Late Breaking News
Social Skills Training for Veterans with Schizophrenia Changes Lives for Better
“What’s wonderful about the classes is the opportunity to repeatedly practice the skills and to highlight the essential components through a multistep process,” said Goldberg. The six-step process works to teach and consolidate the skills immediately:
- Clinicians model the behavior, while group participants observe.
- Group members practice the skill in a role-playing format.
- The group and clinician provide positive feedback to members.
- Class members repeat the role-play.
- The clinician breaks down the skill into its smallest components for practice.
- The group role-plays again to solidify the skill.
“By working on a single skill in a role-play and practicing it three times, veterans see instant improvement is social skills they can use in other situations beyond the class. It’s not about symptom management but about learning how to communicate more effectively. That third time practicing the skill allows the veteran to ‘knock it out of the park.’ Each skill learned has a longterm effect on self-esteem, functional outcomes and social interactions,” Goldberg noted.
To effectively transfer skills learned in class to the life situations important to the veteran, clinicians work with each group participant to select goals such as obtaining a job, dating, getting along better with others in a residence, managing relationships with family or maintaining health. The goals provide a rationale for learning the skills, so veterans can see that the classes are relevant and helpful.
“One veteran we worked with had trouble getting a job,” Goldberg recounted. “We worked on the skills he needed and on generalizing them out of the group and into a vocational context. Practicing the new skills with his goal in mind ultimately enabled him to be successful in obtaining and maintaining employment.”
The positive results seen by SST are not simply anecdotal, however. Reviews of more than 50 studies document significant improvements in a wide range of behaviors and knowledge as the result of SST for individuals with schizophrenia across multiple settings, according to an article in Schizophrenia Bulletin. Further, those gains lasted for at least two years, the maximum duration studied.
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