Positive peer relationships offer a critical buffer against stress and psychological difficulties. Rejection by peers is devastating to children and can be associated with such long-term problems as low self-esteem, poor academic performance, feelings of aloneness and loneliness, and even juvenile delinquency

Without the friendship of peers, children feel alone, confused, and out of sync with the rest of the world. And these feelings can have serious repercussions for their future. Research has found that rejection by peers is devastating to children and can lead to such long-term problems as low self-esteem, poor academic performance, depression, failed relationships, poor parenting skills, and troubled careers. Being able to make and keep friends clearly plays a vital role in a child’s emotional health and well-being.

Social issues are especially problematic for children with AD/HD, social anxiety, learning disabilities, and Asperger’s syndrome. There is good news, however, for children who struggle in social settings with their peers—poor social skills can improve with coaching. And children learn social skills best in the company of other children. That’s why we developed the Stepping Stones Group Therapy program. For nearly 20 years, Northern Virginia Stepping Stones has been helping children of all ages “raise their social IQ.”

Stepping Stones is unique in that it follows a step-by-step approach to teaching children of elementary school age how to make and maintain friends, as well as how to increase the child’s awareness of the impact of his or her behavior on other children.

How Stepping Stones Group Therapy Works

The program runs in 3-5 week phases, with each skill building on the next:

  • Joining in/making a good first impression
  • Communication and conversation skills
  • Reading social signals
  • Raising self-esteem
  • Coping with teasing
  • Managing stress
  • Solving social problems
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Managing anger


The children learn these skills through friendship group activities, exercises, and psycho-dramatic techniques, as well as practice assignments at home and peer feedback. We stress the importance of using these newly-learned skills at home and in school to reinforce the newly learned behaviors.

Further, we emphasize a strong team approach by maintaining consistent contact with all professionals (school personnel, physicians, mental health professionals) as appropriate.

Parents’ Role

When a child participates in a Stepping Stones program, we offer a simultaneously-running parent group. Experience has shown that the parent’s role is critical to progress and success, and the parent’s group emphasizes tips and techniques for parents to use at home to foster positive social and emotional development, better manage behavioral issues, and lessen family stresses. Parental involvement in reinforcing those skills learned in group is instrumental in effecting change and making new social skills “stick.”

Stepping Stones Group Therapy Schedule

These groups meet once weekly for one hour in the evening and/or on Saturdays. We also now have daytime groups, which may better fit the schedules of home-schoolers.

The course of treatment is an average of 35 weeks, with the parent groups running simultaneously.
This program is effective for kids who are at least of average IQ.

Additional Social Skills Programs

You may also be interested in our other social skills programs:


For more information about our Stepping Stones program or to find out about groups starting soon, please contact us:

Call us at 703-876-8480