Do you find yourself cancelling plans regularly because you find social settings and interactions with new people overwhelming? Do you often feel panicky in a room full of people, or does the idea of putting yourself out in the world make you sweat and result in stress beyond control? If you have answered yes to the above, the chances are that you are dealing with social anxiety. Of course, one can experience discomfort in a new social setting or "feel out of place," as the saying goes. This does not relate to what we are about to discuss.
Social anxiety disorder, also called SAD, is a mental health condition where a person's social skills are impacted in various ways, such as they are more likely to engage in and avoid social interactions. They often experience an acute sense of anxiousness in the presence of crowds, or any social setting, for instance, in stores, shops or group settings. Social anxiety disorder can also impact how one behaves socially, despite the level of skill, so you might be aware of the importance of making eye contact while holding a conversation with someone and yet be unable to do so for fear or shyness.
People with social anxiety disorder struggle with forging relationships, whether at work or personal, which is often attached to the fear of being criticized, judged or even making a fool of themselves. SAD also impacts a person's social skills where they might find it challenging to initiate social interactions and could hold a view of themselves as socially awkward.
Before we explain how therapy can help with social skills, let's understand what are social skills and why are they so important?
The skills we use to interact and communicate with others are broadly defined as social skills. These can be nonverbal, including a host of things, for instance, our body language, everyday gestures, and our appearance to a large extent. In comparison, verbal language contains the words we choose and speak, the tone, and the volume of our voice. People with a strong sense of social skills will find themselves quickly picking and following social cues, holding a conversation without stress in a social setting, and behaving according to the social situation without much trouble. Moreover, they would easily understand the implied, and written rules practiced when communicating with others, whether friends or strangers.
To answer the question - can therapy help with developing social skills? Absolutely yes!
Therapy can be highly beneficial in cases of people living with social anxiety disorder. With the help of a licensed psychologist, you will be able to explore ways through which anxiety related to social settings can be lessened. It will help you to navigate through some of your core issues. Including your sense of self and developing self-compassion allows you to use helpful tools to transform your experiences and relationships with others.
With therapy, you can learn skills that will help you communicate non-verbally and verbally, enabling you to be assertive when interacting with others. It can also help you learn how to confidently make an introduction when amongst a new set of people by focusing on the rules of social encounters. Moreover, your therapist can also help you teach skillsets relating to active listening, which consists of paying attention to what's being said in a conversation, reflecting on it and even asking questions. Active listening is crucial to forging strong relationships, whether at work or in personal life. Finally, with the help of therapy, you can also work on overcoming telephone/mobile phobia where you can learn helpful tips and practise exposure therapy to desensitize yourself to using the phone. Lastly, therapy also can help you with accepting and giving compliments, again an integral part of social skills. Receiving and giving compliments gracefully and naturally is an essential social skill as they are a way of forging deep social bonds.
We understand that anxiety in a social setting can be debilitating and has a massive impact on the quality of experiences one undergoes. You might be struggling with forging new relationships or maintaining old ones. There is no need to suffer in silence or further isolate oneself where you feel disconnected from the world. There is help available. Therapy provides a safe space to understand and get to the source of your problem and help you with solutions that work for you. So, reach out, and we promise to be there for you.
If you're looking for counselling in Sherwood Park, Ward & Associates Psychological Services is here for you. We specialize in individual counselling for adults, teens, and children and couples counselling and trauma counselling for first responders. We also offer online therapy for clients residing in Alberta. Contact us to learn more about our services or to book an appointment.