Today more than ever, young people need critical social skills to effectively navigate through interpersonal exchanges in order to successfully relate to peers and adults as well. Be it in the classroom, on the playground, when applying to college or jobs, and even when dating, young people need competent social skills to compete in a new global world. Kids who lack social skills are at a distinct disadvantage that may not be balanced by intelligence, wealth or good looks.
Social skills include a set of behaviors, postures, vocal styles and personal qualities that promote successful interactions with others. While some children seem to have natural ability to interact well and build friendship, others have more difficulty with such tasks. These children might feel shy, awkward or unsure around their peers. Sometimes children are simply unaware of how to conduct themselves properly, or they may lack the self control to effectively execute pro-social behaviors. Shyness or anxiety might hinder socialization for others. Regardless of the cause, many children experience difficulty making and keeping friends.
By grouping children according to age and ability to gel with one another, the goal of my Friendship Therapy Groups is to heighten each child’s self-awareness and to foster development of adaptive skills that ultimately promote effective communicating and relating with others. These groups create the opportunity for children and teens to develop the social skills and adaptive behaviors that promote harmonious, more satisfying relationships with peers, siblings and adults. Friendship Group Therapy is available to children ranging in age from 8 through 18. When I formulate each group, I personally select no more than 6 children who are close in age (there are typically 18 months or less between the oldest and youngest group members). Children in any single group will always come from different communities, ensuring each participant has a fresh start with the other children in my group. All group participants have individual strengths and challenges so that they will have the opportunity to demonstrate their skills while observing others demonstrate their own skills. My experience shows that not only do children benefit by learning from each other, they truly enjoy each other’s presence, and feel more comfortable sharing insights and experiences; consequently, they build stronger relationships within the group. The group experience offers children the chance to share feelings and ideas in a safe and comfortable environment. In a group format children are eager to hear each other’s opinions and tend to respect their peers’ feedback far more than the feedback offered by parents or teachers.
Typically, all youth groups, regardless of the age of the participants, are structured in weekly hour long sessions. First children begin the session with a warm-up activity, geared to drawing children toward sharing and exploring themselves and each other. Next there will be an activity geared toward a particular theme. Activities may include role playing, guided communicating, game playing, behavioral rehearsal, and open sharing. Opportunities exist for participants to discuss relevant issues and concerns of their own. Finally, group members process the group session aloud and then offer feedback regarding themselves other children in the group.
Personalized parent feedback sessions occur approximately every 6 to 8 weeks, or upon parental request. This affords the opportunity for parents to provide feedback regarding their children’s progress, and for the psychologist to offer insights and feedback based on in-session behavior and overall performance. Individual and/or family therapy is also available when such needs arise. For children who participate in outside psychotherapy with another psychologist, consultation is available to effectively coordinate the therapies.
Friendship Therapy Groups meet on a weekly basis, occurring at the same time for an hour each week. Groups will most likely take place somewhere between the hours of 4:00 to 8:00, Monday through Thursday. The success of the group, and the success for each and every participant, is highly contingent upon your child’s regular attendance. Each child plays an integral role in the group’s dynamics as well as the maintenance of continuity for the whole group experience. For these reasons, attendance is mandatory.
To explore the social skills group therapy experience further, to discuss your child or to schedule an appointment, please contact me at 908-222-1099.