Tuesday Thoughts: The Importance of Community
For several years now, I’ve been a supervisor of pre-licensed social workers and marriage & family therapists working on their two years of post-graduate training. Over the past year or so, I’ve realized that there often arises a theme for the supervision I do each week. This past week’s theme was community.
Community connections keep us mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy. Often, when people hear community, they think of the neighborhood they live in, or perhaps their immediate family. However, community, like success, is how you define it. Humans are relational creatures. Even the most introverted among us benefits—psychologically, physiologically, emotionally, and spiritually—from being connected to a community.
This becomes infinitely clear when a person is separated from community. My first year of teaching was spent in the middle of nowhere (Maine) where I was teaching writing, doing improvisational comedy, and cooking, all while living as a house parent with twelve 8 and 9 year-old girls. While there was another house parent, she and I had opposite shifts. As it was a summer program for children at high levels of performing arts expertise, almost all of the students came from very affluent backgrounds. There were very few students of the same, or even a similar, religious and cultural background as me. I remember crying in the director’s office, feeling very alone and separate in my ‘different-ness.’ It was in that moment that I realized how important community is.
In building or discovering your own community, consider how you might connect on multiple levels:
- Intellectual: Can you join a book club or discussion group? Your local library or independent book shop may serve as a resource.
- Physical: There are hundreds of recreational leagues for adults all over most major cities. Maybe you want to play a sport you played growing up. Maybe this is the time to try something completely different! (Your local YMCA is a good starting place.) Even if you’re not a “class person,” consider attending group exercise classes at your gym, or look for Groupons to try a completely new activity.
- Spiritual and/or Religious: Most faith communities have “newcomers groups,” where you can meet many like-minded people. If you’re not inclined toward organized religion, Meetup.org has lots of groups that seek to explore philosophy.
- Hobbies: Again, this is a great opportunity to seek out local businesses, which often have groups based on their products. Yarn shops often have knitting groups; outdoor gear shops often have hikes, etc.
- Volunteering: Volunteermatch.org has a great search engine that can match you with your interests, availability, and amount of time you have available. Through volunteering, you can find people with similar interests. Even if you don’t cultivate a connection outside of the volunteer experience, volunteering gives you an ongoing community.
How will you connect with your community this week?
AAMFT Approved Supervisor
Kentucky Board Approved MFT Supervisor
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Clinical Social Worker in KY
Licensed Clinical Social Worker in IN