OBJECTIVES To assess the effectiveness of social skills training in leprosy patients to raise self-esteem and reduce self-perceived stigma. DESIGN Five leprosy patients were given 10 day-long group-sessions of social skills training over 3 weeks. Training involved: identification of the emotions and concerns of patients when interacting socially; analysis of positive and negative social interactions and non-verbal and verbal skills training. Role-plays, videos and live models were used. Self-esteem and a reduction in self-perceived stigma were assessed qualitatively before and after training using semi-structured interviews. Assessment of change was scored under the indicators: self-perception, family, wider community and job. Patients were assessed for displaying new ways of interacting with people and changes in expectations for the future. RESULTS Qualitative analysis of the interviews before and after training suggested that social skills training could raise the self-esteem of leprosy patients and combat self-perceived stigma. Increase in self-esteem, as evident through the verbal interactions with the interviewers and behavioural changes in the community, were noted in the majority of patients. CONCLUSION Social skills training along with counseling may be able to increase the self-esteem of leprosy patients, and so be a useful part of leprosy rehabilitation schemes to try and combat the stigma of leprosy.