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Why a Social Skills Group?

posted Sep 16, 2013, 12:14 AM by Devorah Levin   [ updated Sep 16, 2013, 12:20 AM ]
For many children, learning new social skills is like learning a foreign language. Similarly to acquiring a new language, it's important that children are immersed in the thinking and culture of interpersonal skill building. Social skills training groups help children learn and transfer skills from a group to a home and school environment.  In addition, groups will facilitate practice of skills inside and outside of group in order for new friendship skills to be lasting.

There are a few key elements that research on social skills training reveals as critical for real and sustained friendship building to take place:      

(1) Real Change Requires Real Time.
For many, learning social skills does not come naturally. Like learning a new language, acquiring social skills takes time and practice in order to sustain long-term, systemic change. Often, children will first experience a boost in self-esteem boost within the first couple of months, while lasting skill changes don't begin to take hold until the sixth month of weekly intensive groups. 

(2) Parent Involvement is Critical.
Repetition and rehearsal are key factors in transferring learned skills to a child's natural environment. At Social Scene,  parents receive a review of the same skills that their children are working on so that learning and practice continues at home. Parents can help their child make these learned skills become more natural and automatic. Children acquire the necessary skills exponentially more quickly and deeply when parents and clinicians are all on the same page. 

(3) Social Skills Must Be Practiced in Between Sessions.
A cognitive-behavioral therapeutic model like Social Scene stresses the need for practice in order to reinforce skills learned during group. This way, children are encouraged to practice the skills acquired in a variety of social settings outside of group, which "cements" these social skills for life. 

(4) Focus on Specific Skills.
A well-structured, comprehensive social skills group must cover several common areas of weakness in children who struggle with making and maintaining friends: 
- Reading social cues accurately 
- Active listening 
- Making a good first impression 
- Developing good eye contact 
- Improving communication and conversation skills 
- Facilitating social entry 
- Coping effectively with teasing and bullying 
- Enhancing self-esteem 
- Managing stress 
- Developing anger control 

(5) Groups Need to Be Carefully Formed.
Social Scene assesses children to place them in a group that will be best suited for their needs. Some of the factors include the children's age, gender, social and emotional development, treatment goal objectives, among others.

Additional benefits of therapy groups include instilling hope in children who otherwise might feel alone and  a feeling of acceptance that may not be found in other social settings. However, in order to be truly "friendship changing," it's important that a social skills group have the critical elements outlined above.