Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy are types of treatment that are based firmly on research findings. These approaches aid people in achieving specific changes or goals.
Changes or goals might involve:
A way of acting: like smoking less or being more outgoing;
A way of feeling: like helping a person to be less scared, less depressed, or less anxious;
A way of thinking: like learning to problem-solve or get rid of self-defeating thoughts;
A way of dealing with physical or medical problems: like lessening back pain or helping a person stick to a doctor’s suggestions.
Behavior Therapists and Cognitive Behavior Therapists usually focus more on the current situation and its solution, rather than the past.
They concentrate on a person’s views and beliefs about their life, not on personality traits.
Behavior Therapists and Cognitive Behavior Therapists treat individuals, parents, children, couples, and families.
Replacing ways of living that do not work well with ways of living that work, and giving people more control over their lives, are common goals of behavior and cognitive behavior therapy.
HOW TO GET HELP:
If you are looking for help, either for yourself or someone else, you may be tempted to call someone who advertises in a local publication or who comes up from a search of the Internet.
You may, or may not, find a competent therapist in this manner.
It is wise to check on the credentials of a psychotherapist.
It is expected that competent therapists hold advanced academic degrees.
They should be listed as members of professional organizations, such as the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies or the American Psychological Association.
Of course, they should be licensed to practice in your state.
You can find competent specialists who are affiliated with local universities or mental health facilities or who are listed on the websites of professional organizations.
You may, of course, visit our website (www.abct.org) and click on "Find a CBT Therapist"
The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) is an interdisciplinary organization committed to the advancement of a scientific approach to the understanding and amelioration of problems of the human condition.
These aims are achieved through the investigation and application of behavioral, cognitive, and other evidence-based principles to assessment, prevention, and treatment.
What Is Assertiveness?
Have you ever been to a party and found yourself avoiding someone because
you didn't know what to say? Have you ever realized, after the fact, that you had
been unfairly criticized or taken advantage of? Are you hesitant to express your
thoughts or opinions? Do you find dealing with authority figures difficult?
These are examples of situations that involve assertive behavior.
Assertiveness can be defined as communication in which one expresses oneself
in a direct and honest manner in interpersonal situations, while simultaneously
respecting the rights and dignity of others.
What Is Assertiveness Training?
Assertiveness training can be an effective treatment for certain conditions,
such as depression, social anxiety, and problems resulting from unexpressed
anger. Assertiveness training can also be useful for those who wish to improve
their interpersonal skills and sense of self-respect.
Reasons for Assertiveness Training
Assertiveness training is based on the principle that we all have a right to
express our thoughts, feelings, and needs to others, as long as we do so in a
respectful way. When we don't feel like we can express ourselves openly, we may
become depressed, anxious, or angry, and our sense of self-worth may suffer.
Our relationships with other people are also likely to suffer because we may
become resentful when they don't read our minds for what we are not assertive
enough to be telling them. There are no hard-and-fast rules of what assertive
behavior is; rather, it is specific to the particular time and situation. In other
words, behavior that is appropriately assertive for one person in one situation
may be either excessively passive or too aggressive for someone else in a different
situation. Finally, assertiveness training is based on the idea that assertiveness is
not inborn, but is a learned behavior. Although some people may seem to be
more naturally assertive than others, anyone can learn to be more assertive.
Although these ideas may sound simple and straightforward, behaving
assertively can sometimes be difficult for almost anyone, and is often impossible
for some people. For this reason, assertiveness training focuses not only on talking
about the importance of assertiveness, but also on learning assertive behaviors
and practicing these behaviors with the help of a professional therapist.
What Is the Difference Between Assertiveness and Aggression?
People sometimes confuse assertiveness with aggression, believing that
assertiveness training might make them pushy or inconsiderate of others. In fact,
assertiveness can be thought of as a middle point between passivity and aggression.
In interpersonal situations, passive behavior occurs when you focus on the
needs and desires of another person, but ignore your own needs and wishes. In
contrast, aggressive behavior occurs when you force your own needs on others.
Assertive behavior involves expressing your own way of seeing things, but in
a way that is respectful of the other person. Although no one can guarantee
that the other person will like what you do or say, assertive behavior requires
that the other person be treated with respect. Assertiveness training can help
not only those who tend to be overly passive in interpersonal situations, but
also those who tend to be overly aggressive.
How Is Assertiveness Training Done?
Therapists help clients figure out which interpersonal situations are
problems for them and which behaviors need the most attention. In addition,
therapists help to identify beliefs and attitudes the clients may have developed
that lead them to become too passive. Therapists take into account the
clients' particular cultural context in this process. Therapists may use a combination
of interviews, tests, or role-playing exercises as part of this assessment.
Therapists help clients understand what assertiveness is and how behaving
assertively may be helpful. Inaccurate or unproductive attitudes and
beliefs about assertiveness are discussed. Once clients understand the importance
of assertive behavior for their situation, therapists help them develop
more assertive behaviors. For example, using a technique called behavioral
rehearsal, a specific situation is described and then role played by the client
and the therapist. Initially, the therapist may play the role of the client and
model assertive behavior. The client and therapist then switch roles, and the
client practices the new behavior. The therapist gives supportive, honest
feedback after each role-play exercise in order to help the client improve his
or her skills. Assertiveness training focuses on both verbal and nonverbal
behavior. Verbal behavior is the content of a communication — in other
words, what is actually said. This includes expressing requests, feelings, opinions,
and limits. Nonverbal behavior refers to the style of com
munication: eye contact, posture, tone and volume of speech, interpersonal
distance, and listening.
Examples of Assertiveness Techniques
There are several specific strategies that can be useful when trying to
develop assertiveness. One, called the broken-record technique, is useful for
situations in which another person will not acknowledge or accept your message.
For example, suppose a salesperson is attempting to pressure you to
buy something you do not want. You respond, “Thank you, but I am not
interested in buying anything today.” If he or she continues pushing, you
simply repeat the same statement, keeping your tone of voice constant, without
becoming upset. Eventually, the person will be forced to accept your
refusal. Another technique, sometimes called fogging, is a method for denying
requests or disagreeing with someone while showing them that you nevertheless
recognize and respect that person's position. You begin by summarizing
the other person's feelings, and then explain why you cannot, or choose
not to, comply with that person's request. For example, your husband is
warm and asks you to turn down the heat, but you are cold. You respond,
“I'm sorry you feel warm, but I've got on a sweater and long underwear, and
I'm still freezing. I don't want to turn down the heat any more. Maybe you
could dress more lightly or go for a walk.” These are only two of many behavioral
techniques that can help develop better assertiveness skills.
In addition to teaching specific assertiveness skills, the therapist can
work with clients to help reduce anxiety and worry through systematic desensitization,
rational-emotive behavior therapy, or other techniques. As worry
and anxiety are reduced, people will be more confident and less worried or
Can Therapy Help?
All of us can learn to improve our assertiveness skills. Some people are
able to improve their skills by reading books on assertiveness training and
practicing the exercises outlined in the books. Such books are widely available
in libraries and bookstores. For many others, however, professional help is
necessary to make real and lasting improvements in assertiveness skills. This
is especially true if one's interpersonal problems are associated with strong
feelings of anxiety or depression. If you or someone you know might benefit
from assertiveness training, it is important to find a therapist or counselor
who is an expert with this approach. Ask directly about the professional's
training and experience with assertiveness training. Your family doctor may
be able to refer you to a competent professional. Another option is to contact
the referral office of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies at
(212) 647-1890 or through ABCT's web site at
www.abct.org for a therapist in
For more information or to find a therapist:
Please feel free to photocopy or reproduce this fact sheet, noting that this fact sheet was writen and produced by ABCT. You may also link directly to our site and/or to the
from which you took this fact sheet