Social Support Helps People Grow


James T. Neill

Horizons, 17, Spring, 32-34, 2002


Being in a learning environment which is both challenging and supportive is a powerful formula for growth which can be utilised in outdoor education programs.  Outdoor education programs, whilst providing controlled exposure to challenging experiences, should also seek to create a warm and supportive group atmosphere.  Social support is a natural, interpersonal fertilizer which can be used to enhance personal growth.  During challenging experiences, social support can come from the instructor and from group members.  By harnessing the positive power of social support, the learning potential of a program can be considerably enhanced.  Research findings support the need for a humanistic approach and suggest the need for leaders to deal proactively with negative group members who may retard the potential growth of other group members.  Ten pro-active ways for improving social support in groups are suggested.

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