Communication skills training generally includes a strong focus on the skill of actually formulating and  delivering particular types of intentional statements such as requests, assertive refusal, acceptance, or empathy.

Communication skills taught within the framework of the Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach (ACRA) focus on the content of conflict resolution. Godley et al (2001) suggest three types of statements:

  1. ‘An understanding statement’ – in which the speaker demonstrates that they understand the needs  and wants of the other person, and express empathy with the feelings that person may have.
  2. ‘A partial responsibility statement’ – which indicates that the speaker is willing to accept at least  part of the responsibility for creating and / or solving the problem.
  3. ‘An offer of help’ – which is a direct offer of something that the speaker can do to help solve the problem.

The four generic technique elements of Instruction, Supervised Practice, Feedback and Independent Practice are then applied to this content (see Godley et al, 2001; p110-122).

Instruction and guided practice are best provided by exploring real life examples provided by the adolescent (Godley, Meyers, et al., 2001).

Work through the conflict situation and help the young person to articulate what the perspective, needs, wants and feelings of the other person may be. Incorporating the content of descriptive words used by the adolescent, demonstrate what the structure of an understanding statement might sound like e.g. ‘I understand that you are tired and want to stay at home tonight’. Then help them to explore how they might have contributed to the situation and formulate a sentence that concisely states this e.g. ‘I forgot to organise a lift with my friend and I can’t get home on my own’. Then find something they can offer to do to help or minimise the inconvenience for the other person e.g. ‘I promise I won’t be late’.

For further guided practice and feedback try doing a role play and provide different types of realistic response or feedback from the other person so the young person can practice these statements until the words and tone of the delivery feel right before trying it out in real life practice.

These notes are drawn primarily from Godley, Meyers, et al., 2001; p110-122. 

Social anxiety

  • A final process heavily implicated in social anxiety is engagement in  negatively biased pre- and post-event processing (Hodson, et al., 2008).
  • Socially  anxious individuals tend  to allocate  a lot of time to worrying about catastrophic consequences that could  result from  their failure  to perform well in social situations, or from  expressing themselves assertively. This type of thinking often  involves  what  is called  a ‘cost-likelihood evaluation bias’. Socially  anxious individuals tend  to view the feared event  as more  likely, and the consequences as more  costly,  than non-socially anxious persons.
  • Following an event  these  individuals tend  to spend more  time than  others going  over an event  in their mind  and ruminating on real and imagined failings  in their handling of a situation, and real and imagined consequences that may flow  from  this.
  • Supervised rehearsal and real-life practice of assertive expressions is an excellent opportunity to explore and challenge these  negative biases.
  • A commonly used  technique in supervised practice is to role play three scenarios: the best case, the worst  case, and the most  likely case. This technique directly  challenges the assumption that the feared event  is highly likely and that the consequences will be catastrophic.
  • Direct  observation or discussion of performance in real-life practice enables provision of timely  external feedback that can correct negative perceptions of performance, and objective assessment of consequences.