Skillstreaming the
By Arnold Goldstein and Ellen McGinnis
Materials Needed
Program Forms (Manual that can be photocopied)
Student Manual (ideally, for each student in group)
Skill Cards (one box)
Easel or Whiteboard
History and Development of
• During the 1970’s psychological skills training
• Individual was seen in more educational and
academic terms rather than as a client in need of
• The roots of this approach was in education and
psychology, and the most direct contribution from
psychology was social learning theory.
• Skills Trainer:
– Viewed individual as deficient in the skills
necessary for effective daily living
– Was more active and engaged in deliberate
teaching of desirable behaviors (rather than
using interpretation, reflection, or reinforcement)
Psychological Skills Training Movement
• Initial trainees were low-income families who were underserved
in terms of mental health and psychological needs
• The work identified differences in child rearing among economic
– Low-income families: focus on the outcome or results of
enacted behavior (consequences); a direct, concrete,
behavioral response to such perceived consequences
(action); heavy reliance on the urgings, directives, or
commands of others rather than on self-control (external
Psychological Skills Training Movement
• Middle class families: more likely to be asked what
motivated their behavior; empathy was also
encouraged; and the children were reminded that
they should be able to use self-control and control
the urge to engage in such behavior
Psychological Skills Training Movement
• The contrasting child-rearing experiences became
relevant to the use of interventions in that learning
styles of the children were different
• Statistics indicate that two-thirds of middle class
clients consistently participating in verbal, insightoriented psychotherapy improve.
Psychological Skills Training Movement
• However, low income clients with a contrasting
learning styles do much less in response to such an
• An intervention tailored to the learning styles of the
low-income families were expected to show greater
• The initial development of Skillstreaming sought to
accomplish this through role-playing, performance
feedback, and generalization.
Introducing Skillstreaming
• Emphasize:
– Skillstreaming will help you to deal with “people
problems” in ways that work for the adults and
peers in a student’s life
– The goal of Skillstreaming is to increase the
choices you have, not to force you to act in any
particular way
Examples of “People Problems”
• Have you ever experienced any of the following:
– Times when you feel angry but don’t know quite what to do about
– Times when you want to express positive feelings toward another
person but can’t figure out the best way?
– Times when you think you need help from someone else but
aren’t sure how or when to ask?
– Times when you have been left out of something and don’t know
what to do?
– Times when you need to make or answer a complaint, respond to
an accusation, or deal with failure?
Skillstreaming Checklists
• There are three ways to measure initial use of skills and progress on
skill use:
– Teacher/Staff checklist
– Parent checklist
– Student checklist
• Decide which checklist(s) you will use, and decide when you will use
the checklist(s).
• Review of checklists
• For students, emphasize:
– No right or wrong answers, only “you” can decide on competence
in each skills, importance of answering the way “you” really feel
Skillstreaming Methods
(1) Modeling
(2) Role-playing
(3) Feedback
(4) Transfer
Emphasize to students: These methods are the same
ones they have used to learn many of the things they
already know. Take away the mystery.
Example - Basketball
• Someone good probably showed you how to shoot
baskets (Modeling)
• You then tried it yourself (Role-playing)
• The “coach” gave you things you were doing right
and the things you needed to change to become a
better player (Feedback)
• You practiced on your own and maybe shot some
baskets with friends (Transfer)
• Having someone show you the skill
• A powerful way to learn!
• There are lots of examples of learning by modeling
in our society:
– Dressing, dancing, problem solving, etc
– We do not imitate all of the behaviors that we see
• Group leaders begin each Skillstreaming meeting
by modeling one of the skills chosen for learning
• Trying out the skill yourself
• Students are asked to think of situations where they
could use the skill demonstrated in MODELING,
and then the group leader helps to pick one to roleplay
• Three roles:
– main actor, co-actor, observer
Role Playing – Main Actor
• The main actor acts out the steps of the skill being
• The main actor will…
– think of a situation
– choose a co-actor
– give the co-actor needed information
– act out the skill steps
– think thoughts aloud
Role-Playing – Co-Actor
• The co-actor helps the main actor practice by
reacting in a realistic way to what the main actor
says and does
• The co-actor will…
– help the main actor
– receive help from the group leaders
Role-Playing - Observer
• The observer will pay close attention to what the main actor
and co-actor are doing and saying during the role-play, and
comment on what the main actor does well and give
suggestions about how he or she could improve
• The observer will…
– listen
– watch
– think of things done well
– think of suggestions for improvement
Why is Role-Playing Important?
• Role-playing increases the chances that students
will learn the skill better and remember it longer
• “Practice makes perfect” – with people skills, roleplaying is the opportunity to practice
• Giving information on well a person has done during the role-play
• The only way the main actor will know how he or she has done –
what went well and what needs improvement
• Each group member will be assigned a skill step to watch for during
the role-play
• Following the role-play, group leaders ask each member:
– whether the main actor followed the step
– what the main actor did to follow the step
– what was done well
– what could have been improved
Feedback (cont)
• Feedback can also include suggestions:
– Other things the main actor might say
– Comments about the main actor’s nonverbal
actions – e.g., tone of voice, gestures, posture,
• Transfer involves trying the skill outside of the
group, in real life
• Transfer = “homework assignment”
• Students:
– write out their plan on a Homework Report
– follow through with plan
– briefly write how well plan worked
– talk with group about what happened when skill was tried in
real life

Skillstreaming the Child Adolescent a Group and Individualized