Interpersonal skills taught within the DBT framework are a combination of assertiveness, social, listening and negotiation skills. The first two of these are covered under CBT-based skills training but are repeated here because DBT has a different emphasis and takes these skills to a higher level.

In the DBT approach, assertiveness and social skills are also interspersed and integrated with aspects of mindfulness and emotion-regulation in combinations that are more specific to the needs of clients who experience overwhelming emotions. Hence Interpersonal Effectiveness should only be taught after teaching Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation, unless the client possesses relevant skills acquired from previous experience.

The DBT framework describes six core interpersonal skills or types of action that are required during interpersonal interactions in order to assertively ask and negotiate for your needs to be met without having to resort to aggressive behaviours (McKay, Wood, & Brantley, 2007) (p187).

  • Knowing what you want
  • Asking for what you want - in a way that protects the relationship
  • Negotiating conflicting wants
  • Getting information about the other person
  • Saying no – in a way that protects the relationship
  • Acting according to your values

Prior to teaching these 6 core skills DBT therapists recommend that Self- and Other-awareness and Mindfulness skills be applied to:

  • Building mindful attention to interactions with others
  • Recognising aggressive and passive behaviours

A final element looks at blocks to using Interpersonal skills