Dallas CBT specializes in exposure therapy, which is the gold-standard cognitive behavioral treatment for social anxiety in children and adults. Treatment is offered both in individual and group formats and is shorter-term, with significant progress often seen around 15-20 sessions. Typical goals for treatment include feeling less anxious around others, increasing social activities, establishing friendships or romantic relationships, improving mood and, overall, living a more fulfilling life. More detailed information about the therapy is below.
What is Social Anxiety?
Experiencing anxiety in social or performance situations is quite common; in fact, public speaking is often at the top of most peoples’ lists of feared situations. However, social anxiety disorder is more than discomfort around others or shyness. Social anxiety is a strong fear of being judged or embarrassed in front of others, despite a desire to be social. This fear can manifest in everyday social situations, situations where one is being observed (e.g., eating, writing), or performance situations (e.g., giving a speech), to name a few. Social anxiety makes it extremely difficult to go to school or work, meet new people, or even talk to the cashier at the store, which can lead individuals with social anxiety to avoid social situations as much as possible.
Potential Signs of Social Anxiety
- Frequent worry of being embarrassed, humiliated, or seen negatively
- Strong physical sensations like a racing heart, heavy breathing, blushing, sweating, trembling or upset stomach when in social situations
- Replaying social interactions over and over in your head
- Avoidance or serious distress around activities that involve other people such as parties, meetings at work, talking to authorities, or speaking in front of others
- Worrying for days or weeks leading up to a social event
- In children, these symptoms may manifest in crying, tantrums, freezing, clinging, or failing to speak in social situations
- These symptoms have persisted for several months or more
Social Anxiety Treatment
Dallas CBT offers both individual exposure therapy for children and adults, as well as a state-of-the-art group exposure therapy program for adults with social anxiety. Exposure therapy is a type of cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) that is the most effective for anxiety disorders. In fact, it is often referred to as the “gold-standard” of psychological treatments for these issues. Exposure involves gradually and systematically confronting fears and anxiety-provoking situations that you have been avoiding, with the aid and support of your therapist. Exposure provides the opportunity to learn that feared consequences are unlikely to come true and that your anxiety will go down naturally over time– and after repeated exposure, it will stay down. Exposures can be conducted as imaginal, where you are asked to imagine a feared situation, in vivo, or real life exposure, and interoceptive, which involves confronting feared bodily sensations. The overarching goal of exposure therapy is to reduce or eliminate avoidance of objectively safe situations, which leads to reduction in anxiety about these situations. Although this treatment causes short-term anxiety, as it involves facing the fears that you have been avoiding, it is the most effective way to gain long-term freedom from anxiety.
Our social anxiety group treatment is a 12-16 week program that meets for 2-hour sessions weekly. Group therapy for social anxiety offers an effective way to confront feared social situations and improve social skills in a supportive environment, in real time. Group therapy is often our recommended course of treatment for individuals with social anxiety; however, we also offer individual therapy for these issues. Individual CBT for Social Anxiety typically involves weekly 50-minute or 90-minute sessions, across 15-20 weeks. However, the length of the program can vary according to the individual’s needs.
In exposure therapy, you can expect to: learn about what causes and maintains social anxiety, identify the role that thoughts play in the anxiety process, learn to frame problematic thoughts differently, and build tolerance of feared social situations through gradual and systematic exposure to situations that provoke anxiety. Treatment is tailored to each client, with their specific type of anxiety and their own experiences influencing the content of each component of treatment.