Social skills training - summary of part of General principles and empirically supported techniques of cognitive behavior therapy

General principles and empirically supported techniques of cognitive behavior therapy
In W.T. O’Donohue & J.E. Fisher (Eds.)
Social skills training.


Social skills training can take a variety of specific forms that can be tailored to the particular needs of the client.

Social skills involve the ability to communicate with other people in a fashion that is both appropriate and effective.

Who will benefit from social skills training?

Social skills training is well-suited to clients who are experiencing a psychosocial problem that is at least partly caused or exacerbated by interpersonal difficulties.

It may be an effective adjunct to other therapeutic techniques when the psychosocial problem has deleterious effects on clients’ interpersonal relationships.

Social skills training can be easily tailored to suit the client’s needs.


Because social skills training relies heavily on learning processes, clients with profound learning disabilities are unlikely to benefit form more sophisticated forms of social skills training.

Prerequisites for social training include: 1) the ability to pay attention to the therapist for at least 15-90 minutes at a time 2) the ability to understand and follow instructions 3) a motivation to learn new, and improve social behaviours.

Other factors in deciding whether to use social skills training

The technique demands a significant degree of skill on the part of the trainer.

How does social skills training work?

The theoretical rational behind social skills training can be described at two levels: 1) the assumption that improvements in people’s social relationships will translate directly and immediately into improved quality of life 2) learning principles, the technique teaches clients new behaviours or appropriate modifications of existing behaviours. The new behaviours are aimed at producing positive reinforcement and diminishing the probability of punishing responses form the social environment.

Step-by-step procedures

Social skills training is a collection of techniques.


Determine the specific area of the client’s social skills deficits. This can trough: self-report instruments, behavioural observations or third-party observers.

Direct instruction/coaching

Teach and explain the basis of effective and appropriate social behaviours to the client along with suggestions for how to enact such behaviours


Show the client models enacting appropriate social behaviours, and receiving positive reinforcements for doing so. Modeling of inappropriate behaviours along with critiques and explanations may be helpful.

Steps social skills trainers can take to increase the likelihood for successful modelling include: 1) multiple models demonstrating the same behaviour, or the same model repeating the demonstration 2) the more similar the model is to the client, the more likely the trainee is to imitate that model ‘people like us can do this’ 3) models who are rewarded for their actions are more likely to be imitated.

Modeling gives people a template or guide for behaviour.


Encourage the client to practice certain social behaviours in a controlled environment. Provide feedback immediately after enacting the role-plays.

It is recommended that clients return to the scene, performing it several times in order to produce the desired response. Clients should be reminded that it is okay if things do not go well on the first try.

It is essential that there be proportionally more positive reinforcement than negative criticism.

Feedback must emphasise effect rather than appearance. Skilled behaviour is ultimately a social perception that has to be created in others.

Feedback should be detailed and specific, with a commentary on particular behaviours.

Homework assignments

Instruct the client to enact certain behaviours in the real world. Start with easy behaviours and graduate to more complex ones. Debrief the following session. Positive feedback and encouragement are important.


Follow-up sessions are recommended.

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In deze bundel staat alle literatuur die nodig is voor het vak Psychodiagnostiek, in de klinische psychologiemaster van de UvA. Hier wordt ingegaan op cognitieve gedragstherapie. Als een bonus staat er ook literatuur voor relatietherapie.