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MIRECC Matters - Spring 2022 | Volume 23, Issue 1

A publication of the VISN 5 MIRECC - MIRECC Matters - Putting Recovery into Practice

New IDEAA Social Skills Curriculum in Development

The VA Psychosocial Rehabilitation Training Program (PRT)’s main current focus is training VA providers in the evidence-based intervention Social Skills Training (SST; Bellack et al., 2004). SST is a group intervention for teaching interpersonal skills that incorporates modeling, role plays, and other behavioral learning activities. The VA PRT is also focused on developing a new social skills curriculum for Veterans with serious mental illness that addresses inclusion, diversity, equity, access, and accountability (IDEAA). This new skills curriculum is important for recovery because it supports Veterans’ ability to advocate for themselves and their dignity as individuals, live lives that are in keeping with their personal values, and to create safer social networks and communities for themselves.

This project employs the systematic social skills curriculum development approach described by  Bellack and colleagues (pages 97-98; 2004). An interview guide was created to collect feedback from various stakeholders about Veterans’ social justice goals and skills which can support those recovery goals. Feedback was collected from Veterans participating in an SST-Telehealth group, members of the VISN 5 MIRECC Veteran Stakeholder Forum, and VA staff in their role as SST Regional Master Trainers.

Based on their feedback, IDEAA goals were added to the list of example SST goals in the Initial Individual Goal Setting Session Manual. Existing social skills from Bellack et al (2004) that could be included in this new curriculum were also identified based on stakeholder feedback. To tailor the existing skills for use in the new curriculum, new role play scenarios and examples related to inclusion, diversity, equity, access, and accountability were created. Additionally, new skills tailored to support social justice recovery goals and address commonly reported barriers are being developed. These include skills such as Responding to Discriminatory Comments and Disclosing a Mental Health Diagnosis. These new skills are informed by existing social justice communication resources such as Sue, Alsaidi, Awad, Glaeser, Calle, and Mendez’s seminal work on disarming racial microaggressions (2019) and Andra, Lucksted, Corrigan, and Larson’s Honest Open Proud intervention to address mental health stigma.

Once the initial curriculum draft has been completed, the VA PRT will again seek stakeholder input and feedback before creating a facilitator manual. The IDEAA curriculum will then be implemented and evaluated in an SST group and perhaps then even further fine-tuned based on these results. The VA PRT is proud to continue to work to meet the emerging social skills needs of Veterans to fully support their recovery and functioning in the community. More information about the VA SST Training Program is available at the SST website:


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.

Sue, D. W., Alsaidi, S., Awad, M. N., Glaeser, E., Calle, C. Z., & Mendez, N. (2019). Racial microagressions: Microintervention strategies for targes, white allies, and bystanders. American Psychologist, 74(1), 128-142.


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