The Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®)

What Is PEERS®? The Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®) Program is an evidence-based social skills program developed for preschoolers, teens and young adults. It was created by Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson at UCLA. PEERS® was initially created for autistic individuals, but can also be utilized by youth with other social challenges, including ADHD and depression. PEERS® uses what the developers call “ecologically valid” social skills. These are skills that research has found are being used by people who are more naturally socially savvy. It does not judge these behaviors as “good” or “bad” but simply acknowledges that they tend to work well. PEERS® generally takes place in a group setting. This allows the teens and young adults to interact and practice skills with each other and group leaders. The program also includes what they call “social coaches,” who are usually parents or close friends who attend the program, learn
the same skills, and then help the youth practice the skills. Research shows that involvement in PEERS® results in long-term gains in social skills and engagement after the program.

The right treatment can help a person overcome social challenges and live the life they want to live. PEERS® groups focus on finding and maintaining friends, increasing involvement in social outings (e.g., hangouts with friends, joining clubs and activities), dating, and dealing with bullying/unkind behavior. Often individuals who graduate from group or individual treatment are able to meet personal goals such as gaining independence, forming new relationships, and working toward life goals such as finding meaningful work. Dr. Cameron Mosley is training to conduct PEERS® in an individual or group format with middle schoolers, high schoolers, and young adults.

What about medication? Although medication can help with secondary symptoms such as social anxiety, there is no evidence to suggest that any psychiatric medication can enhance social skills. PEERS® provides tangible skills that can continue to be practiced and used to make social interactions easier.