How is Group Therapy Used to Address Social Anxiety?


    How is Group Therapy Used to Address Social Anxiety?

    In our latest exploration of therapeutic strategies, we've gathered insights from six mental health professionals, including LMFTs and Psychiatrists, on utilizing group therapy for social anxiety. They discuss techniques ranging from 'Exposure Therapy in Group Settings' to creating environments that 'Mirror Real-World Interactions,' providing a comprehensive look at expected outcomes and therapeutic approaches.

    • Exposure Therapy in Group Settings
    • Community Support Eases Social Anxiety
    • Repeated Group Exposure Reduces Discomfort
    • Risk-Taking Practice in Group Therapy
    • Safe Space for Social Skills Development
    • Group Therapy Mirrors Real-World Interactions

    Exposure Therapy in Group Settings

    Attending group therapy can act as a version of exposure therapy that can help in eventually reducing anxiety around being in social situations. Being in a contained and safe space can help individuals with social anxiety face what feels scary in a supportive environment—one that does not necessarily reflect the outside world. With repeated exposure to certain stimuli comes decreased anxiety over time. Group therapy settings can also be helpful so that individuals can practice skills to cope with anxiety, in the moment, and eventually build mastery over these skills. With reduced distress due to repeated exposure, along with skills mastery, group therapy tends to translate to much more success in the real world!

    Claire Lopaty
    Claire LopatyLMFT, Claire Lopaty Psychotherapy

    Community Support Eases Social Anxiety

    In my experience, group therapy is really an excellent way to manage social anxiety because it provides a supportive atmosphere where group members can practice social interactions and let others offer constructive criticism. This isn't possible in individual therapy, which lacks the social dimension. For instance, I have seen participants benefit by sharing experiences and realizing they are not alone in such struggles—this can be extremely soothing, validating, and normalizing. Moreover, in the group setting, we can challenge and reframe unhelpful thinking and behavior patterns, e.g., avoidance, related to social anxiety by guiding the group through structured activities and discussions regarding these challenges. In this way, members can slowly gain confidence, improve their social skills, and experience a lowering of their anxiety levels over time. The greatest asset of group therapy is certainly the sense of community and mutual support, leading to increased self-esteem and a greater sense of belonging.

    Raffaello Antonino
    Raffaello AntoninoCounselling Psychologist & Clinical Director, Therapy Central LLP

    Repeated Group Exposure Reduces Discomfort

    Group therapy helps with social anxiety because it exposes people to situations where many people are present and are observing and interacting with them, which initially makes those with social anxiety uncomfortable. After repeated exposure to groups, people with social anxiety become less anxious and more comfortable being around other people.

    Aarti Jerath
    Aarti JerathPsychiatrist, Miami Counseling Center

    Risk-Taking Practice in Group Therapy

    One of the advantages of group therapy is the possibility of engaging in exposure work in a safe place. Often, avoidance due to fears of embarrassment will keep us from taking social risks. In a group setting led by a mental health professional, individuals can practice taking risks, such as giving or accepting compliments, while knowing that they won't be mocked. A skilled therapist can also help individuals identify and adjust maladaptive thoughts about social anxiety while they are occurring in the moment! As a result, clients are practicing the cognitive work while engaging in the scary behavior. The more successes a client has, the more likely it is that anxiety will be significantly reduced.

    Laura Ellick
    Laura EllickPsychologist/Speaker, Psychology & Wellness Services, PLLC

    Safe Space for Social Skills Development

    Group therapy can help individuals with social anxiety by providing a safe space to practice social skills and receive feedback. Participants learn about social anxiety, which helps them understand their condition and feel less self-critical. Techniques like cognitive restructuring and exposure exercises are used to challenge negative thoughts and fears. Social skills training and role-playing exercises boost confidence in social interactions.

    Mindfulness and relaxation methods are taught to help manage anxiety symptoms. Peer feedback and support create a sense of community and shared experience. Over time, participants usually become more self-aware, develop better coping strategies, and feel less isolated. Consistent attendance and participation are key to making lasting progress.

    Tanveer Padder
    Tanveer PadderPsychiatrist, Psychopharmacologist, Addiction Speacalist

    Group Therapy Mirrors Real-World Interactions

    Group therapy is an excellent, cost-effective way to address social anxiety because it is ideally a microcosm of what relationships and interactions would look like outside of therapy, with varying perspectives, identities, and personalities present. This modality can provide a safe, nonjudgmental space to learn how to interact with others who may be experiencing the same difficulties, which can significantly decrease shame and isolation around this experience.

    Group therapy also allows other members to provide feedback to one another so that individuals can know how they are perceived by others; this can help those with social anxiety receive insight on ways to improve their social interactions. Through group therapy, individuals often leave with a newfound sense of confidence and concrete coping strategies to navigate social interactions.

    Taylor Chodash
    Taylor ChodashLicensed Mental Health Counselor, Unpacking Hearts Mental Health Counseling