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Hi All,

I am 25 years old and hold a BS in Communication Studies. I, like most my age, am struggling to discover what my actual calling is in life. That being said, I came to this forum to ask for your help in a different way, and I hope you take the time to hear me out.

I am extremely thankful to say that one of my greatest gifts in life is the gift of interpersonal communication. Therefore, I acknowledge that this may not seem a super sensitive endeavor but please bear with me... The reason I am asking for your advice/opinions/help is that I have a seed of an idea about what I may want to do with my life.

I have quite a few close friends and loved ones who I know have struggled with social anxiety throughout their lives. This anxiety has fluctuated in severity, and has been met by each with a number of different treatments. After getting some feedback from those in my life experiencing their own social anxiety, it seems that everything from group therapy, to professional counseling, to medication, has its pros and cons. Being on the sidelines through all of their experiences though has left me with a thought: Something is missing.

So here is my question... Would any of you find it helpful if you had a resource available to you, let's say post- counseling or therapy, that could help you apply those strategies and practices you learned about during sessions? Maybe something in between therapy from a doctor which could seem formal and limited, and support groups where everyone is simultaneously struggling. My thought process is this... I am one of the most uninhibited and outgoing people you will ever meet. At the same time, I have a degree in communications along with real life experience commingling with people in my life who struggle from social anxiety specifically. Their feedback has always been that I am very good at making them feel comfortable in social situations and making things feel casual, while still being protective because I'm aware of their issues. It seems like I may actually have a knack for helping those who struggle with the things I am good at, to integrate themselves in social situations over time.

(Hoping at this point I don't seem like a total delusional self-serving you-know-what.)

But honestly. Example situation: Maybe you have tried all sorts of treatments in a strong attempt to alleviate any social anxiety you may have. You have created a good relationship with a doctor who gives you great advice, that you find difficult to put into practice by yourself once you leave the doctor's presence. Typically, they are certainly not going to offer to go to a party with you off the clock to help coach you through your anxieties. And maybe you have a friend from a support group who is willing to socialize with you, but you are worried that together you two will just fall back on each other and not put yourselves out there to others. Maybe you actually even have people in your life who are social butterflies and could easily try working with you, but simply don't have the time or interest, or patience to help the way you need. If there was a service where you could contact people your own age, who are patient, understanding, and will basically casually hang out with you as a support system while you implement certain behaviors... Would you find it helpful??

I imagine it to almost be like a dating service where you create profiles and get matched with someone around your age/area that you can confide in, who is literally there to help you feel more comfortable while trying to eliminate your social anxiety. Whether it be grabbing lunch in a crowded place, going to a party, or even just grocery shopping. It would be having someone next to you as an aid, who IS comfortable with everything you're doing. The relationship would be confidential, and to the outside world it would look like two friends hanging out. The idea is that just by having this person not only as support, but also as a sort of social anxiety-free role model to emulate, your treatment can be taken to the next level.

This is all with the understanding that at the end of the day you are just hanging out with a normal person. While it may seem like a con, you aren't spending more time with a licensed psychiatrist so there is no risk of constantly feeling analyzed. On the flip side, those doing the partnering would need some sort of communications/ psychological educational exposure (amongst other criteria). I mean, c'mon, the people you partner with must be extremely sensitive as well, and a lot of that does come from at least a basic understanding of those topics and your struggles.

Does any of this idea resonate with anyone? Would anyone find a service like that helpful? The service would be like someone lending you an extra hand to jump a puddle. Maybe some people would even want to try this PRIOR to soliciting professional help, which can be wildly costly and sometimes has connotations associated with it that some people don't like (like my cousin for example). I hope that I did not offend anyone, as I am truly searching for my life's calling. Like I said before... Thoughts/ comments/ criticisms?? Ideally all constructive in nature... After all, it has already crossed my mind that this is just a horrendous idea, so that certainly wouldn't be a novel comment!
 

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When I was a freshman in college, I was invited to volunteer doing something which sounds similar to what you've described. However, rather than spending informal time with someone who had social anxiety, we were invited to spend an hour per week with anyone with a physical or cognitive disability. We could walk around campus with them, work on homework, etc.

I think it's a cool idea. At first thought, I think I would apprehensive about meeting a stranger online to do this with. Psychologists have extensive regulation, training, supervision, background checks, etc before being allowed to meet with clients - all for the safety and confidentiality of the client. What you're describing doesn't sound like it would have this "safety net," so to speak.

I think it could be very helpful for some people, though. Having a supportive person along with you as you experience new things could be very encouraging.
 
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