Social skills training is a type of therapy, often used in conjunction with other therapy techniques, aimed at helping people with personality disorders better relate to other people and handle social situations. While it can be used to directly attempt to treat issues such as social phobia and shyness, other disorders such as alcohol dependence, paranoid schizophrenia, and depression can also be directly or indirectly treated with this type of training. Social skills training typically consists of modeling or video demonstrations of typical social behavior, followed by role-playing, and eventual follow-up sessions to ensure the behavior is properly acquired and practiced outside of therapy.
Often used in conjunction with other types of therapy or treatment, this training is typically used after a particular problem or disorder has been diagnosed. Social phobias and shyness are two especially common types of personality disorder treated with this type of training, though therapists must be careful to not exacerbate the problem. Most forms of training begin with modeling of generally accepted behaviors in social situations, either through video footage or demonstration by the therapist.
Generally accepted social behaviors, such as verbal acknowledgment when someone is spoken to, eye contact during conversations, and making “small talk” are all discussed and explored during social skills training. Typically, a therapist will break down social interactions into small parts, and look at where a person may need improvement, and then begin with one issue at a time, taking the process slowly. Social skills training can be performed with both children and adults, and it has been shown to be fairly helpful with children with learning disabilities or other impairments to be more socially adept and avoid social withdrawal.
For adults with disorders such as alcohol dependence or social phobias, training in social skills can often be used with other types of therapy to try to prevent isolation and loneliness that can make such problems worse. In treating alcohol dependence, for example, this type of training would likely focus on how to act in social situations without drinking alcohol or how to avoid behavioral patterns that led to drinking in the past. For dealing with shyness, this type of training can help increase social interactions and build self-confidence, leading to further social developments. Follow-up to social skills training is often important to ensure that a person continues to benefit from the therapy, and that he or she has successfully generalized the techniques learned in therapy sessions out into the real world.