Reciprocal communication style is an acceptance-based strategy primarily aimed at promoting engagement in the therapeutic relationship.

Responsiveness, self-disclosure and genuineness
are the basic guidelines of reciprocal communication style.

Responsiveness requires taking the client’s agenda and wishes seriously. It is a friendly, affectionate style reflecting warmth and engagement in the therapeutic interaction (Miller, Rathus, & Linehan, 2007) (p67).

Personal self-disclosure, used in the interest of the client, is encouraged. It is used to validate, as well as to model coping and normative responses (Miller, Rathus, & Linehan, 2007) (p67).

Reciprocal self-disclosure includes immediate personal reactions
to the client and his or her behaviour.

Most obviously reciprocal self-disclosure includes expression of positive feelings and reactions in response to positive expressions by a client. For example if a client says “I like it when you joke around with me”, the practitioner might say “I feel warm in my heart when you laugh”.

To be consistently genuine self-disclosure also includes honest reactions that might be challenging for the client. For example, if a client complains that the practitioner is acting in a cold way, the practitioner might say “When you demand warmth from me it pushes me away and makes it harder for me to be warm”. Such statements serve to both validate and challenge.

Reciprocal self-disclosure validates that it is acceptable to express genuine feelings, but also demonstrates that genuine expressions have consequences for other people and for ourselves. Other DBT strategies teach client’s how to manage their expressions in a way that generates better consequences.

These notes are based on (Miller et al., 2007).