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Frequently Asked Questions

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
FOR OUR ONLINE BEHAVIOR THERAPY AND SOCIAL INTERACTION CLASSES

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 individual and group coaching services in order to assist children, adolescents, and adults outside the Northern Virginia and Washington, DC areas.  

We currently facilitate both individual and group 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, anywhere in the world.

The online coaching 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 group social interaction.

  • eye contact
  • voice tone and volume
  • non-verbal facial cues
  • body language
  • personal space
  • listening skills
  • initiating conversations
  • assertiveness
  • problem solving/generating alternatives and solutions
  • telephone/text/social media skills
    manners
  • leadership
  • conflict resolution

The average time spent in social skills coaching varies, because clients enter with different skill sets. However, some clients have shown dramatic improvement in just 5 or 6 individual or group coaching 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 coach for a more accurate estimate.

We are proud to offer both individual and group coaching modalities to teach these essential life skills. There are specific benefits to each approach.

Individual coaching is exactly like it sounds – you or your child will work directly and privately with a member of our coaching team. Individual coaching is best for those who might not feel comfortable in a group setting or those who would prefer to start with individual coaching for a period of time before entering a group. Goals for the individual coaching sessions are established and solution-focused strategies are developed to help you reach those goals.

Group coaching sessions are often considered to be the most effective way to teach social skills. In our group coaching 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 group coaching:

  1. Peer feedback is typically more powerful than feedback from a parent or coach. 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.
  2. In group coaching, clients have the ability to role-play with real-life peers.
  3. We often view the group as a “microcosm” for real-world experiences. That is, any skill learned in a group coaching session is expected to be transferred to real-life, real-world experiences.
  4. When teaching social skills individually, the coach must solely rely on the information shared by the client (and for children the observations of parents and teachers). In group coaching, the coach not only has that valuable information, but is able to witness the client first-hand with peer interactions. This gives the coach a significant advantage in the assessment and teaching process.
  5. Group coaching allows for immediate interventions in a social situation. In individual coaching sessions, the coach 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 he/she did. In the group modality, the coach makes recommendations in-the-moment and can assess with his/her own eyes how the client responds. Additional feedback and skill building can then be done – again, in the moment.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 all potential members must first participate in one or more individual sessions with the coach facilitating the group. This is done for several reasons. First, it is essential for the coach and group member to have a positive coaching relationship. It is extremely difficult to develop this in a group format and is much better handled in individual coaching sessions.

Second, individual sessions can minimize pre-group “jitters.” All coaching groups are “open and ongoing,” meaning that when one client gains the skills he/she needs 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 coach and a positive coaching relationship has established, any anticipatory anxiety will likely be reduced.

Third, individual coaching 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 coach, 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 his/her 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 coach, parents can then share with teachers and other family members how to best help the child grow.

Parent meetings are an opportunity for the coach 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 the coach 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 coaching have generalized to real-world experiences.

The initial 15-minute phone consultation with Dr. Haley is free. All intakes are $100. The 1-2 individual sessions and parent meetings are also $100. The cost for each group is $30. All sessions are approximately 50 minutes in length.

You are required to put your credit card on file with us. Your card will be charged after completion of each session.

Unfortunately, health insurance companies do not reimburse for coaching services.

For our individual online program, please contact Dr. Haley at 571-285-1403 Ext.1 or DrHaley@SocialSkillsCenter.com. Dr. Haley will schedule time for a FREE 15-minute telephone consultation to learn about your or your child’s current situation and needs. Options will be discussed and a plan will then be developed for future online appointments.

For our group online program, also contact Dr. Haley using one of the above ways. Dr. Haley will schedule time for a FREE 15-minute telephone consultation to learn about the potential group member’s specific situation and answer any questions that you may have. It is important to know that we always match group members both by age AND level of functioning. This is necessary in order to have a positive group experience for all those involved.

We will then set up a time for an initial 50-minute intake appointment with the coach who is facilitating your or your child’s group. In this Zoom meeting, the coach 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 him/her and at least one parent/guardian present for this meeting.

Your coach will then schedule 1 or 2 individual Zoom sessions with the incoming group member to develop rapport with the individual and ask additional questions to determine which group will be the best match. The coach will review expectations and clarify goals, answer questions, and share the day and time of the group that is the best match.

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.

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