Interpersonal effectiveness is a core skill taught in dialectical behavior therapy. In weekly group therapy sessions, you learn how to communicate your needs and consider the needs of others while maintaining self-respect and integrity. Personality disorders and mental health conditions can make relationships feel like a rollercoaster of painful emotions; DBT can help.
The Aim of DBT
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) integrates psychotherapy, combining change techniques based on behavioral therapy and mindfulness techniques based on Zen Buddhism. DBT is based on the belief that your dysfunctional behavior is the result of “dysregulated emotions or a maladaptive approach to emotion regulation.”
Often, you may struggle with extreme, polarizing emotions and beliefs about the world. DBT attempts to integrate multiple, conflicting perspectives so you can find a middle ground. By learning and applying skills learned in therapy, you will develop behavioral flexibility and become more resilient to challenging emotional and social situations.
Four Modules Comprise DBT
DBT pulls skills from behavioral research and evidence-based treatments to create a four-module program:
#1. Mindfulness skills involve your ability to live in the present moment through observation, description, and active participation.
#2. Interpersonal Effectiveness skills center around how to have effective relationships with others while maintaining your boundaries.
#3. Emotion Regulation skills involve being able to notice and control your emotions in order to respond appropriately to situations.
#4. Distress Tolerance skills help you control impulsivity when under stress and learn to accept that these challenges will occur.
Why Is Interpersonal Effectiveness Important?
Learning to interact with others effectively is essential to healthy relationships with others and yourself.
It is common to experience difficulty when trying to communicate your needs or feelings to others. Perhaps you endured an abusive relationship with a gaslighting narcissist or grew up in a dysfunctional household marked by alcohol addiction. These traumatic experiences can cause you to develop negative patterns in interpersonal relationships.
If left unresolved, relating to others and maintaining stable relationships will be difficult. The loss of a robust social support system can compromise your well-being, identity, and self-confidence. Learning how to improve these skills is essential to improving your mental health and avoiding complications like substance abuse.
Simple Methods to Improve Your Skills
In weekly group sessions, you will learn how to build upon your interpersonal skills. Three areas that contribute to interpersonal effectiveness are objective, relationship, and self-respect effectiveness.
Objective effectiveness involves looking at what you want out of the interaction by clearly expressing your needs or desires. You can achieve this with the following tips:
- Clearly explain the situation. Avoid adding in opinions and judgments.
- Express how you feel without assuming others should know. Use “I” statements.
- If you want or need something, in particular, say it. Be specific and assertive rather than passive.
- When a person responds to you, acknowledge them with gestures or verbal affirmation.
- Do not lose sight of the goal of the interaction. Avoid other topics until you have settled this one.
- Be mindful of your body language and have confidence in yourself.
- Everyone has their interests, so be willing to negotiate on the issue.
Relationship effectiveness takes the opposite orientation. How can you facilitate a positive interaction based on consideration for another person’s needs? Consider these tips:
- Avoid attacking or judging the person with whom you are interacting. Sometimes people say “no” for a good reason.
- Practice active listening and avoid imposing your opinions out of turn.
- Outwardly acknowledge how the other person feels.
- Smile or show other signs of positivity.
Self-respect effectiveness is all about maintaining your boundaries and integrity. It can be easy to give up your values or do things you are not comfortable with to be accepted. Here are some ways you can reinforce your self-respect:
- Be fair in how you treat yourself and others.
- Do not apologize for the way you feel or for asking for things you need.
- Identify your values and stick to them. Do not compromise your values to satisfy other people.
- Be honest and hold yourself accountable for your actions. Do not lie, make excuses, or exaggerate situations.
Are DBT Skills Right for You?
DBT was originally developed to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder. Those diagnosed with BDP tend to show signs of emotion dysregulation, impulsivity, interpersonal difficulties, and substance abuse.
These characteristics are found in mental health conditions like emotional trauma, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and chronic suicidal/self-harming behavior. Learning interpersonal skills and the other three skill sets can help you live with these conditions and find relief.
Many People Can Benefit From DBT Skills
You do not have to have a mental health condition to benefit from DBT. Different types of people are taught DBT skills. You could be a single parent stressed out from trying to balance a career and children. You could even be a grad student overwhelmed by self-doubt and uncertainty about the future.
DBT is an excellent opportunity to build necessary life skills that need a little development.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) helps clients improve their ability to navigate the ups and downs of daily life through learning essential life skills. This unique approach effectively improves interpersonal relationships, a vital part of a person’s mental and emotional wellness. Avalon Malibu is a California state-licensed mental health and addiction treatment facility. Our treatment facility for adults is located in Malibu, CA. We’ve created a nurturing and therapeutic environment for our clients so they can heal. By offering a combination of evidence-based and holistic therapies, we aim to provide our clients with the resources and support system they need to overcome emotional trauma and conflicts. In DBT, clients will engage in deep self-work to build their capacities to maintain healthy relationships and handle emotional distress. If you or someone you love is struggling with social relationships, Call Avalon Malibu at (844) 857-5992 for help.