In this section
- What can social skills training help with?
- What is social skills training?
- What are social skills and social communication training like?
- Why does social skills training work?
- How strong is the evidence?
- What do patients say?
- Personal Stories
- What do experts say?
- Where can I go to get this treatment?
- Practical exercises
- Where can I go to find more information?
- Research, Articles, and Books
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Please speak with a medical professional before seeking treatment.
How strong is the evidence?
Social interaction and communication is an integral part of life. Specific interventions for improving functional communication skills (specifically those targeting pragmatic communication and recognizing emotions from facial expressions) are currently the evidence-based practice standard for individuals with TBI and social skills impairments. There is also a practice option to consider the use of group based interventions for treating TBI related social communication deficits.
What do patients say?
Daniel Dovenbarger and Mark Dirlam discuss how to include someone with brain injury in conversation.
Some people, even a lot of people, will not understand your injury. All the survivors in this book have friends who still “don’t get it.” I’ve learned that in the long run it pays to be honest and open with people, despite the short-term puzzlement on their faces or my own feelings of humiliation.
— John Byler, TBI survivor
- Daniel Dovenbarger and Mark Dirlam discuss how to communicate as a couple.
- Rosemary and Hugh Rawlins discuss how relationships change after brain injury.
What do experts say?
A kid with an injury typically can't even read the social environment. ...it's not going to be normal. It's going to be compensated by other areas of the brain, compensated in social situations by assistance from teachers from adults from trusted peers.
— Miriann Young, PhD, Rainbow Rehabilitation Centers Inc.
The Importance of Focusing on a Healthy and Socially Engaged Lifestyle After TBI
Getting Active and Social After a Brain and Other Injuries Can Help Veterans
Reading Social Situations After a Brain Injury
Where can I go to get this treatment?
Your primary care provider can help you find specialists that work in social skills and social communication training. Specialists include speech-language pathologists, neuropsychologists, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists and other health care professionals. Your work will probably be most productive with a professional who has had specialized training in conducting cognitive rehabilitation and social skills training in particular, as well as experience working with people with TBI or PTSD. You can also practice the social skills and communication strategies you learn in treatment with a trusted caregiver, family member, or close friend.
Start a conversation with a trusted friend or family member. Give yourself a limit on topic or time so you do not become overwhelmed. Check in with yourself and that person to rate how well the conversation went. You might be better than you think!
Where can I go to find more information?
- Tips for Communicating with People with TBI and PTSD
- Social Communication Skills After Brain Injury — Information about changes in communication after brain injury and tips on how to help.
- Social Skills After Traumatic Brain Injury — From Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center, an overview of social skills training and treatment options.
- BrainSTARS: Social Skills — A part of the manual, Brain Injury: Strategies for Teams And Re-education for Students, which helps parents and teachers of children with brain injury.
- The Group Interactive Structured Treatment — “GIST combines a structured goal-oriented curriculum with an interactive group process.”
Research, Articles, and Books
- How I Re-Built Social Supports After My TBI
- Tackling Social Challenges for Children with TBI
- Social Communication Skills After Brain Injury
- Miscommunication in Couples After Brain Injury
- In the Classroom: Friendship and Peer Acceptance
- Making Connections after TBI: A Guide for Social Peer Mentors
- Book:I'll Carry the Fork: Recovering a Life After Brain Injury
- TBI Social Competence Workbook
From Group Interactive Structured Treatment (GIST)
Cicerone, K. D., Dahlberg, C., Kalmar, K., Langenbahn, D. M., Malec, J. F., Bergquist, T. F., Felicetti, T., Giacino, J. T., Harley, J. P., Harrington, D. E., Herzog, J., Kneipp, S., Laatsch, L., & Morse, P. A. (2000). Evidence-based cognitive rehabilitation: Recommendations for clinical practice. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 81(12), 1596–1615.
Cicerone, K. D., Dahlberg, C., Malec, J. F., Langenbahn, D. M., Felicetti, T., Kneipp, S., Ellmo, W., Kalmar, K., Giacino, J. T., Harley, J. P., Laatsch, L., Morse, P. A., & Catanese, J. (2005). Evidence-Based Cognitive Rehabilitation: Updated Review of the Literature From 1998 Through 2002. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 86(8), 1681–1692.
Cicerone, K. D., Goldin, Y., Ganci, K., Rosenbaum, A., Wethe, J. V., Langenbahn, D. M., Malec, J. F., Bergquist, T. F., Kingsley, K., Nagele, D., Trexler, L., Fraas, M., Bogdanova, Y., & Harley, J. P. (2019). Evidence-Based Cognitive Rehabilitation: Systematic Review of the Literature From 2009 Through 2014. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 100(8), 1515–1533.
Cicerone, K. D., Langenbahn, D. M., Braden, C., Malec, J. F., Kalmar, K., Fraas, M., Felicetti, T., Laatsch, L., Harley, J. P., Bergquist, T., Azulay, J., Cantor, J., & Ashman, T. (2011). Evidence-Based Cognitive Rehabilitation: Updated Review of the Literature From 2003 Through 2008. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 92(4), 519–530.
LaMotte, A. D., Taft, C. T., Weatherill, R. P., & Eckhardt, C. I. (2017). Social skills deficits as a mediator between PTSD symptoms and intimate partner aggression in returning veterans. Journal of Family Psychology, 31(1), 105–110.
Rietdijk, R., Power, E., Attard, M., Heard, R., & Togher, L. (2020). Improved Conversation Outcomes After Social Communication Skills Training for People With Traumatic Brain Injury and Their Communication Partners: A Clinical Trial Investigating In-Person and Telehealth Delivery. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 63(2), 615–632.
Togher, L., McDonald, S., Tate, R., Rietdijk, R., & Power, E. (2016). The effectiveness of social communication partner training for adults with severe chronic TBI and their families using a measure of perceived communication ability. NeuroRehabilitation, 38(3), 243–255.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Speak with a medical professional before seeking treatment.
Reviewed by Amy Shapiro-Rosenbaum, PhD, Lyndsay Tkach, MA, CBIS, and Michelle Neary, March 2021.
The BrainLine Treatment Hub was created in consultation with TBI and PTSD experts.