Social skills training (SST) is a form of behavior therapy used by teachers, therapists, and trainers to help persons who have difficulties relating to other people.
A major goal of social skills training is teaching persons who may or may not have emotional problems about the verbal as well as nonverbal behaviors involved in social interactions. There are many people who have never been taught such interpersonal skills as having basic conversation in social settings, or the importance of good eye contact during a conversation. In addition, many people have not learned to "read" the many subtle cues contained in social interactions, such as how to tell when someone wants to change the topic of conversation or shift to another activity. Social skills training helps patients to learn to interpret these and other social signals, so that they can determine how to act appropriately in the company of other people in a variety of different situations.
The training works on the assumption that when people improve their social skills or change selected behaviors, they will raise their self-esteem and increase the likelihood that others will respond favorably to them. Clients learn to change their social behavior patterns by practicing selected behaviors in individual or group therapy sessions. Another goal of social skills training is improving a patient's ability to function in everyday social situations.
A person who lacks certain social skills may have great difficulty building a network of supportive friends and acquaintances as he or she grows older, and may become socially isolated. Moreover, one of the consequences of loneliness is an increased risk of developing emotional problems or mental disorders. Social skills training has been shown to be effective in treating patients with a broad range of emotional problems and diagnoses. Some of the disorders treated by social skills trainers include shyness; adjustment disorders; marital and family conflicts, anxiety disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder , social phobia , alcohol dependence; depression; bipolar disorder ; schizophrenia ; developmental disabilities; various personality disorders etc.
People with disabilities in any age group can benefit from social skills training. Children with developmental disabilities can acquire positive social skills with training. SST programs are effective in reducing hyperactive children's experiences of school failure or rejection as well as the aggressiveness and isolation that often develop in them because they have problems relating to others.
Social skills training is often used in combination with other therapies in the treatment of mental disorders. It has also been integrated with exposure therapy, cognitive restructuring, and medication in the treatment of social phobia. It has been used within family therapy itself in the treatment of marital and family conflicts. It works well together with medication for the treatment of depression. For the treatment of schizophrenia, social skills training has often been combined with pharmacotherapy, family therapy, and assertive case management.