Knowledge and Skills for Dementia Care: The SSLD Approach

Strategies and Skills Learning and Development or SSLD is being utilized in situations involving people afflicted with some degree of dementia or other type of memory or cognitive disorder. Through this article, we provide some basic and essential information about SSLD. 

Definition of SSLD: Explanation of the Approach by Its Creator

A. Ka Tat Tsan is the creator of SSLD. In a presentation in Toronto, he explained the purpose of the SSLD approach:

SSLD (Strategies and Skills Learning and Development) is a learning system that helps people to expand their repertoire of strategies and skills through systematic learning, so that they become more effective in meeting their own needs and achieving their goals in life. The system builds on earlier work in social skills training, and has been adapted and applied to a wide range of human service contexts in Canada and internationally. 

Applied to cross-cultural psychotherapy and counseling, the system provides a comprehensive framework for understanding human experience within its social context, including how culture affects our environment and social reality, body and biological processes, motivation and needs, cognition, emotion, and action. 

Based on multiple contingencies thinking, the SSLD system engages with the multiple forces at work in the cross-cultural clinical context, and emphasizes a personalized understanding of client needs and circumstances. It offers a systematic intervention procedure that enables more effective meeting of needs, associated with goal attainment, problem solving, improved self-efficacy, wellness, and quality of life.

Key Features of the SSLD Approach

There are a number of essential features involved with the SSLD approach to dementia care. We present the key strategies here for your consideration:

  • Our social environment includes social realities such as:
    • social systems
    • institutions
    • conventions
    • norms
    • laws
    • rules
    • cultures
    • and other attributes
  • Most of our needs in life are met through interacting with other people or social systems.
  • When we do not successfully achieve what we want through these interactions, we end up not meeting some of our basic needs such as:
    • need for food
    • need for companionship. 
  • The major reason for negative life experiences is that we have not mastered effective strategies and/or skills to interact with our social environment to attain what we need. 
  • Most human actions are motivated by needs. 
  • Our actions, motivated by our needs, are also mediated or directed by our thinking. The way we think and the way we make sense of the world can affect the relationship between what we need and what we want. 
  • Our needs and our emotions can influence the way we think, including our judgment, beliefs, and values. An extremely hungry person is more likely to see objects as food. 
  • SSLD is a model designed to help us acquire and master strategies and skills that will allow us to effectively attain our personal goals (what we need) within our social environment.
  • The mastery of these new strategies and skills would allow clients to give up former behavioral strategies that are either ineffective or problematic.
  • Clients will be able to learn new strategies and skills, and to refine old ones, in a safe learning environment.
  • SSLD distinguishes itself from other intervention models focusing on the training of skills (e.g., life-skills training, social skills training, life coaching, etc.) by its adoption of a multiple contingency perspective. 
  • SSLD emphasizes learning instead of training. 
  • A key feature of a contingency based SSLD practice model is the recognition that client learning can occur without training. 

Professionals and the SSLD Approach

The SSLD approach is not something that can be undertaken by an individual that lacks training in the use of this tactic. In other words, a professional needs to be involved in the process. 

At this juncture in time, the number of professionals who have training and at least some background in the SSLD approach is limited. A primary reason why this is the case is because the SSLD approach is a relatively new technique. With that said, with each passing month, more professionals are gaining experience in the use of the SSLD approach.

Professionals with a background in the SSLD approach can be found in a number of settings. In more recent times, these settings have included memory centers as well as other types of senior living communities. These other communities include nursing homes or skilled care facilities as well as assisted living centers. 

In addition, some senior living communities contract with outside professionals that do have experience in the SSLD approach. For example, a professional adept in the SSLD approach may be on contract with a number of different senior living facilities in a particular community to work with the residents of these facilities. In addition, they may also provide at least some basic training to staff members in regard to the SSLD approach.