How to Build a Network of Support
By Amy René, LCSW
“The more healthy relationships a child has, the more likely they will be to recover from trauma and thrive. Relationships are the agents of change and the most powerful therapy is human love.” -Bruce D. Perry, M.D., PhD
Everyone craves support and has a desire for meaningful relationships. Dr. Perry’s quote suggests that to be able to change, you must have relationships in your life. During crisis periods, it becomes evident who is a part of our support system and who is not. In the field of social and mental health services, we spend a lot of time ensuring that clients and their families have a rich and diverse support system.
One of my favorite Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills is the Contributing Skill. The act of helping others has many ways of improving an individual’s emotions. In fact, we coach our clients to use this skill to distance themselves from crisis emotions. A secondary benefit to this skill is that it grows your natural support system by being of help to others. When you are suffering and in pain it is sometimes helpful to step outside of your own pain and contribute to different organizations, church groups, or a civic organization. You can always find someone who is suffering more than you are, and finding ways to be of service has the potential to improve your own mental health.
We often see people find deep meaning and connection when helping others. By contributing we can refocus our attention on others and show compassion, which in turn helps our own self-compassion grow. Building and engaging a support system does not happen overnight. We now know that having a network can help improve overall health, well being and mental health. With any new behavior or goal, we have to work at it and prioritize growing a support network. You also have to be willing to stretch your limits and grow outside of your comfort zones; it may not come natural to you to talk to new people. If all else fails, be willing to also seek more formal support, such as a therapist or life coach to work towards your goal of having a support network.
The following organizations are great places to go to get connected to your community:
Artistic Organizations: choral, theatrical, writing
Church Groups: Service, Prayer, Stewardship, Acolytes
Civic Events: Fourth of July celebration, Art Fair, Festivals
Community Support Groups: Friends of the Library, Book Clubs
Ethnic Associations: Sons of Norway, Black Heritage Club
Health & Fitness Groups: Aerobics, Dancing, Sports, Yoga
Interest Clubs: Poodle Owners, Antique Car Owners
Men’s Groups: Cultural, Political, Educational
Mentoring Groups: Next Level Boys Academy
School Groups: PTA, PTO
Social Cause Groups: Peace, Rights, Advocacy, Service
Youth Groups: 4H, Scouts, YWCA/YMCA, Future Farmers of America, Girls on the Run