How to Help Teens with Social Anxiety

When I was 30, I joined a social group for adults who cope with social anxiety and shyness. We practiced all the things that were difficult to manage in the outside world: public speaking, debates, theater and drama drills, small talk, and many other challenging scenarios. This group completely changed my life, and I was only sorry it hadn’t been there for me when I was younger and desperately needed it.

After five years in this group, I and another member decided to see if such a group existed for youth. We found out that it didn’t, so we decided to found an NGO—a non profit organization called Rakefet. Rakefet is a Hebrew word for “cyclamen,” a type of flower. Because of its inward-leaning shape, the flower symbolizes shyness, modesty, introversion, and beauty. The official title of Rakefet is “A foundation for youth who cope with social anxiety and shyness,” but obviously introverts turn to us as well, and we happily accept them.

Rakefet’s groups are facilitated by pairs. One of the pair is an adult who’s dealt with social anxiety; the other is a professional from a relevant occupation: a psychologist, social worker, or school counselor. In the meetings, the atmosphere is light and humorous. We practice public speaking in its various forms, using many of the drills from the adults’ group. We go to places like cafes and bowling alleys, enjoying each other’s company in non-formal settings. The group serves as a support group and a social group. Our groups are not defined as therapeutic because our teens don’t necessarily need to be cured from anything—they just need the proper setting to practice their social skills and to meet peers who share their temperament and sensitivities.

We already have 70 participants in seven groups in five cities, and we’re just getting started.

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7 responses to “Adam Cheshin”

  1. Tavaris says:

    Anything like this for adults?

  2. Adam Cheshin says:

    Hi there. There is a website but its in Hebrew only at the moment. If you send me your email to this mail: [email protected] I can send you a 5000 words article in English detailing how to set up and operate such social groups for youth. I do expect the idea of Rakefet to become global sometime in the future. It meets a very clear need and it is also finacialy sustainable. It just needs someone to pick up the glove. In Israel it is very successful and I see no reason why it shouldn’t spread. I am willing of course to give all the help I can with my advices and experience. . Adam

  3. Tracy Mayhue says:

    I would have benefited tremendously from this type of group as a teen! I, too, could still use a group like this in my life even as an adult. To have the chance to connect in a group like this would be like a breath of fresh air and breathing a sigh of relief – all at the same time. :-).

  4. Love this! It’s such a fantastic idea and just what I needed when I was younger, I’d love to know more about this approach… is there a website?

  5. Ian Street says:

    Great work! I wish I’d had access to a group like this; still could probably use access to it, though I am less shy than I used to be, without question.

    And as a plant scientist, I appreciate the plant reference. I may use that in an upcoming plant science advice (a tumblr I started where plants give advice to people– thinking about the biology & life of a plant species and what they might say. The Rakefet is a good one to do, I think!

  6. Kenny Ramp says:

    Adam, creating your Rakefet organization is such a great and impactful way to “pay-it-forward” after all you got out of your social group in years previous. And what you said here, “Our groups are not defined as therapeutic because our teens don’t necessarily need to be cured from anything…” — well, how freeing and spot-on is that for a young person to hear and personalize? You are changing lives to state the obvious. Well done. Here’s to continued growth for Rakefet! Kenny/QuietRev2

  7. Rich Day says:

    Wow, I love not only this idea, but this approach! On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate about a 3 in shyness…just enough to feel the effects of it…just enough to care. I agree with everything you’ve said about shyness, and so happy some will find greater expression of themselves through your group!

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