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A comparative outcome study for the treatment of social avoidance : does training in helping skills add to a behavioural strategy? Cappe, Robin Elyse


Traditionally, research regarding social skills training has emphasized deficits in specific skill components, rather than process skills, such as being sensitive to another's behaviour. In the present study, Human Relations Training (HRT) was adapted to the treatment of socially avoidant members of the community. Training in HRT consisted of defining, modeling and practising skills of attending, empathy, self-disclosure and respect. It was expected that training in these process-like skills would encourage a focus of attention away from the self and towards the other, which in turn, may abate anxiety and foster social effectiveness. Following a stringent screening process, 52 persons (26 male, 26 female) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: Graduated exposure plus progressive relaxation (Condition I); Graduated exposure plus progressive relaxation plus HRT (Condition II); or a Waiting list condition. Subjects in the two treatment conditions received eight weekly, two-hour training sessions in groups. The results indicated that subjects in both treatment conditions improved in the predicted direction more than those in the waiting list condition, as assessed by twenty of twenty-one dependent measures. Subjects in both treatment conditions improved significantly more than those in the waiting list condition on self-reported well-being, global skill and comfort, and functional impairment. This difference was not corroborated by objective raters. Those in the HRT condition improved significantly more than those in Condition I on several self-report measures. This improvement of HRT subjects could not be clearly attributed to an other-directed focus of attention. There was no evidence of gender differences. After three months, participants had maintained positive changes made at post assessment, but had not improved significantly since then. However, those in the HRT condition reported that they were engaging in a broader range of social activities and with greater frequency than those in Condition I. It was concluded that both treatment conditions evidenced greater improvement than those who received no treatment, as assessed by self-report measures. Further, the addition of an HRT component to a behavioural strategy proved somewhat beneficial to the well- being and social effectiveness of subjects.

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