A Conceptual Framework for Work-Related Social Skills in Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Article excerpt

Social skills and social skills training have attracted considerable attention in the field of psychiatric rehabilitation in the past two decades. There are numerous studies (Bellack, Morrison, Wixted, and Mueser, 1990; Bryant, Trower, Yardley, Urbieta, and Letemendia, 1976; Christoff & Kelley, 1985; Curran, Miller III, Zwick, Monti, and Stout, 1980; Feinberg, Rifkin, Schaffer, and Walker, 1986; Goldstein & Manderscheid, 1981) which show that psychiatric patients, especially those with schizophrenia, have significant deficits in social skills and social performance. Many rehabilitation counselors, health care professionals, and social workers have proposed conceptual frameworks for social skills in general that guide rehabilitation (Argyle, 1988; Hargie, Saunders & Dickson, 1981; McFall, 1982; Liberman, Mueser, Wallace, Jacobs, & Massel, 1986).

In recent years, it has been pointed out that social skills and social skills training are to a great extent related to specific social situations (Bromley, 1981; Douglus & Musser, 1990; Duncan & Fiske, 1977; Kelly, 1982; Phillips, 1978; Wallace, Nelson, Liberman, Aitchison, Elder, & Ferris, 1980). As a result, efforts have been made to provide specialized training in different situations. Some training programs lay emphasis on heterosexual interactions (e.g. Longer & Farrell, 1981), while others center on work-related situations (e.g. Wilkinson & Canter, 1982). It is well-known that people with schizophrenia have serious employment problems which include getting and keeping a job. This may be the result of inadequacy in social performance (Argyle, 1992). It is therefore highly strategic from a rehabilitation point of view to pay more attention to the application of social skills training in work-related situations.

A general model for social skills is insufficient to guide training in work-related situations. Instead, it is best to have a conceptual framework for work-related social skills (WSS) to serve such a purpose. It is rather disappointing to find, after a comprehensive review of the literature, that documentation in this area is extremely limited. There have been several studies recently (Farley & Hinman, 1986; Herbert & Ishikawa, 1991; Park & Gaylord-Ross, 1989) which are concerned with social skills at work. However, their focus is on people with a learning disability rather than on people with schizophrenia. Others are concerned with prisoners (e.g. Calabrese & Hawkins, 1988). In view of the scarcity of work in this area, this study was aimed at postulating a conceptual framework for WSS and at the same time testing its validity. In addition, a number of skill components were generated to act as a working guide for the development of relevant assessment and training packages.

The Framework

The importance of social skills in work situations has been fairly well documented (Argyle, 1992; Fontana, 1990; Kimbrell & Vinegard, 1975; McGoven, 1976). Yet, only a few people have comprehensively analyzed WSS. Different authors tend to interpret the term in different ways. Some of them try to make an inventory of its elements (e.g. Argyle, 1991; Fontana, 1990; Foy, Massey, Duer, Ross, and Wooten, 1979; Montague, 1988). However, a unified and consistent interpretation among the theorists and practitioners is lacking. It is certain from the authors cited above that WSS involves several variables including basic social skills, skills in interaction with seniors, fellow workers, and subordinates, and skills in handling specific work situations. A more systemic schema for WSS can be found in a paper by Salzberg, Lignugaris/Kraft, and McCuller (1988), who used the term "social-vocational competence," consisting of task-related and personal-social competence, instead of WSS. Although this model appears to be fairly systematic, it is by no means complete and directly applicable to the rehabilitation of those with schizophrenia. …