1. Evidence for Program Improvement
  2. Social Skill Building

Social Skill Building


Social Competence

Intervention Family

Skill-Building Interventions

Social Skill Building

Skill-building interventions (PDF, 2 pages) are designed to equip youth with the skills needed to manage challenging social interactions in ways that reduce the potential for conflict and support positive relationships. These interventions can focus directly on interpersonal skills such as social problem-solving and conflict resolution skills. They can also focus on managing emotional or executive responses to social situations such as anger or impulsivity that may inhibit positive social interactions. Some skill-building interventions focus on both types of skills.

Skill-building interventions can be delivered by teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals, or others who work with youth to build skills, usually with a detailed curriculum or manual. Providers often model the skills for youth and then use role-playing, practice, and reinforcement to promote internalization of skills.

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Characteristics of skill-building interventions (67 studies contributed evidence):

  • Interventions lasted 16 weeks, on average.
  • Sessions typically took place at least once per week, with more than half of the interventions (55%) taking place more than once per week.
  • Interventions were delivered in classrooms (21%), in separate spaces within the school (resource room or school counselor’s office; 57%), or in community settings (22%).
  • Most interventions used a manual or dedicated lesson plans (79% of programs).
  • Almost all interventions were delivered using a group format (90% of programs).

Intervention examples

  • Middle school students were trained on specific social skills based on individual needs. Parent, teacher, and student self-assessments determined the social skills that were the focus for each participant. Sessions usually progressed through four parts: modeling, role-playing, performance feedback, and transfer training. Students participated in sessions with the researchers during the school day for 75 minutes, two to three times per week over a course of 15 weeks. Teachers of participating students also attended training once per week. Teacher trainings focused on using positive verbal reinforcement to support the skills that students were developing during their sessions.
  • Teachers nominated third, fourth, and fifth grade students to participate in training on relaxation and self-instruction. In the relaxation training, students were taught where anger originates, how to control their anger, and how to use relaxation strategies. Students then applied these skills by listing situations that elicit anger, role-playing, and completing homework assignments. In the self-instruction training, students were taught to discuss anger and use a strategy that involved self-talk, preparing for provocation, coping with arousal, and reflecting on the situation. These training sessions typically occurred over a course of ten 20-minute sessions over a three week period.
  • Ninth grade students identified as “unassertive” participated in a schoolbased assertion training group. The group training took place in a resource room during students’ study hall period over the course of two weeks. Using role-play and modeling, students were taught to respond politely to unreasonable requests, such as asking to borrow one’s lunch money. Each student was given the opportunity to be the first to respond and the group leader gave specific behavioral feedback. Then students practiced the same role-play scenario a second time. Students were given the opportunity to learn and practice assertiveness skills with five role-play scenarios across four treatment sessions.