PEERS® (The Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills) was developed in 2005 at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior by Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson, and Dr. Fred Frankel. At the time, this unique “parent-assisted” social training intervention was being heavily researched, and the research has continued. It was not long after the initial findings, word started to spread about the amazing results PEERS® was making for individuals with social struggles. At the time, UCLA offered a few trainings per year for specialists working in the field, and a limited number of groups for teens with social struggles, and “parent as social coach” groups. As the exciting results were shared through research articles, the media, and other venues, this incredible program slowly worked its way onto the radar of specialists throughout the United States, and the World. Today there are Certified PEERS® Providers in almost every state, as well as in over 23 countries.
The uniqueness and success of the PEERS® Program includes the components of being “parent-assisted”, including teaching “ecologically valid social skills”, and individualizing the teaching methods to “shared social skills deficits”. In addition, research continually validated the need for parental support, as an important component to aid in generalizing skills outside the group environment, providing guidance, and the opportunities for peer interaction. The PEERS® Program is now offered in a young adult format, due to the similarity in social struggles.
PEERS® was initially evidence-based for use with people who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder; however, it has since been shown to be successful for individuals with social and behavioral struggles, including those diagnosed with Anxiety, Depression, ADHD, Social Phobias, Bipolar Disorder and OCD.
The topics of instruction taught include:
- Conversational Skills
- Appropriate Use of Humor
- Electronic Communication
- Peer Entry & Exiting Skills
- Handling Teasing, Bullying, Gossip, Arguments and Disagreements with Peers
- Having Appropriate Get-Togethers With Friends
- …and more.
The young adult group includes instruction on dating skills. Parents/Caregivers learn the concrete steps their teen/adult are being taught, while also learning how to become their social coach. Parents/Caregivers are able to bring valuable feedback to their Certified Provider and group, and receive guidance on how to best coach their child/adult based on this feedback.
The PEERS® manualized training intervention is a life-changer for many people. The concrete skills that are taught not only provide the individual with the social tools they need for a lifetime of success, but by the end of the 16 – week program, many of the participants have already found a social group, and have had a successful get-together with a new friend.
To learn more about PEERS®, please visit: https://www.semel.ucla.edu/peers or call Jupiter Counseling.
Contributed by Cheryl Checkers, M.S., RMHCI, UCLA Certified PEERS® Clinician