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VISN 5 MIRECC - VA Social Skills Training Program


About Us • Clinical • Education • Research


What is Social Skills Training?

Social Skills Training (SST) is a treatment procedure that has been developed to directly address social problem-solving skills deficits with the goal of enhancing social functioning. 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. In general, SST is a highly structured educational procedure that employs didactic instruction, breaking skills down into discrete steps, modeling, behavioral rehearsal (role-playing), and social reinforcement.

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


VA Social Skills Training for Serious Mental Illness

The VA Social Skills Training (VA-SST) program, based at the VA Maryland Health Care System, provides training, technical support and consultation in evidence-based psychosocial interventions to VA practitioners and mental health program leaders working with seriously mentally ill Veterans and their families. The VA-SST program is funded by the Office of Mental Health Services at VA Central Office as part of an overall emphasis on increasing availability of evidence-based psychotherapy and other psychosocial treatment to Veterans. The VA-SST program is being directed by the VISN 5 MIRECC in Baltimore, Maryland, and co-facilitated by the VISN 22 MIRECC in Los Angeles, California.

Specifically, the VA-SST program provides training on Social Skills Training for Serious Mental Illness through a combination of 2-day, face-to-face workshops and 6-months of follow-up clinical consultation. The goal of the 2-day workshops is to provide trainees with the basic skills necessary to lead a social skills group at their respective facilities. During the 6-month consultation period, trainees will receive ongoing consultation and feedback from experienced SST "consultants" (VA clinicians working with this program). The consultation period is an essential component designed to enhance the overall training experience and help trainees refine their skills in the delivery of SST. The social skills model used is based on Social Skills Training for Schizophrenia: A Step-by-Step Guide (Bellack, Mueser, Gingerich, & Agresta, 2004).

For more information on the VA-SST workshops and how to apply, please click on the following links:


VA-SST: Train-the-Trainer

In addition to the aforementioned Social Skills Training workshops, the VA-SST training program will train at least 21 Master Trainers (minimum of one per VISN) to serve as expert trainers and consultants in SST for their particular VISN. Master Trainers will be expected to provide hands-on training and follow-up consultation to clinicians from their particular VISN. Multiple training opportunities for Master Trainers are planned to take place in the future.

Primary candidates for the Master Trainer role will be individuals who previously completed the VA-SST program. However, individuals with previous SST experience may also be considered without having to complete the VA-SST program. Above all, potential candidates should be clinicians 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:


Social Skills Training Resources

Therapy Manual

The social skills model used is based on Social Skills Training for Schizophrenia: A Step-by-Step Guide (Bellack, Mueser, Gingerich, & Agresta, 2004).


SST Handbooks



  • Bellack, A.S. (2004). Skills training for people with severe mental illness. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 27, 375-391.
  • Bellack, A. S., Mueser, K. T., Gingerich, S., & Agresta, J. (2004). Social skills training for schizophrenia: A step-by-step guide. 2nd Edition. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Tenhula, W.N. & Bellack, A.S. (2008) Social Skills Training. In K. Mueser & D. Jeste (Eds.) Clinical Handbook of Schizophrenia. Guilford Press, New York.


Advanced Tutorials


SST Group Handouts/Resources


Forms & Handouts in Spanish

Several of the forms and handouts utilized in SST have been translated for the Spanish-speaking Veteran. 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 Consultation Resources

As part of the VA-SST program, trainees will be asked to actively participate in a 6-month consultation period after completing the initial 2-day workshop. During the 6-month consultation period, trainees will be asked to audio tape SST sessions (including obtaining proper approvals and Veteran consents), send the tapes to a designated VA-SST consultant, and participate in weekly group consultation calls. The purpose of the consultation period is to enhance the training experience by providing trainees with ongoing support from an experienced VA-SST consultant. The VA-SST consultant will provide feedback to help trainees refine their delivery of SST as well as offer support as they implement SST at their respective sites. The first months of the consultation period are absolutely critical in establishing SST. Therefore, if potential trainees foresee any circumstances during the months surrounding the workshop dates that may significantly interfere with participation, we recommend that you apply to a later workshop. For more information on the audio taping procedures, please click on the following links:


SST Training Completion

Successful completers of the VA-SST program (trainees who complete workshop and 6-month consultation activities) will be granted a certificate of completion and will also be added to the VA's Evidence-Based Practice Provider Roster. An overview of the training completion guidelines is provided below.


Additional Resources



For more information about the VA Social Skills Training program, please contact Elizabeth Gilbert, PhD, VA-SST Program Manager at


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