Social Skills Training Benefits Mentally Ill Patients: Modeling Goalsetting, Role Playing

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- Good social skills training can enable many psychiatric patients to succeed in their community; such skills ensure that the needs of these patients are met with less involvement of case managers and other clinicians.

Such training requires that the specific needs of patients with mental disabilities be taken into consideration. For example, many psychiatric patients have learning disabilities.

"We can't expect to them to learn if we're just talking at them," Dr. Robert Paul Liberman commented at a meeting of the World Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation.

Successful learning in this population is usually performance-based. Social skills training in a safe group environment that includes modeling, goal setting, role playing, encouragement, and positive reinforcement can be effective, even to some degree among patients who have severe schizophrenia, said Dr. Liberman, a psychiatrist with the University of California, Los Angeles.

An example of a useful training program is Personal Effectiveness for Successful Living, a skills method that Dr. Liberman developed and his been working with for more than 30 years. Patients work in groups of 8-10 people to set their own long-term goals, to provide one another with suggestions on the types of short-term goals that will help in achieving the long-term goals, and to practice accomplishing those goals through modeling and role playing in a series of sessions.

A creative instructor can provide good modeling for performing various practical social skills as well as for overcoming obstacles a patient might encounter in pursuit of his or her goals. …

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