Social Skills Training (SST) for Schizophrenia

Status: Strong Research Support


SST uses the principles of behavior therapy to teach communication skills, assertiveness skills, and other skills related to disease management and independent living. SST is usually conducted in small groups that are ideally led by two co-therapists. Skills are broken down into several discrete steps. After reviewing the steps of the skill, the therapist models the skill by demonstrating a role play. Participants then do role-plays to learn and practice the skill. Therapists and group members provide constructive feedback to the individual after each role play and each participant is given an opportunity to practice the skill several times. Repeated practice and “overlearning” of skills are important aspects of SST. Duration, frequency, and exact content of SST interventions depends on the needs of the client(s) and the treatment setting. SST may be even more helpful when supplemented with community-based practice opportunities and support.

Key References (in reverse chronological order)

  • Kopelowicz, A., Liberman, R.P., Zarate, R. (2006) Recent advances in social skills training for schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 32, pS12-S23.
  • Bellack, AS (2002). Skills training for people with severe mental illness. Psychiatric Rehabilitation, 7, 375-391
  • Glynn, S.M., Marder, S.R., Liberman, R.P, Blair, K., Wirshing, W.C., Wirshing, D.A., Ross, D., & Mintz, J. (2002). Supplementing clinical-based skills training with manual-based community support sessions: Effects on social adjustment of patients with schizophrenia. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159, 829-837.
  • Liberman, RP, Wallace, CJ, Blackwell, G., Kopelowicz, A., Vaccaro, JV, Mintz, J. (1998). Skills Training vs. psychosocial occupational therapy for persons with persistent schizophrenia.
  • Eckman, T.A.; Wirshing, W.C.; Marder, S.R., Liberman, R.P., Johnston-Cronk, K.; Zimmermann, K.; and Mintz, J. Technique for training schizophrenic patients in illness self-management: A controlled trial. American Journal of Psychiatry, 149:1549-1555, 1992.
  • Wallace, C.J.; Liberman, R,P,; MacKain, S.J.; and Eckman, T.A. Effectiveness and replicability of modules for teaching social and instrumental skills to the severely mentally ill.American Journal of Psychiatry, 149:654-658, 1992.
  • Wallace, C.J., and Liberman, R.P. Social skills training for patients with schizophrenia: A controlled clinical trial. Psychiatry Research, 15:239-247, 1985.

Clinical Resources

  • Bellack, A.S., Bennett, M.E., Gearon, J.S. (2006). Behavioral treatment for substance abuse in people with serious and persistent mental illness. New York: Taylor and Francis.
  • Bellack, A.S.. Mueser, K.T., Gingerich, S., & Agresta, J. (2004). Social skills training for schizophrenia: A step-by-step guide (second edition). New York: Guilford Press.
  • Liberman, R.P., Derisi, W.J. & Mueser, K.T. (2001). Social skills training for psychiatric patients. Psychology Practioner Guidebooks. Allyn & Bacon.

Training Opportunities

VISN 5 Mental Illness Research, Education
and Clinical Center (MIRECC)
Alan S. Bellack, Ph.D., ABPP (Director)
Wendy N. Tenhula, Ph.D. (Coordinator)
10 N. Greene Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
(410) 605-7451
Kim Mueser, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry
Professor of Community and Family Medicine
Department of Psychiatry
Dartmouth Medical School
New Hampshire-Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center
105 Pleasant St.
Concord, NH 03301
(603) 271-5747