Guest Author - Karen Huber
Social skills training is a form of behavior therapy used to help persons with verbal as well as nonverbal behaviors used in social interactions. It can be in many situations from shyness to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia to serious personality disorders. Social skills training helps individuals to become more adept in handling stressful situations.
Social skills training begins by breaking down complex social behaviors into smaller portions and arranging the behaviors in order of difficulty to gradually introduce them. Techniques can include modeling, role-playing, shaping, feedback, and positive reinforcement with group leader monitoring to assess progress. People in groups can offer feedback to one another about their performances in simulated situations. Specific skills might include nonverbal and assertive communication, making conversation in different situations, problem-solving, decision making, self-management, and peer relations. Social skills training includes teaching people to express feelings in appropriate ways and to interpret social cues.
The first step in group training is to narrow down target behaviors. Make sure the setting is relaxed and remove any distractions from the room because tension and anxiety interfere with the ability to perform the practiced behavior. Define the behaviors to be taught and explain why how it will benefit them, define rules and regulations, teach easy skills first, model them, practice with review sessions and real life settings, and provide feedback with encouragement from a group leader and other group members. Members can take turns demonstrating the desired behaviors, practice in different settings, and submit self-evaluations to build internal motivation.
Specific skills might be positive interaction with others including manners, how to approach others in social acceptable ways, asking for permission, how to make and keep friends, Respecting the opinions of others, accepting praise, apologizing, greeting others, and showing sportsmanship. Appropriate behavior could include attendance to tasks, listening skills, following directions, seeking attention and help in socially acceptable ways, accepting the consequences of behavior, and waiting one's turn. Dealing with frustration and anger could include counting to 10 before reacting, distracting oneself with another task, internal dialog to calm oneself, and using appropriate words instead of physical fighting. Dealing with stress could include awareness of feelings, coping with negative feelings, dealing with mistakes, and handling teasing and taunting.
Self-monitoring and evaluation of achievement of target behaviors could include keeping a journal, discussions with other group members, or answering a questionnaire. Questionnaires could include subjects like getting enough practice at target behaviors, motivation to achieve them, maintain using them in the real world, monitoring, and improvement of the behavior program. Self-evaluations can enable individuals to take ownership of their own progress.