Frequently Asked Questions
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
FOR OUR ONLINE SOCIAL SKILLS PROGRAMS
I have always been a firm believer that social skills are the most important skills in life. In fact, I have often stated that the greatest predictor of “success” in life is the strength of an individual’s social skills. I understand that “success” can be defined in a multitude of ways, including:
- being happy and healthy
- being the best parent you can be
- being a loving, supportive spouse
- being independent, responsible, and capable of meeting one’s own needs in life
- being financially successful
- having power, control, or influence over self and others
If you thoroughly examine the various ways people view success, you will discover that strong social skills are really the foundation for each of these areas. For example, being an exceptional parent requires excellent communication and listening skills, maintaining appropriate boundaries, developing proper conflict resolutions skills, and having leadership/positive role-model qualities. Also, being financially well-off often requires having excellent interpersonal skills in leadership, networking, and developing and maintaining relationships. So, without a doubt, social skills can be deemed essential life skills.
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons most parents equate the future successes of their children directly with academic performance. However, I have yet to locate an empirically-validated study that links straight A’s with overall happiness and health in life. We all know people in our own lives that are extremely “book smart,” but are totally lacking in social graces. We also know people in our lives that did not excel in school or graduate from the most prestigious universities, yet are socially very skilled. I would bet these individuals more closely fit the definitions of “success” from above.
The Social Skills Center was established to teach these essential life skills through behavior therapy and social interaction in a safe environment. For over 20 years we have taught these skills face-to-face, in one of our 3 office locations, using both individual and group formats. We now have expanded our program to online services in order to assist children, adolescents, and adults outside the Northern Virginia and Washington, DC areas.
Absolutely. There are two primary factors that impair social functioning: skill deficit and chronic avoidance. The virtual social skills group is a safe space to facilitate social exposure with peers and receive tailored in the moment social skill instruction, support and encouragement.
We currently facilitate social skills sessions online via a HIPAA-compliant platform called Zoom – so you or your child can participate from the comfort and security of your home or office.
The online sessions teach participants how to connect and make friends with peers, communicate effectively, actively listen, empathize with others, be assertive, and many other skills.
After two decades of facilitating our social skills sessions, we have learned that it’s CONNECTING WITH OTHERS that is most valuable to our participants. In fact, our previous members have reported that “feeling like you’re part of something” and “getting unconditional acceptance from my peers” are what helped the most.
There are literally hundreds of skills and sub-skills that are needed to have excellent social skills. The following is a list of the “basic” skills that are taught and reinforced through our behavior therapy classes and social/friendship groups.
- eye contact
- voice tone and volume
- non-verbal facial cues
- body language
- personal space
- listening skills
- initiating conversations
- problem solving/generating alternatives and solutions
- telephone/text/social media skills
- leadership techniques
- conflict resolution
All of our highly-trained clinicians implement solution-focused, skill-building strategies to teach these essential life skills. Our coaches have a master’s degree in psychology or a closely related field. Our psychologists have a doctoral degree in clinical or counseling psychology and are licensed to practice psychotherapy.
Current laws permit our coaches to see clients in all 50 states and Canada. However, health insurance will not reimburse for coaching services at this time.
Previously, our psychologists were only permitted to treat clients in the state that they were licensed in. However, recent legislation called PSYPACT now allows licensed psychologists to treat clients in a multitude of states. These states currently include AL, AR, AZ, CO, CT, DE, DC, GA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MD, ME, MN, MO, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NC, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WV, and WI.
NY, MA, MI, and RI have PSYPACT legislation introduced and will hopefully be PSYPACT participating states in the near future. Please Google “PSYPACT” to keep abreast of when your state may be added to the above list.
You may be able to use your health insurance benefits with our licensed psychologists. All of our psychologists are out-of-network providers for many health insurance carriers. Please contact your health insurance company to determine your current benefits.
The answer to this is both “yes” and “no.” Our master’s level clinicians all follow a coaching model. At this time, health insurance companies do not reimburse for coaching. However, our doctoral-level psychologists all follow a psychotherapy model and are considered out-of-network providers for many insurances.
If you are seen by one of our psychologists, the social skills services may be eligible for reimbursement through your insurance plan’s out-of-network mental health benefits, medical spending, or health care savings accounts.
Because health insurance plans and benefits vary, we recommend you give your health insurance customer service number a call and inquire about your out-of-network mental health benefits to understand what percentage you may be reimbursed if you work with us.
The Social Skills Center will then provide you with a superbill (an itemized medical receipt) each month which you can submit to your insurance company for out-of-network coverage/reimbursement directly back to you. However, please note that you will be responsible for payment at the time of service.
The Social Skills center accepts credit cards, debit cards, and HSA cards. We do not accept checks or cash.
The average time spent in social skills sessions varies, because clients enter with different skill sets. However, some clients have shown dramatic improvement in just 5 or 6 group sessions. Others, though, need a considerably longer period of time to learn all the social skills taught. Feel free to pose this question to your online clinician for a more accurate estimate.
Group sessions are often considered to be the most effective way to teach social skills. In our group program, you or your child will be matched with clients of a similar age, as well as a similar level of functioning. It is essential that you are matched by both criteria – age and level of functioning – in order to ensure a positive experience for all those involved.
Here are the benefits of our groups:
- Peer feedback is typically more powerful than feedback from a parent or clinician. In the group, feedback is offered from a variety of role models. This allows for more ideas and in turn leads to greater problem-solving skills.
- In our groups, clients have the ability to role-play with real-life peers.
- We often view the group as a “microcosm” for real-world experiences. That is, any skill learned in a group session is expected to be transferred to real-life, real-world experiences.
- When teaching social skills individually, the clinician must solely rely on the information shared by the client (and for children, the observations of parents and teachers). In group sessions, the clinician not only has that valuable information, but is able to witness the client first-hand with peer interactions. This gives the clinician a significant advantage in the assessment and teaching process.
- Group sessions allow for immediate interventions in a social situation. In individual sessions, the clinician teaches the skill or skills, the client goes out and attempts to implement the skill(s), and then the client comes back to report how they did. In the group modality, the clinician makes recommendations in-the-moment and can assess with their own eyes how the client responds. Additional feedback and skill building can then be done – again, in the moment.
- Our most basic goal for any group member is that group is a safe place to come and interact with peers. Unfortunately, at home, school, work, and/or in the community many clients do not feel safe and secure around their peers/colleagues. At the very least, group can be a safe haven to develop new, positive peer relationships.
- One of the most important aspects in life for clients of all ages is acceptance. Group is a wonderful opportunity to gain acceptance from peers.
After completing the initial intake appointment, incoming group members may first participate in one or more individual sessions with the clinician facilitating the group. This is done for several reasons. First, it is essential for the clinician and group member to have a positive relationship. It is extremely difficult to develop this in a group format and is much better handled in one or more individual sessions.
Second, individual sessions can minimize pre-group “jitters.” All groups are “open and ongoing,” meaning that when one client gains the skills they need and then terminates from the group, another client is welcomed into the open spot of the ongoing group. When the new participant joins, however, all the other clients already know each other. Because the new member has participated in individual session(s) with the clinician and a positive relationship has established, any anticipatory anxiety will likely be reduced.
Third, individual sessions are used to assess the potential member’s ability to listen and settle (this is obviously only an issue with our younger clients). Clients who have difficulty with listening and settling may need additional individual sessions to improve these skills. Without learning these two skills, new participants will likely distract fellow members and take away from the entire group peer process interactions.
When a new member attends a group for the first time, the only expectation placed on him/her is to listen and observe the group process. All other members will introduce themselves by sharing their name and then saying something about themselves – usually what they do for fun. Most often, the new participant will be able to introduce him/herself as well, but this is not necessary the first session. Usually, because introductions include sharing what the members do for fun, the new participant is able to bond with other members who share common interests right from the start.
The ideal size for an online social skills group is 6 to 8 members. This number allows for a variety of personalities, each possessing their own unique strengths and weaknesses. There will never be more than 10 in a group, as too many members dilutes the group interaction process. Because the groups are “ongoing,” they are held year-round, including summer-time. With many families taking well needed and deserved vacations during the summer, average group size during June, July, and August tends to be smaller.
“Parent Meetings” are meetings solely between parent(s) and the clinician, without the child/adolescent present. These meetings are an integral part of the process of teaching social skills to children and adolescents. From a parenting standpoint, it is essential to know and understand your child, including their social strengths and weaknesses. Although the group alone can be a great benefit to participants, it is even more beneficial to have parents involved in the social enhancement process. In addition, with the help of the clinician, parents can then share with teachers and other family members how to best help the child grow.
Parent meetings are an opportunity for the clinician to talk about the child’s strengths and weaknesses, offer advice and support to parents, and answer questions they may have. I recommend that parent meetings are scheduled every four weeks, especially during the early stages of the group. After that, they should be scheduled on an “as needed” basis.
If there is ever an immediate need for a parent meeting, please let your clinician know.
There are many ways to assess the progress of online group clients. For our adult clients, this simply means asking them how they feel they’re doing, and if they feel they are meeting the established goals.
For our child and adolescent clients, feedback from parents and teachers is extremely helpful as well. Of particular importance is how the child is responding to others at recess, in lunch, and in the neighborhood after school.
However, the best way of assessing progress for our child clients is a simple question to parents. “Since starting the online program, has your child made and kept a friend?” The ability to make a friend and keep that friend over time is a good indicator that many of the skills taught in group sessions have generalized to real-world experiences.
In order to get started, first visit the Get Signed Up tab. We want to make sure you are a good match for our program.
We will then set up a time for an initial 30-minute intake appointment with the clinician who is facilitating your or your child’s group. In this Zoom meeting, the clinician will be asking several questions to learn more about the incoming group member’s strengths and areas of needed social growth. If the incoming member is a minor it is best to have them and at least one parent/guardian present for this meeting.
It’s time to start the group!
If the group member is a minor, we will also schedule regular “parent meetings” with his or her parent(s). The purpose of a parent meeting is to get updates on how the child is functioning in the “real world,” discuss how the child is doing in group, share parenting techniques to help reinforce skills taught in the group, and plan goals for future groups.