Changeways Clinic

The Therapist’s Toolkit: Communication Skills Training


Many clients in the health or mental health systems have a great deal of difficulty being assertive. Some are excessively passive and find it almost impossible to set the interpersonal boundaries they might like to have. Others are excessively aggressive, finding it difficult to set boundaries without alienating or attempting to control others. A lack of adequate assertiveness skills is implicated in the origin and/or maintenance of many of the presenting problems seen in health and mental health services.

In response, Changeways Clinic has developed a psychoeducational group therapy protocol designed to train clients in assertiveness skills. Called "Being There," it is designed to be conducted with clients over eight to ten two-hour sessions. The components can easily be adapted for work with individual clients - with the advantage of enabling the therapist to select only those components that a client particularly needs.

We offer service providers two days of training in communication skills training with clients. Therapists attending the training seminar receive the 128-page manual for clients, the 251-page Clinician's Guide, and a CD-ROM with pdf masters for reproduction of the materials for their own clients.

Program Contents

The materials for clients cover the following topics:
  • Definitions of assertive, aggressive, passive, and passive-aggressive behaviour
  • Barriers to becoming assertive, including stress, gender role expectations, social barriers, and maladaptive beliefs
  • Assertive rights
  • Nonverbal behaviour styles
  • Giving one's opinion
  • Accepting compliments
  • Giving positive feedback
  • Coping with criticism
  • Giving constructive negative feedback
  • Saying "no"
  • Making effective requests
  • Dealing with confrontation

Which clients are appropriate for these materials?

The program is designed to be used as a component of therapy (but seldom the sole component) for selected clients presenting with a variety of difficulties, including depression, anger control problems, many of the anxiety disorders, adjustment disorder, marital and child-rearing problems, and so on.

The materials are written primarily for adults, though teens should have no difficulty grasping the principles and younger children may benefit with some modifications. The materials are written at a grade six reading level, though clients functioning below this level may benefit if they have help.

The materials

The Being There manual for clients is a 128-page workbook exploring different styles of communication. It includes numerous examples, short writing exercises, and home practice recommendations. The individual sections of the manual each start on a fresh page, enabling the clinician to copy only those parts that apply for a particular clients.

The Clinician's Guide is a longer resource providing recommendations about structuring a communication skills group, teaching the core content, and leading practice exercises. It includes a set of point-form session notes designed to be used as "cheat sheets" for the therapist.

The training workshop

The Being There training workshop for providers is two days long. The workshop content is presented via lecture, discussion, and participation in many of the exercises from the group. The workshop is designed to be strongly interactive and experiential.

Workshop participants each receive a copy of the Being There client manual and the Clinician's Guide. Each agency represented receives photocopy masters (on CD-ROM) for the client manual, instruction sheets for the in-session exercises, and adjunct materials.

Who should attend the workshop?

The workshop is intended for professional therapists (including clinical counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, and other trained psychotherapists).

If you plan to attend...

Workshop participants will experience many of the assertiveness exercises first-hand, often by splitting into groups of two or three. Please come prepared to participate in these nonthreatening exercises. As well, we recommend wearing casual, comfortable clothing.

Feedback on this program

“I love the books and handouts.”
“Very organized and very practical -- excellent presenter.”
“Many thanks! The information is both interesting and easily practical.”
“Will be very useful -- I plan to use it on an individual basis.”
“Thank you very much. I feel better prepared to deal with some of these things - both personally and professionally.”
“Excellent presentation. The materials are well organized so it is easy to run a group.”

How to register

Check the Calendar for information on upcoming workshop dates, locations, and prices. Print a copy of the workshop flyer for the program you wish to attend.

If there is an indication that the workshop is nearing capacity, or if the registration deadline is approaching, call us at 604 871 0490 or fax the registration form to us at 604 871 0495.

Mail a copy of the form and your cheque (made out to "Changeways Clinic") to us at Changeways Clinic, Suite 718, 2525 Willow Street, Vancouver BC, V5Z 3N8.

If you have any questions about the program or about registration, call us at 604 871 0490 or email us at

If you know of additional staff members who might be interested in the program, let us know. We can send out brochures to your agency via email, fax, or regular mail.

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