transformative.

  10. Sustainable Change: True and lasting change comes from a place of self-acceptance. When individuals embrace their authentic selves and feel accepted by others, they are more likely to make sustainable changes in their lives, driven by a desire for personal growth rather than external pressure.

Acceptance in Therapy and Coaching

In summary, "Acceptance First" is a powerful and compassionate approach that recognizes the importance of unconditional acceptance as the foundation for healing and change. It creates an environment where individuals can explore their emotions, develop resilience, and work towards positive transformations without fear of judgment or rejection. By embracing this principle, individuals can find the support and encouragement needed to navigate their personal journeys of healing and growth. For more info check  

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is psychotherapy?
    Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy or counseling, is a collaborative process between a trained therapist and an individual seeking support. It aims to explore thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and experiences to promote personal growth, emotional well-being, and address specific concerns. Psychotherapy encompasses various approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and humanistic therapy, tailored to meet the individual's needs.
  • How long does psychotherapy last? How many sessions will I need?
    The duration of psychotherapy varies depending on several factors, including the individual's goals, the complexity of their concerns, and their progress throughout the therapeutic process. Some individuals may benefit from short-term therapy, consisting of a few sessions or weeks, to address specific issues or provide immediate support. Long-term therapy may span several months or years, focusing on deeper exploration and ongoing personal development. The therapist and individual collaborate to determine the appropriate duration of therapy based on their unique circumstances. Sessions are typically scheduled to occur one time per week at the same time and day if possible. Your therapist may suggest a different amount of therapy depending on the nature and severity of your concerns. Your consistent attendance greatly contributes to a successful outcome. Due to the varying nature and severity of problems and the individuality of each client, we are unable to predict the length of your therapy or to guarantee a specific outcome or result. The length of your treatment depends on the specifics of your treatment plan and the progress you achieve. Most clients see their therapist once a week for 3 to 4 months. After that, they meet less often for several months. Therapy then usually comes to an end.
  • How do I find the right therapist for me?
    Finding the right therapist involves considering several factors. It's important to seek a licensed and qualified therapist with expertise in the specific concerns you want to address. You can ask for recommendations from trusted sources, such as healthcare professionals or friends who have had positive experiences with therapy. Online directories and therapist matching platforms can also help you find therapists in your area. Additionally, it's crucial to feel comfortable and have a good rapport with your therapist, so scheduling an initial consultation or phone call to assess the fit is recommended.
  • Do you accept insurance?
    For mental health issues, we accept Blue Cross Blue Shield and affiliates (CareFirst, Anthem, BCBS Federal Employee Program, etc.) and Cigna or Evernorth. HOWEVER, please note that to qualify for insurance benefits, therapy must be related to a mental health diagnosis, like anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc., that has medical necessity. Most insurance plans do not cover relationship or sexual issues. Yes, it is sad considering that these are often the primary drivers for mental health issues. Please do not ask us to bill your insurance for relationship or sexual issues without first contacting your insurance company to check to see if your plan covers it. (We don't want to keep asking them.) Also, we cannot make up a diagnosis either, as this is insurance fraud and can cost us our license and result in serious penalties. Plus, insurance companies occasionally audit psychotherapy notes to ensure that treatment is related to the reported diagnosis. You can always choose to skip insurance and pay for therapy out of pocket. This will maximize your privacy and widen your pool of therapists. Thank you for your understanding.
  • How much does therapy cost?
    The cost depends on the type of service provided, who your provider is, and how long it lasts for. Please contact us for up-to-date rates. We also offer a 10% discount for online teletherapy sessions due. Sessions that exceed these times by more than 10 minutes will be billed accordingly in 15-minute increments. Additional charges also apply for sessions after office hours or on weekends. More information can be found in our informed consent document available upon request. All rates are in US dollars. Good Faith Estimate You have the right to receive a “Good Faith Estimate” explaining how much your medical and mental health care will cost. Under the law, health care providers need to give patients who don’t have insurance or who are not using insurance an estimate of the expected charges for medical services, including psychotherapy services. You have the right to receive a Good Faith Estimate for the total expected cost of any non-emergency healthcare services, including psychotherapy services. You can ask your health care provider, and any other provider you choose, for a Good Faith Estimate before you schedule a service. If you receive a bill that is at least $400 more than your Good Faith Estimate, you can dispute the bill. Make sure to save a copy or picture of your Good Faith Estimate. For questions or more information about your right to a Good Faith Estimate, visit or call (800) 985-3059.
  • Is psychotherapy confidential?
    Confidentiality is a fundamental principle in psychotherapy. Therapists are legally and ethically bound to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of the information shared during therapy sessions. However, there are a few exceptions to confidentiality, such as when there is a risk of harm to oneself or others, child or elder abuse, or when a court order requires the disclosure of information. Your therapist should explain their confidentiality policy and any exceptions during the initial sessions.
  • Do you offer virtual therapy and coaching sessions?
    Yes! In addition to in-person appointments, HigherChange also provides online video conferencing sessions for both therapy and coaching. We use an encrypted video conferencing platform that we have a HIPAA-compliant relationship with. However, you will need a smartphone with a built-in camera or a computer with a webcam and microphone. (If booking a virtual therapy appointment, be sure to select "Telehealth for Maryland/California/Singapore" and specify where you live as the Location.)
  • Is therapy really beneficial?
    The benefits of therapy have been demonstrated through research. People who are depressed may find their mood lifting. Others may no longer feel afraid, angry, or anxious. In therapy, people have a chance to talk things out fully until their feelings are relieved or the problems are solved. Your relationships and coping skills may improve greatly. You may get more satisfaction out of social and family relationships. Your personal goals and values may become clearer. You may grow in different areas of your life.
  • What if I can't make it to a scheduled appointment?
    Apart from unpredictable emergencies like snow days or illness, we require a 48-hour notice for cancellation and rescheduling. Otherwise, you may be charged the full session fee at 100%, and this charge may not be covered by insurance. To reschedule an appointment, select Appointments > Existing clients in the menu bar and follow the instructions there. Alternatively, you can call or email us using the contact information at the bottom of the screen.
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