Social Skills Development for Children with Behavioral Health Needs

What is Social Skills Development?

Social Skills Development is designed to help children and adolescents with social cognitive challenges and mental health needs build social communication. Using the Social Thinking Treatment model developed by Michelle Garcia Winner, therapists teach children and teens the nuances of social communication and provide caregivers with strategies to build upon and reinforce their children’s Social Thinking ability.

Social thinking is an intuitive process -- most people have observed social communication from birth, acquiring social information and learning how to respond to people. However, for many individuals this process isn’t natural, and treatment is needed to strengthen social interaction.

Social Thinking Treatment

How does Social Skills Development Work?

  • Builds specific thinking strategies that occur prior to interaction
  • Promotes the ability to recognize social cues
  • Teaches the individual to consciously think about the thoughts, emotions and needs of those with whom they interact, whether with friend, in an email, at the grocery store, in the classroom, etc.
  • Teaches specific social skills to use with the "social thinking" strategies

How long does treatment last?

The typical treatment time will be 3-6 hours per week for 36 weeks. However, treatment varies based on the needs of each individual child and recommendations of a licensed psychologist. 

Goals of Social Thinking Treatment

  • Regulating emotions and behaviors
  • Matching communication to setting
  • Recognizing and using body language and non-verbal communication signals
  • Forming social connections and friendships
  • Improving academic outcomes
  • Increasing confidence/self esteem
  • Transferring "social thinking" teaching techniques to families and caregivers

Who is eligible?

As a BHRS program, services must meet medical necessity criteria as established by the state of PA and be prescribed by a licensed psychologist. Services must be authorized by Medical Assistance, your county’s Managed Care Organization, or private insurance.

More Information:

ERIE and WARREN:  Paul Haupt, Clinical Services

814-878-5945 or

ALLEGHENY: Karlee Meckey, BHRS Site Manager

412-772-6960 or