Assertiveness training

The assertive behavior , to be learned, requires time and practice, in regard to a range of complex skills that involve self-knowledge, listening to their emotions, the desire and the ability to show themselves and to relate to the other in a respectful way. To learn and put certain concepts into practice, therefore, a real assertiveness training is useful . Obviously, it cannot be achieved overnight, but it requires a training period in which the principles underlying this practice are gradually put into practice, practicing until they are internalized and used in a very natural way in actions and communication. everyday. All this allows you to express your thoughts in total tranquility, establishing sincere and positive interpersonal relationships.

As already explained in the previous article on assertiveness, the term derives from the English “to assert”, which means “to assert, to affirm”, but also “to set free”, in the latter sense used initially for the concept of liberation of slaves, later by the feminist movement years ’60, finally passed to the clinical and psychotherapeutic field (Jakubowski and Lange, 1978). Therefore, an assertive subjectis the one who uses a verbal and non-verbal mode of communication, which is a clear and direct expression of his needs, needs, preferences, will, desires and / or intentions, but also taking into account the feelings and emotions of the person with whom communicates. It implies a person’s awareness of his own self-sufficiency and emotional autonomy, combined with confidence in himself and in his own abilities.

It is, in fact, the right middle ground, along a continuum, between passive and aggressive behavior. The inventor of assertive training can be considered Wolpe (1958), who claims that assertivenessit consists in the expression of all feelings, except anxiety, while the first to apply a training of social skills (social skills) is considered Salter (1949). It can be performed in session between therapist and patient (with due modifications), but is generally done in a group (Rimm and masters, 1974). The assertiveness training and that social skills are applied in various clinical settings, especially for the treatment of ‘ social anxiety , of depression , of schizophrenia , of the torque problems, obsessive-compulsive disorder , addiction to substances of’ Agoraphobia , sexual disorders, of social maladjustment in children (Caballo, 1995).

It can be counted among the most successful practices typical of  cognitive-behavioral therapy , within which, as a basic assumption, the difficulties and problems of the subject are considered not so much as signs of illness, but as a lack of ability and therefore learnable. For example, a person who appears shy, withdrawn, who does not have the courage to say what he thinks, often lacks the necessary social skills. The cognitive-behavioral psychotherapist is, in this sense, like an enabler, an “educator”, a trainer, an expert who teaches, who models, who suggests, makes us reflect and teaches.

The assertiveness training, in fact, it was initially born as a methodology to treat the symptoms of social anxiety : people often say “I am shy”, “I am anxious”, believing that their difficulties depend exclusively on their character and personality, while in reality they are influenced by elements of learning and interaction with the environment. Those with this type of difficulty have not developed a varied repertoire of adaptive skills and responses, avoid feared situations, have a low level of competence and various cognitive distortions in different social situations (eg. “If I say what I think, I am afraid that others may misjudge me and put aside “;” If I answer no, others may think that I am selfish “). The purpose of learning the assertive style  through assertiveness training it is not so much that of asserting oneself (of becoming “tough”), but rather that of feeling good with others, feeling free to manifest and express what one thinks and feels, while taking into account the same rights of others.

In clinical application, therefore, it results in a structured situation, as already mentioned, individual or group, which has as its objective the systematic development, in subjects with social and relationship difficulties, of a skill called “assertiveness”, understood as a set of social and communication skills, including the ability to produce responses capable of inhibiting states of anxiety and guaranteeing social adaptation. The possession of these skills must be such as to allow the individual to recognize and manifest their needs (social, emotional, biological, etc.) according to the principle that every person, in an interpersonal relationship, has the same fundamental human rights as another person regardless of roles, functions or whatever. The ultimate goal of assertiveness training is the modification of behavior from anassertive (passive or aggressive) to assertive through various steps, such as:

  1. the correction of behaviors that perpetuate passive / aggressive conduct;
  2. sensitization of perceptive channels and communication education;
  3. the strengthening of the faculties of selection and precise identification of stimuli;
  4. controlling anxiety with relaxation.
  5. learning new responses.


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