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36. Impact of Social Cognition and Interaction Training on Social Cognitive Abilities and Social Functioning Post-Intervention and at a 3-Month Follow-Up
Background: Social cognitive deficits are associated with functional disability and have been found to be unique predictors of community and work role functioning in individuals with serious mental illness. Consequently, social cognitive abilities have become targets of intervention. This study examined a recently developed intervention, Social Cognition and Interaction Training (SCIT), on social cognitive abilities, attitudes toward others at work, community functioning, and interpersonal effectiveness. Impact of the intervention was assessed post-intervention, and durability of treatment effects was assessed with a 3-month follow up assessment.
Methods: Sixteen individuals with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or bipolar disorder received SCIT, a 24-session, group-based, skills training intervention. In addition, participants were provided with 30 minutes of individual training weekly to promote skill application. All participants were outpatients who were working or engaged in a non-compensated role (student, volunteer). Impact of the intervention on social cognitive skills was assessed with the Face Emotion Identification Task (FEIT), the Bell-Lysaker Emotion Recognition Task (BLERT), the Ambiguous Intentions and Hostility Questionnaire (AIHQ), and the Awareness of Social Inference Test (TASIT). Comfort in the work environment and quality of work relationships was assessed with the Vocational Efficacy in Trauma Survivors Scale (VETSS) and the Mentoring and Communication Support Scale (MCSS). Social competence and community engagement were assessed with the Social Skill Performance Assessment (SSPA) and the First Episode Social Functioning Scale (FESFS).
Results: Emotion recognition performance was significantly improved post-intervention, t(14) = -2.80, p = .01. However, the effect was not maintained at the 3-month follow-up. Participants also demonstrated a reduced tendency to be overly confident in their judgments post-intervention, t(14) = 3.67, p = .003, and at the follow-up assessment, t(14) = 2.77, p = .02. Theory of mind and attribution bias did not change in response to the intervention. At post intervention, there were trends for improved collegial and task support that became significant at the 3-month follow up, MCSS Task Support, t(13) = -2.52, p = .03, and MCSS Collegial Support, t(13) = - 3.02, p = .01. Trends were also noted post-intervention for improved comfort and confidence at work, VETSS Self Disclosure, t(13) = 1.82, p = .09, and VETSS Workplace Coping, t(13) = -1.69, p = .12. No change was observed in social competence or community engagement.
Discussion: Findings suggest that individuals with serious mental illness benefitted from social cognitive skills training. Participants had improved emotion recognition skills and were less likely to be overly confident in their judgments. Individuals also experienced improved relationship quality, perceiving more support from colleagues in professional relationships, suggesting that the skills learned in SCIT were having an impact on real-world functioning. Results suggest that pairing SCIT with vocational rehabilitation may improve work outcomes for individuals with serious mental illness.