Group therapy for social anxiety is one great option to consider as a form of treatment.
“Group therapy? Are you kidding me? Don’t you understand that I suffer from a social anxiety disorder and that being in a group with strangers is the last thing I am looking forward to? Besides, how is that going to help me conquer my social anxiety?!”
OK, OK, I hear you. But there are some serious benefits to group therapy for social anxiety that you might not have thought of. And it’s less scary than you might believe it to be as well.
That’s what this article will explain to you. I’ll give you an idea of what group therapy for social anxiety is and how it works. And after that I’ll give you the ins and outs of what the treatment looks like.
And I end with the pro’s and con’s of group therapy plus some additional tips. So you can then better decide if group therapy for social anxiety is a good treatment for you or not.
What Is Group Therapy For Social Anxiety?
In groups of five to nine people with social anxiety plus two therapists you work in a non-threatening environment to reduce your anxiety and build up your social skills.
What happens is you sign up for one of the programs, and you meet up every week for a period of twelve to twenty four weeks. Sessions last between one and two and a half hours.
In these sessions you get the opportunity to role-play different social scenarios in a safe and controlled environment.
So you then “get used” to a variety of different social situations which helps you to better cope with these once they show up in the real world. Plus you will directly work on your negative thinking and irrational beliefs.
But you won’t be pressured into doing something you don’t feel ready for and there are no introduction rounds. The people there all understand how you feel and take your feelings into account.
After a few sessions you get homework where you try out your new confidence and social skills in a real social situation. But of course only in a mildly challenging situation, one that you feel confident enough you can handle.
What Treatment Do They Use In Group Therapy For Social Anxiety?
In these sessions the focus is on CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
It is a therapy that uncovers negative thinking, irrational beliefs and unwanted behaviors that cause negative emotions.
Once these thoughts, beliefs and behaviors are identified, the intent is to replace these with more empowering ones.
This in turn weakens your reactions between fearful situations and your habitual reactions to them. It basically teaches you how to calm your mind and body so you can feel better. This helps you to think more clearly and make better decisions.
You will be doing CBT exercises before, during and after the social role playing scenario’s.
Before a role playing scenario you get a reasonable, attainable and easily measurable goal to accomplish. For example, if the goal is to get to know someone better, the criteria might be:
“How many questions did you ask and how many comments did you make?”
Then when you are doing a role-play scenario, the therapist will ask you what you are feeling or thinking. You will be asked to in the moment evaluate whether your thoughts are helpful or not, and to entertain more useful ways of viewing the anxiety provoking situations.
You will then question and challenge those thoughts and feelings and figure out the underlying assumptions. After which you develop alternative responses that are more rational.
By doing these repeated roll-play scenario’s, you disrupt the cycle of anxiety by allowing yourself to stay in the feared situation long enough. This will result in you feeling a natural reduction in anxiety.
Once you have gained your new confidence and social skills you get attainable, reasonable homework assignments where you try out your new skills in the real world. After you have done your homework, you will reflect in class on how you’ve handled your anxiety during the real life situation.
Pro’s And Con’s Of Group Therapy For Social Anxiety
There are several options for you here. You can have individual therapy plus group therapy, or you can have only individual or only group tharapy for social anxiety. This should be discussed with your psychiatrist, coach, mental health care professional etc. And of course the end decision if yours to take.
PROS OF GROUP THERAPY:
- You role play feared social situations in a supportive environment and you receive valuable feedback. This will decrease your anxiety and increase your confidence. Plus you build up your social skills
- You work together as a team which gives you a feeling of unity. This might provide you with additional motivation to do the homework assignments and to show up for the sessions
- You get to meet other people that are in the same situations as you. You find out that you’re not alone, and you can share your experiences with others
- You hang out with people that are in the same situation as you are in, like-minded people. This gets you to more easily make friends and share advice with one another. You might even meet an accountability partner!
CON’S OF GROUP THERAPY:
- It might be too challenging for you
- It might not be available close to where you live
- There is less 1 on 1 attention and focus on your specific issues than there is in individual sessions
Where To Get Group Therapy For Social Anxiety
For getting into group therapy for social anxiety you might get referred to a therapy group by your mental health professional. If not, I suggest going to google.com and typing in “group therapy for social anxiety” plus your city/country.
Depending on your insurance and country of residence this might or might not be covered.
I believe group therapy for social anxiety is a great resource for you if it’s available. Because unfortunately it’s not that common as of yet. But if it is, and you can handle the challenge this is definitely going to help you big time.
You might want to consider bringing someone to support and encourage you. But a thing like this accomplishes a few things at once. You are not only relieving your social anxiety, you are also building up your social skills and therefore your confidence.
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