In this post, I will cover:

  • What social support is, and what it is not.
  • The types of support to consider
  • How to map out your social network: Two methods
  • How to figure out where to start
  • How to get the most out of your existing support system
  • How to build your support network

What social support is, and what it is not.

When meeting clients for the first time, I invariably ask them, “where do you get your support from”, and they almost always respond with the first person on whom they are dependent, in the event they are not independent. And so, I find myself providing routine psycho-education around the difference between environmental support and social support, or rather, moral support.

Social Support Defined

Wikipedia defines social support as follows: “Social support is perception and actuality that one is cared for, has assistance available from other people, and most popularly, that one is part of a supportive social network. These supportive resources can be emotional (e.g., nurturance), informational (e.g., advice), or companionship (e.g., sense of belonging); tangible (e.g., financial assistance) or intangible (e.g., personal advice). Social support can be measured as the perception that one has assistance available, the actual received assistance, or the degree to which a person is integrated in a social network. Support can come from many sources, such as family, friends, pets, neighbors, coworkers, organizations, etc.”

Three types of social support to consider.

While there are many categories of social support, there are, in general, three main types of social support, which are as follows:

How to map out your social network: Two methods

  1. The interpersonal circle:
  2. Social Mapping: quadrants and domains.

Figuring out where to start

  1. Make Room: Eliminate damaging social supports; minimize passive social supports.
  2. Destination + Origin: In order to set goals, first we need to figure out what we are starting with. It can be uncomfortable, and even triggering, but it is vital to take stock of what we are working with before we can set goals. Once we have a good idea of where we are and how we got here, we can start to postulate potential goals (not rigid expectations), that lead to and frame the quality of life that we aspire to.
  3. Needs assessment: A good place to start is simply listing out the things that we feel are lacking in our lives right now, the things that occupy our mental energies around our discontent, the things we ruminate on. These are often the pragmatic hurdles in our lives, concerning such things as finances, relationship stress, housing, employment, health/fitness/weight loss.
  4. Low hanging fruit: Once you have conducted a needs assessment, then you want to focus on the mini goals within striking distance. Then, research and identify the types of support that are best suited for helping you execute on those goals with actionable advice.
  5. Past success/heathy relationships: Success leaves clues. Think about the last time you were pleased with your quality of life, in any capacity. Now, ask yourself, “what did my social support system look like at that time?” While no exact circumstance is the same, we can benefit from reflecting on what has been helpful in the past and see if we can repeat those life rhythms and systems in our current context.
  1. Be more intentional with your time: Budget your time like you would your money, thinking ahead about how to prioritize the main things and focusing on quality over quantity.
  2. Interpersonal circle: Map out your support system as it is now, from a bird’s eye view, and then focus on what you would like to see different and start taking proactive steps in directing the flow and intimacy of your social support network to that end.
  3. Prime your supports: Educate those in your social support system, tell them how to help you best. People appreciate knowing their role in your life and people generally what to know how they can be supportive, versus having to guess.
  4. Be Direct. In his book, -Dare To Lead-, Brene Brown states, “To be Clear is to Be Kind.” This is so true and is a principle that is echoed throughout many other works on self-improvement, especially in the area of relationships. Boundaries are about helping others help you show up as your best self; “Let your yes be yes, and your no be no” (Matthew 5:37).
  5. Know your negotiables and non-negotiables (boundaries). Author Dr. Henry Cloud has created quite the collection of books on this subject alone that are worth adding to your library in order to level-up your skills around securing and maintaining strong social support systems by way of boundary setting.
  6. Communicate (interpersonal skills). I could, and likely will, create an entire series on this topic alone. If you would like to learn more about interpersonal skills, be sure to check out my previous episode on the subject ( Video HERE:), (BLOG HERE).
  7. Reciprocate (genuine interest, validation, service).
  8. Know your triggers.
  9. Plan ahead for safe coping.
  1. Make room for more active supports
  2. Map out your support system
  3. Conduct a needs assessment
  4. Leverage existing supports
  5. Create new supports


-Map out your support network

It is my mission to equip you with valuable and effective coping skills and clinical interventions, to improve your mood, be more productive and improve your quality of life, so you can do more, and worry less.



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Patrick Martin L.C.S.W.

Patrick Martin L.C.S.W.

A therapist on a mission to equip you with valuable and effective coping skills and clinical interventions, to improve your mood and be more productive.