A person who struggles with Social Anxiety (also called Social Phobia) symptoms will generally avoid social situations for fear of being judged or rejected. This fear can be pervasive or unique to specific domains in the person’s life. For example, if a person knows that they may be called upon in a meeting or class, they may be absent for the day or excessively prepare and rehearse answers. These symptoms can be incredibly frustrating in that the person does not want to be held back by the intense discomfort they experience and may even criticize themselves as a result.
Change is possible once safety behaviors, such as rumination, rehearsing, and avoidance, are identified. When addressing social anxiety symptoms, it is important to be gradually exposed to social situations that are considered unpredictable or intimidating. For example, a person may start by calling a store to ask for the hours of operation and can eventually work up to starting a short conversation with a stranger (e.g. asking a barista how their day is going).
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps clients learn to manage their symptoms by identifying unhelpful thought patterns and making behavioral changes.
CBT is a collaborative process between the client and therapist. The therapist provides foundational skills and psychoeducation about the client’s symptoms before moving on to behavioral assignments.
Mindfulness training assists clients in building their tolerance for discomfort by learning to simply notice and accept their experiences through guided practices.
Exposure with Response Prevention (ERP) is the main behavioral therapy used to treat anxiety disorders. ERP teaches you to gradually approach anxiety-provoking situations without engaging in safety behaviors, or compulsions.
Effective ERP respects the client’s values while challenging their compulsive behaviors. This means that we have a conversation about the roadmap for recovery before starting ERP and you are in the driver’s seat. I will provide suggestions based on my experience treating clients, but there is always room for feedback and refinement.
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