VISN 5 MIRECC - VA Social Skills Training for Serious Mental Illness (SST) Training Program - MIRECC / CoE
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VISN 5 MIRECC - VA Social Skills Training for Serious Mental Illness (SST) Training Program

 

What is Social Skills Training for Serious Mental Illness? | VA Social Skills Training for Serious Mental Illness (VA SST) Training Program | How to find out about available VA SST Provider Training Opportunities | VA SST: Train-the-Trainer | Social Skills Training Resources | SST Group Handouts/Resources | SST Group Handouts/Resources in Spanish | Advanced Tutorials | Additional Resources | Contact

What is Social Skills Training for Serious Mental Illness (SST)?

Social Skills Training for Serious Mental Illness (SST) is an evidence-based practice for persons with schizophrenia (Dixon et al., 2010). SST is also commonly used effectively with people with other types of serious mental illness (SMI). The social skills model used by the VA to train providers is based on Social Skills Training for Schizophrenia: A Step-by-Step Guide (Bellack et al., 2004). SST is an intervention that has been developed to enhance interpersonal skills with the goal of improving community adjustment, quality of life, and pursuit of personal goals. SST involves an initial individual goal setting session followed by group sessions. Before the first group session, group members meet in an initial individual session with a group leader to identify a personal goal or goal(s) to work on in the group. SST interventions are tailored to meet the real-life, current-day difficulties that affect the social experiences of each Veteran, but several common core elements are present regardless of which specific skills are being taught. SST is a structured format for teaching interpersonal skills that incorporates modeling, role plays, and other behavioral learning activities.

For more information on SST, please click on the following links:

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VA Social Skills Training for Serious Mental Illness (VA SST) Training Program

The VA Psychosocial Rehabilitation Training Program (VA PRT) is funded by the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention at VA Central Office as part of an overall emphasis on increasing availability of evidence-based psychotherapy and other psychosocial treatments for Veterans. The program, based at the VISN 5 MIRECC of the VA Maryland Health Care System, provides training, technical support, and consultation in evidence based psychosocial interventions to VA providers and mental health program leaders working with Veterans with serious mental illness (SMI) and their families. The program trains VA staff members how to conduct Social Skills Training based on the Bellack et al. (2004) model through a combination of required readings, an interactive didactic presentation, an experiential learning session for running an SST group, and 6-months of follow-up consultation. The program also provides webinars on advanced SST topics to VA staff members trained in SST and conducts a training program to train SST Regional Master Trainers across the VA. The VA PRT program has an evaluation plan to assess outcomes of the training. Additionally, the availability of Social Skills Training is required for individuals with serious mental illness as per the Uniform Mental Health Services in VA Medical Centers and Clinics (Department of Veterans Affairs, 2008). Specifically, the handbook requires that:

  • Recovery and rehabilitation-oriented programs must be available for all SMI patients.
  • A minimum array of services available to Veterans in the program through PRRC staff needs to include Social Skills training.
  • Social skills training is an evidence-based psychosocial intervention that must be available to all Veterans with SMI who would benefit from it.
  • Social skills training must be provided at all medical centers and very large CBOCs.

 To learn more about the VA SST Training Program, see below:

VA SST Training ProgramMore Information
Components of the VA SST Training Program

The VA SST Training Program for VA providers consists of 5 components. The same state of the art training model is employed by both the SST National Trainers/Consultants and SST Regional Master Trainers:

  1. Shared Decision Making web course (required by the National Evidence-Based Psychotherapy Training Program under the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention)
  2. Required Readings/Independent Study
  3. SST Didactics web course
  4. Experiential Learning Session (Or with VA SST Training Program Manager approval, equivalent experience as a roleplay buddy in 3 SST groups led by an SST Trainer/Consultant)
  5. 6 Months of Consultation (Includes a Consultation Orientation Session)

The goal of the required readings, didactics, and Experiential Learning Session is to provide training participants with the basic skills necessary to lead a social skills group at their respective facilities. In the Experiential Learning Session, training participants have the opportunity to lead a simulated SST group with support and feedback from SST trainers. On rare occasions, and with VA SST Program Manager approval, training participants may meet their Experiential Learning Session requirement by engaging as a roleplay buddy in 3 SST groups led by an SST National Trainer/Consultant or Regional Master Trainer/Consultant. During the consultation period following completion of the Experiential Learning Session component, training participants are expected to start and run an SST group for a majority of the 6 month consultation period. During the 6-month consultation, training participants meet weekly for small group consultation with VA SST Consultants from the VA SST Training Program. These VA SST consultants have expertise in SST and provide support and feedback to training participants in learning the SST intervention model. In consultation, training participants are first oriented to the process and requirements of consultation with a structured Consultation Orientation Session which typically takes place over the first 1-3 consultation meetings. The consultation period is an essential component designed to enhance the overall training experience and help training participants refine their skills in the delivery of SST. During the consultation period, training participants obtain written consent from Veterans to digitally audio record the SST individual and group sessions. These recorded sessions are then uploaded to an online EBP portal for review by the assigned SST Consultant. The VA SST Training Program includes criterion-based performance requirements for successful completion of training, including specific requirements for training participant performance on an SST intervention fidelity measure.

VA SST Training Participant Eligibility Requirements

The eligibility requirements for training participants applying to offered SST trainings include the following:

  • Must be a permanent, licensed VA mental health provider whose formal job responsibilities include the provision of psychotherapy or psychoeducational services to Veterans on a regular basis (at least 50% of VA duties are dedicated to direct patient care). In order to meet Veterans’ needs for effective treatment, and based on local circumstances, license-eligible (but not yet licensed) applicants will be considered, along with fully licensed applicants, when doing so will help address existing gaps in Veteran access to quality, evidence-based treatments.
  • Must work in settings where SST (approximately 1-2 sessions per week) may be implemented.
  • Appropriate occupations include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, advanced practice mental health nurses, licensed professional mental health counselors, marriage and family therapy therapists, physician assistants, occupational therapists, and registered nurses. Non-license eligible occupations working in mental health such as recreational therapists, peer support specialists, addiction therapists and psychology technicians may also be eligible for this training program. Other disciplines not listed will be reviewed for eligibility on a case-by-case basis.
  • Non-license eligible VA staff members are required to conduct the SST groups during the 6-month SST training period with a co-leader who is either (1) a licensed VA staff member or (2) license-eligible indirect clinical supervision in one of the appropriate occupations listed above. This staff co-leader must have been previously trained in SST or currently participating in the SST training program.
  • It is recommended that non-license eligible VA staff members have at least 1 year of experience working as a provider in a mental health care setting at the VA or the equivalent experience outside the VA before applying for the SST training.
  • Following the 6-month SST training period, the VA Social Skills Training Program strongly recommends that all non-license eligible VA staff conduct SST groups with co-leaders who are licensed VA staff trained in SST.
  • Must have local support to implement SST and fully participate in all training and consultation activities.

 All training participants must complete an application for the offered SST trainings prior to participation. These applications are distributed at the time trainings are announced and include additional details regarding training participant expectations and include a training agreement for both training participants and their supervisors.

VA SST Training Completion

Successful completers of the VA SST Training Program (training participants who complete workshop and 6-month consultation activities, including criterion-based performance requirements for successful completion of training) will be granted a certificate of completion and will also be added to the VA's Evidence-Based Psychotherapy Staff Training Database. An overview of the training completion guidelines is provided above under Components of SST Training Program.

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How to find out about available VA SST Provider Training Opportunities

The majority of SST training is currently typically provided by SST Regional Master Trainers in each VISN. However, the VA SST Training Program also conducts a limited number of videoconference trainings every year for facilities who do not have access to training with an SST Regional Master Trainer. If you are a VA provider or mental health leader interested in learning more about training in SST in your VISN, please reach out to the SST Regional Master Trainer for your VISN. Please contact the VA SST Program Coordinator, Laché Wilkins, at lache.wilkins@va.gov to obtain the most current list of VA SST Regional Master Trainers. You can also obtain this information from reaching out to a local Evidence Based Psychotherapy Coordinator at a VA medical center. If your VISN does not currently have an SST Regional Master Trainer, please reach out to the VA SST Training Program Coordinator Laché Wilkins, B.S., lache.wilkins@va.gov regarding training requests.

For more information about the VA SST Training Program, please contact the VA SST Training Program Manager Elizabeth Gilbert, Ph.D. at elizabeth.gilbert@va.gov. or the VA SST Program Coordinator Laché Wilkins, B.S. at lache.wilkins@va.gov.

VA SST: Train-the-Trainer

The VA SST Training Program trains SST Regional Master Trainers to serve as expert trainers and consultants in SST for their particular VISN. Regional Master Trainers provide in-person experiential training and follow-up consultation to providers in their VISN. Primary candidates for the Regional Master Trainer role will be licensed VA mental health professionals who previously completed the VA SST Training Program. However, individuals with previous SST experience may also be considered without having to complete the VA SST Training Program. Above all, potential candidates should be providers who excel in SST delivery, champion SST's overall cause, and most importantly, have ample time and support to serve in this role. For more information on the Train-the-Trainer workshops, please click on the following links:

VA SST Master Trainer Program Overview and Expectations

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Social Skills Training Resources

Please note that review of SST related materials is not sufficient training or experience to be able to lead SST groups. The VA encourages potential SST providers to receive comprehensive training in the intervention through the VA SST Training Program.

SST Provider Training Materials

The social skills model used by the VA Psychosocial Rehabilitation Training Program is based on Social Skills Training for Schizophrenia: A Step-by-Step Guide (Bellack et al., 2004).

Literature
  • Bellack, A.S. (2004). Skills training for people with severe mental illness. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 27, 375-391. https://doi.org/10.2975/27.2004.375.391
  • Bellack, A. S., Mueser, K. T., Gingerich, S., & Agresta, J. (2004). Social skills training for schizophrenia: A step-by-step guide (2nd ed.). The Guilford Press.
  • Department of Veterans Affairs. (2008). Uniform mental health services in VA medical centers and clinics (VHA Handbook 1160.01). U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration. https://www.va.gov/vhapublications/ViewPublication.asp?pub_ID=1762
  • Granholm, E. & Harvey, P.D. (2018) Social Skills Training for Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 44, 472-474. https://doi.org/10.1093/schbul/sbx184
  • Kreyenbuhl, J., Buchanan, R.W., Dickerson, F.B., & Dixon, L.B. (2010). The Schizophrenia Patient Outcomes Research Team (PORT): Updated Treatment Recommendations 2009. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 36, 94 - 103. https://doi.org/10.1093/schbul/sbp130
  • Kurtz, M.M. & Mueser, K.T. (2008). Meta-analysis of controlled research on social skills training for schizophrenia. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76, 491-504. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.76.3.491
  • Tenhula, W.N. & Bellack, A.S. (2008). Social Skills Training. In K. Mueser & D. Jeste (Eds.) Clinical Handbook of Schizophrenia. Guilford Press.
  • Turner, D. T., McGlananaghy, E., Cuijpers, P., van der Gaag, M., Karyotaki, E., & MacBeth, A. (2018). A Meta-Analysis of Social Skills Training and Related Interventions for Psychosis. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 44, 475-491. https://doi.org/10.1093/schbul/sbx146

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SST Group Handouts/Resources

Please note that review of SST related materials is not sufficient training or experience to be able to lead SST groups. The VA encourages potential SST providers to receive comprehensive training in the intervention through the VA SST Training Program.

Group Recruitment Resources
  • Sample Group Information Handout to Veterans
  • Sample Recruitment Flyers for Veterans
  • Sample Treatment Team Handouts
  • Veteran-facing SST Brochure

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Group Handouts

SST Group Handouts

Click below to find Group Handouts and Outside Practice Sheets for each skill domain:

Four Basic Skills

Conversation Skills

Assertiveness Skills

Conflict Management Skills

Communal Living

Friendship and Dating Skills

Health Maintenance Skills

Vocational/Work Skills

Coping Skills for Drug and Alcohol


 

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SST Group Handouts/Resources in Spanish

Several of the forms and handouts utilized in SST have been translated for Spanish-speaking Veterans. A special thanks goes to Jose Reyes-Torres, Psy.D., who translated each of the forms listed below. Dr. Torres is a clinical psychologist with the VA Caribbean Healthcare System in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

SST Group Handouts in Spanish

Please note that review of SST related materials is not sufficient training or experience to be able to lead SST groups. The VA encourages potential SST providers to receive comprehensive training in the intervention through the VA SST Training Program.

Outside Practice Sheets in Spanish
  • Four Basic Skills - Coming soon!

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Advanced Tutorials and Resources for SST Providers

 

SST and Homelessness
SST-Telehealth (SST-T)

The VA SST Training Program has developed resources, a monthly SST-T Community of Practice meeting, and an SST-T email group to support the provision of SST via telehealth in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic by SST providers who previously successfully completed the VA SST Training Program. Please reach out to Program Coordinator Laché Wilkins, B.S. at lache.wilkins@va.gov or Program Manager Elizabeth Gilbert, Ph.D. at elizabeth.gilbert@va.gov  to learn more.

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Additional Resources

VA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention

VA Uniform Mental Health Services Handbook

Contact

For more information about the VA SST Training Program, please contact the VA SST Training Program Manager Elizabeth Gilbert, Ph.D. at elizabeth.gilbert@va.gov. or the VA SST Program Coordinator Laché Wilkins, B.S. at lache.wilkins@va.gov.

For more information about the VA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, VA employees can access this Sharepoint site: https://dvagov.sharepoint.com/sites/VACOMentalHealth/

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