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Interpersonal effectiveness is one of the four modules, or main skills areas, of the evidence-based psychotherapeutic approach known as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Marsha M. Linehan originally developed DBT in the late 1980s as a method to better treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). DBT is founded on the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) but places greater emphasis on the psychosocial aspects of treatment. It combines standard CBT techniques for emotional regulation and reality-testing with concepts derived from Eastern mindfulness techniques (e.g., awareness, mindfulness, and attentiveness to current situations and emotional experiences) to encourage acceptance and change. 

Dialectical behavior therapy occurs in three distinct settings: individual psychotherapeutic sessions, DBT group skills training sessions, and as-needed phone coaching. The four modules, or main skills areas, of DBT, include interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and core mindfulness. Around six weeks are allocated to each of the four DBT skills areas, making the duration of the entire dialectical behavior therapy program last about twenty-four weeks long. 

Interpersonal Effectiveness Module

The interpersonal effectiveness module is intended to teach people skills to navigate interpersonal problem solving, improve assertiveness, and hone social skills to modify aversive environments and to realize goals in interpersonal encounters. These skills involve helping individuals identify and understand their own needs in a relationship. The four components of interpersonal effectiveness are taught through the following skills:

  1. THINK is an acronym for: 
    1. Think about the situation from the other person’s perspective
    2. Have empathy for and consider the other person’s feelings
    3. Interpretations: try to identify a positive interpretation or an alternative explanation for the persons behavior/ situation
    4. Notice if the other person is attempting to improve the situation 
    5. Use Kindness and a gentle approach when interacting with the other person
  2. FAST is an acronym for: 
    1. Be Fair to yourself and the other person
    2. No Apologies: you do not need to apologize when you have done nothing wrong
    3. Stick to your values and stand up for what you believe in
    4. Be Truthful and honest with yourself and others
  3. GIVE is an acronym for: 
    1. Be Gentle, kind, and respectful in your approach to help the person with whom you are communicating feel loved instead of attacked
    2. Act Interested in what the other person is saying through body language and by maintaining eye contact
    3. Validate by confirming that you hear what they are saying and echoing their emotions back to them
    4. Use an Easy manner and present yourself as being comfortable and relaxed throughout the interaction
  4. DEAR MAN is an acronym for:
    1. Describe the current situation
    2. Express your opinions and feelings
    3. Assert yourself by asking for what you want or saying no
    4. Reinforce and reward the person by explaining the positive effects of getting what you want or need
    5. Be Mindful and keep your focus on your goals
    6. Appear confident, effective, and competent
    7. Negotiate and be willing to give to get

Interpersonal effectiveness skills help an individual learn to cultivate, engage, and maintain healthy relationships with others that enable one’s needs to be met. This includes advocating for one’s needs and communicating in a way that is non-damaging, assertive, maintains self-respect, and strengthens relationships. 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.