Assertiveness Training in Individual Therapy

Assertiveness training is designed to help people protect their rights and get what they want from other people. This can include expressing one’s feelings effectively, making one’s wishes known, making requests, saying “no,” and standing up for oneself. People who have difficulties with assertiveness often err in one of two ways: 1) the extreme of being overly passive, and never getting what one wants, or 2) the extreme of being overly aggressive and getting what one wants, but doing so at the expense of relationships with others.

This particular individual therapy treatment begins with assessing the situations in which assertiveness is lacking, by listing problematic interpersonal situations and analyzing the situations for interpersonal deficits. From this list, a hierarchy of assertiveness opportunities is created, arranged in order of least anxiety provoking to most difficult. To ensure success and maximize comfort, the least difficult situations are targeted first. Once these situations are mastered, increasingly difficult situations are targeted, until the client has effectively rehearsed and mastered all of the situations on his/her hierarchy. 

Each situation is analyzed to identify obstacles to success. Often these are emotional discomfort, faulty assumptions, or a lack of assertiveness skills. Identifying thoughts and attitudes that are self-defeating, and learning to adopt more helpful ways of thinking about things, can help to reduce anxiety and increase confidence. Intense emotions that inhibit assertiveness can be effectively treated with emotion regulation strategies such as relaxation training and distress tolerance. Finally, most people have deficits when it comes to how to be effectively assertive. Clients in assertiveness training are provided with a simple model of assertive communication they can use as a template for all future assertiveness. 

Some people need extra help with assertiveness because they find themselves having to navigate especially difficult interpersonal situations. Standing up for oneself in a hostile work environment, setting limits with unreasonable friends and family members, and dealing with very effectively assertive people can all make assertiveness more difficult. For these special cases, there are a special set of additional skills that are used to increase skillful assertive behavior. 


For more information about what CBT is, what it is used to treat, and the methods we use, explore our site using the navigation menu at the top of this page, or visit our cognitive behavioral therapy exercises pages.