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"Embracing Empathy: Navigating Interpersonal Challenges with DBT

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

In the heart of Michigan, where the hustle and bustle of Metro Detroit meets the diverse tapestry of its people, I've had the privilege of being a mental health clinician. Over the years, I've come to appreciate various therapeutic approaches, but one that stands out as a personal favorite is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Within the vast toolkit of DBT, there's a gem I find particularly valuable: the Interpersonal Effectiveness skill.


Imagine a scenario where a heated argument arises with a loved one, a colleague at work, or a friend. The natural instinct is often to determine who's right and who's wrong. But the Interpersonal Effectiveness skill teaches us a profound lesson: it's not about being right or wrong; it's about achieving our objectives within the context of the relationship.

Here's the essence of this DBT skill: we learn to juggle three crucial aspects of any interpersonal matter—the order of importance of which can vary depending on the circumstances. These aspects are self-respect, the relationship itself, and our ultimate objective.

  1. Self-Respect: This involves standing up for our beliefs and values without compromising our self-worth. It's about maintaining our dignity, asserting our needs, and setting healthy boundaries.

  2. The Relationship: We must also consider the importance of preserving and nurturing the relationship. Even during conflicts, we aim to protect the connection we share with the other person.

  3. Objective: Finally, we focus on our primary goal or objective within the interpersonal matter. What is it that we want to achieve or resolve through this interaction?

The beauty of this skill lies in its adaptability. Depending on the situation, we may need to prioritize these aspects differently. Sometimes, preserving the relationship is paramount, even if it means momentarily setting aside our objectives. Other times, assertively pursuing our objectives while maintaining self-respect is crucial.


DBT, an evidence-based therapy, is a powerful tool not only for those with Borderline Personality Disorder but also for individuals dealing with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and more. It equips us with adaptive ways to cope with our emotions, manage interpersonal relationships, and lead a life worth living.

This DBT skill has proven invaluable in helping individuals maneuver a wide range of interpersonal matters, from romantic relationships to friendships, familial bonds, and work relationships. By embracing the principles of Interpersonal Effectiveness, we learn to communicate more effectively, empathize with others' perspectives, and resolve conflicts with grace.


In Metro Detroit, there are numerous resources for those interested in DBT skills groups. Wayne State University, in particular, offers accessible options, including free or sliding-scale fee programs. These resources are essential in making DBT and its life-changing skills accessible to everyone.


In the heart of Michigan, where resilience and empathy meet, DBT's mantra of "living a life worth living" becomes a reality. Through Interpersonal Effectiveness and other DBT skills, we embark on a journey of self-discovery, emotional regulation, and enriched relationships, ultimately leading to a life that is truly worth living.


Melissa E. Mendoza, LMSW is a Michigan Mental Health provider. If you're ready to take the next step towards healing and growth, please don't hesitate to reach out. Your well-being is important. You can contact Melissa for telehealth counseling from anywhere in Michigan to start your path towards a happier, healthier you.


Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and you don't have to go through this alone.


Request An Appointment with Melissa via Link: Schedule an Appointment


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