healthy boundaries

Building a Strong Support System

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(Photo Credit: Sonpichit Salangsing)

By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

An important principle I talk to all of my clients about is the powerful benefit of surrounding themselves with at least six people who will support them in life. There are many reasons why I tell people this is crucial. It can help people manage the stress they are experiencing outside of therapy. Also, it can increase the number of people in your life who are looking out for your best interest with love and compassion. In addition, it can also bring more happiness to your life by having more people in your life you can socialize with and decrease any feelings of isolation. Building a solid support system is an essential tool for your mental health toolbox.

Why should a person have at least six individuals in their support system? When you have six people, you can also divide issues you need help processing between the six individuals. That way, one person isn’t the only person with whom you are processing your feelings. If you were to depend solely on one person, the person may eventually become burnt out, which would not be beneficial to either of you. By having six people in your circle, you also have access to six different points of view, which can also enrich your decision-making process.

Another useful way to manage and think about those in your circle is to find people who you can trust to help you through each area of your life. You may have a friend who gives great relationship advice. Another friend may offer great advice on working environments or issues with school. Knowing whom these people are in your life and what advise they can assist you with can be helpful when building your circle.

People you include in your circle of six should have several qualities that help you feel secure in your relationship with them and assure that you are getting the type of support you need from that relationship. You should find someone who gives you helpful advice when you ask for it and is willing to help you when needed. In regards to the relationship between you and a person in your circle, there needs to be mutual respect, trust, and admiration for one another to assure that each person’s needs are being met in the relationship. Moreover, people in your circle should have a firm grasp on what healthy boundaries look like and allow you space to make changes in your life on your own.

Confidentiality is also an essential characteristic for individuals in your circle, so you feel comfortable sharing private information with them. A person in your circle needs to give you the space to express your feelings and emotions without judgment or criticism. There should also be a collaborative component to your relationship so people in your circle can help you work through difficult situations as they come up. Lastly, people you include in your circle should always have your best interest in mind.

Some people may not have six people in their life that can fulfill this vital role. If you are currently seeing a therapist, this could be a goal you can work toward with your therapist. You can also practice reaching out to people who are already in your life, through work, school or other activities. If you do not have others in your life you can reach out to; you can also join groups or social events to try and build your circle. There are websites such as Meetup.com or groups on Facebook that can help you connect with other people who have similar interests as you.


References

MentalHealth.gov. (2017 July 11). For People With Mental Health Problems. Retrieved from
https://www.mentalhealth.gov/talk/people-mental-health-problems

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