by Dr. Lindsay Kramer, psychotherapist and staff writer at The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles
Group therapy for those dealing with social anxiety?! Strange as it may seem, there is a great amount of evidence that shows a social anxiety group is extremely helpful and also may be a first choice treatment option for those suffering with social anxiety.*
I have had the privilege of working with many people of varying ages and backgrounds who struggle with this complex fear. I know the debilitating nature that social anxiety can have over one’s experience at a job, in relationships, and in life. I also understand the proverbial loneliness that can pervade one’s existence once victim to this anxiety disorder. If you or someone you know suffers from social anxiety, I commend you for reading this. I know this can be really scary, but I also realize the benefits to overcoming social anxiety far outweigh living a life of isolation and fear.
So how do we get there? Recent research has provided that cognitive-behavioral therapy conducted in a group format can be valuable in conquering social anxiety disorder. It goes on to specify that group treatment may be more effective than individual treatment for social anxiety in that it allows people to practice the very interactions of which they are afraid. Researchers also advocate for group therapy for social anxiety because it is cost effective and efficient. This is not to say that individual treatment with a social anxiety doctor specialist does not work—it is, in fact, just as helpful, as depicted in research studies. However, support groups for social anxiety can be a breakthrough additional treatment to offer those who struggle with fears of interaction.
Let’s close our eyes briefly and conjure up an image of what a social anxiety group might look like. Think of six or seven other members, all with their own trepidation and fears of social situations. Anxiety is high—yes. But judgment is non-existent. Everyone is too occupied with their own internal struggles to notice anything about anyone else. There is a trained anxiety specialist who is leading the group, gently but confidently providing support and guidance to help all members reach the shared goal of overcoming social anxiety. This group meets once a week, always on the same day and at the same time. There are no surprises. Gradually, the members become familiar with the context and the environment, and they begin to look to one another for reassurance and validation. And before you know it, interactions are occurring without the fear and worry of being judged or misperceived. It becomes safe. And eventually the group members are able to take what is being done in group and apply it to their personal lives. And that is a picture of a successful support group for social anxiety.
Could you imagine it? Was it difficult? My guess is that while it may have been scary, it also sparked some glimmer of hope. That maybe this could be the answer to overpowering the fears and heartaches that comprise social anxiety disorder. If you are looking for help, the April Center leads groups for all sorts of anxiety disorders, including a support group for social anxiety. Lastly, if you are still reading this, I once again congratulate you for even considering seeking help. You are one step closer to overcoming fear and leading a life filled with freedom.