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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as a treatment for social anxiety disorder

by Sarah Graham
Friday 18 December 2015
2307 0

Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is one of the most common anxiety disorders and consists of an overwhelming fear of social situations that goes far beyond being shy or nervous about meeting new people. As a result, it can have a significant impact on your everyday life and self esteem. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one of the treatments the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends for tackling social anxiety disorder. We asked RSCPP therapists to explain what CBT is and how it can be used to treat social anxiety disorder.

What is CBT and how does it work?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is based on a simple premise: how you habitually think about the things that trouble you, and how you routinely act in response to your troubles, make you the sort of person you are. So, if your thoughts and your behaviours are unnecessarily detrimental then you are likely to become psychologically unhealthy. Therefore, in order to get well again, you just have to swap out unhealthy ways of being for healthy ones. In other words, CBT is aimed at helping you to develop new ways of thinking and behaving; ways that are conducive to improvements in your emotional and psychological wellbeing.

Accredited Counsellor Norman Claringbull


How can CBT be applied to treating social anxiety?

If, for example, you get so nervous when meeting new people that you actually feel like running away, then such an extreme reaction is obviously harmful. Clearly, you need to find out how to make your social interactions less scary. What CBT does is to help you get your reactions to life's events back into proportion, and so help you overcome your troubles. CBT helps you discover how to feel better about yourself and your life.

Accredited Counsellor Norman Claringbull


How long does CBT for social anxiety typically last?

NICE recommends around 14-16 sessions of CBT, although this will vary according to your specific needs.


Who is CBT suitable for?

CBT involves attending sessions, learning the rationale behind CBT, and applying it to your difficulties. CBT may also involve homework between sessions. It is suitable for anyone who is prepared to engage with the process.

RSCPP Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Richard Snowdon


What outcome can you expect from CBT as a treatment for social anxiety disorder?

CBT can help you to understand more about social anxiety, feel less fearful in social situations, and examine and change your core beliefs to help prevent relapse.

RSCPP Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Richard Snowdon


How can I tell if a therapist is qualified to offer CBT for social anxiety disorder?

All therapists on are accredited, registered or chartered by a UK professional body. Therapists who offer Cognitive Behavioural Therapy will in addition have completed training in cognitive behavioural practice.

RSCPP Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Richard Snowdon

Finding support

If you are concerned about Social Anxiety Disorder then you may like to read about finding the right therapist for you. If this route is not appropriate for you, your GP can assess you and direct you towards support.

Find a Therapist working with Social Anxiety Disorder

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Updated 04 January 2016