Brian Newcomer, AMFT, LAADC
President, Center for Personal Growth, San Diego, CA


The Center for Personal Growth (CPG) has been using the Skills System with people with intellectual disabilities and/or physical challenges (e.g. mobility issues, visual-impairment, hard of hearing) since 2010. CPG has a contract with the San Diego Regional Center to provide Skills System services for their members. Our program runs weekly Skills System skills groups and provides Skills System-informed individual therapy for this diverse population.

In response to the pandemic, social distancing, and self-quarantine, my staff and I needed to quickly adapt the way we were conducting sessions with Skills System clients.  As you can imagine, during this pandemic many of our client have experienced an increase in stress such as:

  • food insecurities
  • fear of using public transportation
  • increased relationship conflicts as a result of prolonged confinement
  • staffing changes/inconsistency
  • reduced family contact
  • limited access to essential, yet non-emergency medical supports
  • inconsistent access to technology and information
  • increase medical risk due to comorbidity
  • fears regarding contracting the virus

It was important to my staff and I that we continue to provide support to our clients during this difficult time. The skills they have been learning help them manage the additional stress imposed by the pandemic, in addition to the normal challenges.

The Switch to Telehealth

Switching to Tele-Health was a big (unexpected) step for our agency.  Ensuring all HIPPA regulations, as well as, State Law and Ethics requirements and licensing board codes of ethics were a primary concern. The Skills System E-Learning is HIPPA certified compliant, which was important to us. While making this switch was an adjustment for everyone (staff and clients alike), we were able to work together to address barriers, such as, internet access, and navigating technology challenges.

CPG provides services to individuals with all levels of intellectual abilities. While some individuals found this transition a bit more challenging than others, overall, we were successful in giving access to our clients; they were quickly able to utilize the E-Learning both in and outside of sessions.  We find that using the E-Learning, we can continue our client’s skills instruction during a time where we were not able to meet in person for groups or individual therapy.

Benefits of the Skills System E-Learning

The Skills System E-Learning videos are accessible and helpful for all types and levels of learners. The videos and graphics provide enhanced instruction for visual and auditory learners. Even people who experience literacy challenges engage with the lessons.

Clients and their families can use any device to access the E-learning. Many clients found it easiest to watch the videos and do the exercises on their phones. It was important to ensure that our clients had support initially accessing and navigating the E-Learning.

Using the E-Learning in Telehealth

At CPG we use the E-Learning is a few different ways:

  • In-session: We were able to have clients watch a lesson during sessions and review and answer the quiz questions with them. We adjust how we use the tools depending on the person. For example, some clients complete the practice exercises independently; others do not complete the exercises or do it collaboratively with their individual therapist.
  • Outside of session: Clients are often assigned “homework” between sessions. The content they viewed and completed as homework is discussed in their 1:1 meetings.
  • Skills and Skills Coaching training for staff and family members: Using a Clinician Membership allows a therapist to add and remove the clients’ family members and outside providers to the e-learning. Course 1. Skills Basics and Course 2. Skills Coaching Strategies help skills coaches understand skills and how to assist clients to generalize skills in their natural environments.

The response from both the staff and our clients has been overwhelmingly positive. We have clients at all stages (newly enrolled or close to graduation) in our program. Client’s newly enrolled found the material easy to follow, relatable, and understandable. “Senior” clients also stated they gained a different (deeper) understanding of Skills System concepts, as a result of watching the videos.  If you have not already considered it, I would highly recommend utilizing E-Learning with your clients.