Archive for February 4th, 2015

February 4, 2015

Assertiveness Training

when i say no

South African psychiatrist Joseph Wolpe originally explored the use of assertiveness in his 1958 book on treating neurosis as a means of ‘reciprocal inhibition’ of anxiety (anxiety being inhibited by a feeling or response that is not compatible with the feeling of anxiety). Wolpe first started using eating as a response to inhibited anxiety in the laboratory cats. He would offer them food while presenting a conditioned fear stimulus. After his experiments in the laboratory he applied reciprocal inhibition to his clients in the form of assertiveness training.

Wolpe’s belief was that a person could not be both assertive and anxious at the same time, and thus being assertive would inhibit anxiety. Assertiveness training proved especially useful for clients who had anxiety about social situations. However, assertiveness training did have a potential flaw in the sense that it could not be applied to other kinds of phobias. Wolpe’s use of reciprocal inhibition led to his discovery of systematic desensitization (graduated exposure therapy). He believed that facing your fears did not always result in overcoming them but rather lead to frustration. According to Wolpe, the key to overcoming fears was ‘by degrees.

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