Group Treatment of Social Impairment in People with Mental Illness

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The facilitation of relationships between group members who are engaged with one another should create models of social interactions. It appears then that a process-focused approach to social skills training would enhance the effectiveness of current cognitive-behavioral social skills training models inasmuch as the therapeutic group itself provides individuals with an opportunity to apply the skills learned in training with numerous social situations. This orientation to social skills training may provide an environment in which group members are more likely to enhance social competence as a function and outcome of group therapeutic process factors (such as altruism, affiliation, and universality). A preliminary study of the relative effectiveness of a traditional cognitive-behavioral approach to social skills training (SST) as compared to a combined cognitive-behavioral and process-oriented training format known as interactive-behavioral training (IBT) was undertaken at a Community Residential Program for people with mental illness. Pre- and post-test mean scores on clinical rating scales do not allow any firm conclusions to be drawn regarding the treatment effects of IBT compared to standard SST. However, positive results on measures of psychiatric symptoms and social functioning, as well as clinical observations, provide encouragement for further examination of this promising model.

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