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Finding and Participating in Social Groups

What is a social group?

Social Groups encourage people of all ages to step out of their inner world to learn how to interact with others. People often come to social groups because they realize (or someone else has realized for them) that they need help building the skills necessary to navigate the complex, ever-changing world of social interactions. Social Issues may come up at work, school, home, or in relationships. Some who consider social groups may wonder why it is difficult to engage in small talk or have trouble understanding why they feel so nervous going on dates or job interviews.

What should you look for in a Social Group?

It is important to remember that one size does not fit all and there isn’t one type of social group that fits everyone. Some groups have a recreational theme and may involve events such as bowling or card games. These are great for initial exposure to the possible joys of human interaction. Other groups may focus more on direct conversational skill building in a classroom or therapist’s office.

Some examples of skills that adolescents and adults learn in a social group setting include:

initiation and maintenance of conversation

how to read and use non-verbal social cues

emotion management

how to handle arguments and misunderstandings

stress management

social anxiety calming techniques

social Inferencing (the ability to infer information that is not explicitly stated)

social improvisation (thinking and responding flexibly in the moment)

Some examples of skills that children learn in a social group:

self awareness

respect for the space of others

volume and tone control

distraction management

focus oriented towards the group

keeping topics related to the group

social manners (turn waiting, sharing with others, etc.)

What are some of the different types of social groups?

Michelle Garcia Winner’s SuperFlex Curriculum and PEERS are two examples of curriculums that many people use to help facilitate their groups. These groups are great for children and some teens because the information is very direct. I enjoy using their curriculums for certain groups for that reason.

However, years ago, when I was studying music theory, a good friend reminded me that once rules are learned, it’s important to know how and when to break them. Without this ability, all we do will sound rote and robotic. This is why many of my groups also focus on ways to “get out of your head and into the moment” using improv games and role play. For many, all the social rules were learned years ago and the issue is not with learning new rules. It is about learning how to gently break some rules for the sake of being open to the joys of social interaction. Though a person may learn the steps of a dance, each dance is different. There are different people to dance with, different moods, and different environments. Conversations are much the same.

The way people interact socially is forever changing and quite unpredictable. For instance, the fact that so many of us use social media has changed the way we interact with another person in a face to face situation. In many ways, we are less equipped to handle the interaction. An improvisational social group is a great way to re-learn or learn for the first time what we are capable of.

J. Leon Monroe, MSW, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a Child and Family therapist, and an ABA Program Manager with over sixteen years experience providing counseling and parent support to families in home, school and clinical settings empowering them with the skills and awareness necessary for a lifetime of healthy functioning. He specializes in anxiety, depression, OCD, ADHD, stress and adjustment disorders related to ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) and the diagnosis formerly known as Asperger’s. His practice is in Chapel Hill, NC and includes ongoing social groups for children, teens and adults.

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