What’s New at Spruce? We’re “Being Social”
Sarah Rosenthal, MSW, LICSW
At Spruce Mountain Inn, we are aware that young adults who experience anxiety and depression also struggle with managing social interactions. To meet the need of our residents, we introduced Being Social, a group that uses experiential activities along with dyadic learning to help clients build their confidence in navigating school, work and other social circumstances.
Being Social is based on teaching social cognitive skills rather than social skills. What is social cognition? Social cognition is the ability to think about what others are thinking and to decipher both the verbal and non-verbal communication of others. Additionally, one learns to make inferences based on the other person’s behavior and appearance. For example, if you see a man wearing a tee shirt, a bathing suit, and flip-flops, you can infer that he’s probably going to a pool rather than a job interview. If he’s wearing a faded Rolling Stones tee-shirt, it might be safe to guess that he likes classic rock music. If the man is running back toward the car, you can make a logical guess that he’s forgotten something.
People make inferences everyday based on the information they receive from others. When they are overwhelmed with anxiety and stress, it can be hard to get out of their own heads to make better inferences about those around them. Additionally, people are often bombarded by alerts from their phone telling us about a text or the newest “like” on their last tweet. This leads individuals to be less attuned to others.
To improve attunement and be fully present with others, participants develop strategies to quiet their minds and reduce their anxiety in social situations. If one can learn to be fully present for those they are communicating with, their audience will receive them better. Participants identify and practice their own strategies for managing stress when encountering social situations.
While developing the skills to be fully present with others, group members also practice exercises like using comic book conversations. Participants will draw a scene using a comic formula with thoughts and feeling bubbles to better understand people’s perspectives as well as understanding the social consequences of their actions.
We are currently mid-way through the second eight week session of Being Social. This group will continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of our residents. Currently, there has been a focus on developing new relationships and continuing friendships. We try to pick situations that are pertinent to the residents current lives as well as what they will need when they graduate from Spruce.