What is social skills training?

Social Skills Training (SST) uses the principles of behavior therapy to teach communication skills, assertiveness skills, and other skills related to disease management and independent living. It has been shown to be effective for a number of mental illnesses, including serious mental illness. SST is usually conducted in small groups that are ideally led by two co-therapists. Skill identification and then skill development and practice are led by the therapists. Skill identification is achieved by identifying a goal of the patient and any social/interpersonal obstacles to achieve those. Patients then demonstrate the verbal and nonverbal social skill needed to achieve the goal. Positive and corrective feedback is given by the therapist and other group members. Then social modeling of the skill is provided by the therapist and other peers. The patient practices again; positive corrective comments are provided. Roleplays continue. Repeated practice and “overlearning” of skills are important aspects of SST. Duration, frequency, and exact content of SST interventions depends on the needs of the client and the treatment setting. SST may be even more helpful when supplemented with community-based practice opportunities and support.


Kopelowicz, A., Liberman, R.P., Zarate, R. (2006) Recent advances in social skills training for schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 32, S12-S23.

Bellack, AS (2002). Skills training for people with severe mental illness. Psychiatric Rehabilitation, 7, 375-391.

Glynn, S.M., Marder, S.R., Liberman, R.P, Blair, K., Wirshing, W.C., Wirshing, D.A., Ross, D., & Mintz, J. (2002). Supplementing clinical-based skills training with manual-based community support sessions: Effects on social adjustment of patients with schizophrenia. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159, 829-837.

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