Dear New Shrink,

I would really appreciate your suggestions on how I can make more friends. I only have one good friend, a girlfriend. But not only would I like more girlfriends, I would also like to have friends of the opposite sex. How do I make them, where do people go to find them in this town?

Signed,

Not Enough

Dear Not Enough,

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard about the difficulty of making friends in Los Angeles. I am not sure what it is. Perhaps our diversity, while a great thing, creates more cliques. Then there is the urban layout which makes it inconvenient to connect with friends in other areas. And of course, many people now feel that they have more friends than they really do through Internet connections like Facebook. Whatever the reason, you are not alone.

Most people make friends through their work, school, church or a common interest. If you play a sport, stay with it and reach out to the others you may end up playing with, whether it’s volleyball on the beach, golf, tennis or basketball at local community centers.

If you tend toward religion, join a church or temple and participate in the activities there. Be sure to let the pastor or rabbi know that you are new.

If you are still in school, join some clubs. If you graduated, connect with alumni if possible.

Living in Santa Monica can be a blessing for meeting friends. If you are physically active you can meet people walking the Fourth Street stairs, rollerblading or riding bikes on the beach.

It sounds like you are not married yet, but if you do marry or form a permanent union and if you have children, you will meet and connect with other parents through your children.

There are actually many different ways to meet people in Los Angeles, you just need to be willing to get out and do it and you need to have patience.

Friendships are rarely made overnight. They generally take time and we usually get to know someone through something that we share.

Whether it’s work, training or degree program, a sport or a religion, we generally become close to someone through the sharing of an activity. And it takes time. Be prepared to reach out, but take baby steps; don’t come on too strong. If you have enough in common and the chemistry is there, it will happen naturally.

Now if you seem to be too shy and are hoping that others come to you or if you have sincerely tried some of the things that I have mentioned and nothing seems to work, then there just might be something in your interpersonal approach that would be worth exploring. Group therapy is excellent for this and you can find it through the American Psychological Association Therapist Locator or the California or Los Angeles Psychological Association. There is also the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists or perhaps you might look into Psychology Today’s web site and search “Group Therapy.”

If you feel comfortable with and around people and they seem to respond favorably to you, then my best recommendation is to start doing something you really like and are truly interested in. Volunteer, join a hiking group or go to Meet Up where you can find hundreds of different groups with special interests that you might like. Just do it and making friends will happen naturally over time.

If you care about the upcoming elections, whatever your party, there will soon be many volunteer opportunities to promote your candidate and that can be a great way to make friends of both sexes.

Now with the opposite sex friends, you will definitely need a common interest such as this that clearly differentiates a sexual interest from a friendship interest. There can be a lot of hesitancy in this regard if it is not clear and there is not a good reason for friendship.

Along these thoughts, I would avoid bars or gyms for the purpose of making friends. They are often pick-up places or people go there to seriously workout or drink.

The bottom line is to get involved with something that you are truly interested in and then give it time. And don’t reject anyone unless they really bother you. You never know who will introduce you to others that you may really like.

Good luck!

Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com and send your inquires and replies to newshrink@gmail.com Got something on your mind? Let us help you with your life matters.