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Social Skills and Beyond

The SSLD Practitioner Training Certificate Program
Social Skills and Beyond:  Improving Client Interpersonal and Social Functioning – The SSLD Model

Strategies and Skills Learning and Development (SSLD) is built upon earlier works in social skills training, but it goes beyond most general models. Social skills training, in general, is a form of behavior therapy targeting specific interpersonal behaviours to help persons who have difficulties in relating to other people in a wide variety of situations. SSLD targets actions taken by clients. However, it also aims to help clients realize the connection between their behaviours and their unmet needs as a strategy to change clients’ behaviours.  Client actions, including those generally regarded as pathological or problematic (e.g., addiction, reporting delusional thoughts, aggression, etc.), are understood in terms of their functions (what they are dong for the client), and not just their negative implications (what they are doing to the client). This understanding helps the clinician to access the unmet needs in the client’s life (e.g., to ease emotional pain, to make sense of overwhelming life circumstances, to secure intimacy), and allows the therapist to collaborate with the client to design new strategies for meeting their unmet needs and realizing life goals.

Course Description:

In the SSLD training program, participants will learn how to assist their clients using systematic intervention strategies and skills. The SSLD intervention typically starts with a Problem Translation Process. Participants will learn how to assist their clients to translate their problematic social behaviours into unmet personal needs, and then into specific life goals. In the Strategy and Skills Development Phase, participants will learn how to assist their clients to develop more effective ways to fulfill their unmet needs. SSLD is an action-oriented and client-centered procedure, emphasizing client learning instead of training by the practitioner. The clinician plays the role of a consultant, resource person, and coach.  Participants will learn how to establish a good therapeutic alliance with the client, and strategies to facilitate their clients’ self-understanding and self-directed learning.  The actual clinical process in working with clients involves extensive use of experiential learning procedures, take-home assignments, and personalized projects.

Dr. Tsang’s new book Learning to Change Lives: The SSLD Approach will be available in early 2010. More information on the SSLD system is available from the website:

The SSLD Practitioner Training Certificate Program consists of the successful completion of three of the four courses listed below for a total of 39 hours of instruction.  Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 or Part 1, Part 2 and Part 4 will qualify for the Certificate Program.  All courses are designed as individual workshops or as a certificate program.

Part 1:
SSLD Training:  Overview of Basic Concepts and Clinical Applications

This 2-day course will provide an overview of the SSDL model and its clinical applications.  Participants will learn the core component of the SSLD intervention system.  SSLD understands the problems presented by our clients in terms of skills deficiency and learning needs.  SSDL is a system of procedures that is explicitly directive with the intention of expanding the clients’ repertoire of behaviour.  It empowers clients in their pursuit of achieving a flexible range of relating to others.

Date: TBD

Part 2:
SSLD Training:  Essential Skills
Prerequisites:  Part 1 or equivalent

During this 2-day course, participants will learn the essential skills of the SSDL model.  Participants will be asked to apply their basic knowledge of this model by engaging in didactic discussions and role plays.  In particular, the course will cover the following topics:

  • Problem translation
  • Strategy and skill development
  • Clinician’s role

Date: TBD

Part 3:
Social Skills Training:  Case-Based Learning
Prerequisites: Part 1 or equivalent and Part 2

During this 2-day course, participants will learn to apply their core knowledge and essential skills by discussing actual case scenarios and engaging in role plays.

Date: TBD

Part 4:
Social Skills Training:  Clinical Application in Actual Practice
Prerequisites:  Part 1 or equivalent, Part 2 and Part 3

This longitudinal 6-week course (3-hour sessions) will be a practical, hands-on course, providing an opportunity for participants to share cases drawn from their own clinical practice. With client consent, participants will bring in actual data (e.g. audio or videotape of sessions) and use these recordings for consultation in small groups.

Date: TBD

About the instructor,
An internationally revered educator in the social work arena, Dr.A. Ka Tat Tsang has been active in psychotherapy practice, training and research over three decades. Dr. Tsang believes that knowledge and skills in psychotherapy are best developed through integration of practice, theoretical reflection, and research.

In order to support practicing colleagues, Dr. Tsang develops specific practice models to address the challenges of clinical practice. Dr. Tsang uses a multiple contingencies analysis framework in his research and development work. This framework transcends simple linear logical formulations and enables us to simultaneously engage with the multiple factors and processes found in clinical situations. This framework has been used in the development of the following practice models:

MCM (Multiple Contingencies Management)
The MCM approach has developed out of Dr. Tsang’s exploration in psychotherapy integration. Instead of coming up with a singular practice model that combines the strength of major practice systems, Dr. Tsang believes that clients have diverse needs and circumstances, and each individual client may go through different trajectories of therapeutic change, involving the use of different therapeutic procedures. The MCM approach aims at enabling the therapist to come up with the appropriate procedure for a particular client at different stages of change. The MCM framework facilitates informed clinical formulation and decision by engaging with the major domains of psychosocial functioning (biology, motivation, cognition, emotion, behavior, and environment), and mapping out the therapeutic change process.

SSLD (Strategies and Skills Learning and Development)
The SSLD Model is built upon earlier work in Social Skills Training, which Dr. Tsang started introducing to human services and healthcare professionals since the early eighties. He has designed specific applications for diverse fields of practice including adults with severe mental health problems, infantile autism, couple counseling, school social work, addiction counseling, psychiatric rehabilitation, interpersonal relationships training, and community development and corporate training. Over the last decade, he has infused multiple contingencies analysis into his practice, and shifted towards a more client-centered learning and development emphasis. In 2005, he named the new system SSLD, to distinguish it from the earlier SST models. He will lend his expertise to Oshawa Psychotherapy Training Institute (OPTI) through delivery of workshops in SSLD.

Integrative Model of Cross-Cultural Psychotherapy
Together with colleagues at the University of Toronto, Dr. Tsang has been building an integrative model for cross-cultural practice through clinical research, conceptual construction, and integration of practice experience. The model is based on multiple contingencies analysis, and is capable of addressing critical issues in cross-cultural clinical work without falling into the trap of cultural literacy. Numerous publications have come out of this program of research, and Dr. Tsang has delivered many lectures, workshops, and training program on the model in Canada and internationally.

Dr. Tsang is currently an Associate Professor and Factor-Inwentash Chair in Social Work in the Global Community at Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto. Dr. Tsang is also the Director of the China Project of the University of Toronto’s. He teaches courses at the Masters and Doctoral levels, covering specialized areas in social science theory, epistemology, research methods (especially narrative or qualitative methods), clinical practice, core social work skills, culture and diversity.  Before he moved to Canada in 1989, Dr. Tsang had practiced as a clinical psychologist and taught at the University of Hong Kong for many years.

Dr. Tsang is a leading researcher and has been a recipient of research grants from various prestigious funding bodies including the Canadian Institute of Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Dr. Tsang’s current research program aims to build an integrated knowledge base (incorporating theory, practice and research) for social work practice in a globalized environment.

An author of books and book chapters, Dr. Tsang has published extensively in refereed academic journals. He has also delivered lectures and training programs in many countries including the US, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, and Turkey. Dr. Tsang obtained his Ph.D. in Social Work from the University of Toronto.

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