Dr. Thomas A. Richards is a licensed psychologist and director of the Social Anxiety Institute. He is now in his twentieth year of helping people overcome social anxiety, by use of rational cognitive-behavioral therapy. He has seen people from all over the world and had the opportunity to work with them directly, individually and through social anxiety CBT groups.
The Social Anxiety Institute has become international as twenty-five percent of the people seen are from outside the United States.
Dr. Richards has spoken at conferences all over the United States about social anxiety, always with an emphasis on helping people overcome it. In addition, he was asked by many operating groups to help, speak, and answer questions about the "Overcoming Social Anxiety: Step by Step" program. He has spent many days with therapy groups throughout the country, helping the group leaders become more effective at their job. "I only have so much time and can only get so much done," he said, speaking of his priorities, "and my primary focus is on the people who have social anxiety disorder. I'm not in the position, and don't have the time to do research and become a well-known psychologist to the nation. Tens of millions of people throughout the world suffer from social anxiety, and it is my desire, and the goal of the Social Anxiety Institute, to help as many people as we can."
Thomas A. Richards was born in Iowa City, Iowa, a Big Ten university town in the midwestern United States, and his family moved to Phoenix when he was in elementary school. He graduated from high school in Phoenix, and attended college in Arizona and California, graduating, with honors, from Bethany College, a small liberal arts college in California.
"Because of my social anxiety, college was a nightmare for me", Dr. Richards commented. "I found I couldn't attend the university to which I had been accepted because of my social fears. So, I transferred to a very small college out of state where I thought I could at least function."
After college graduation, Dr. Richards took a fifth year of college classes at Arizona State University to obtain his state teaching certificate, and taught students at the upper elementary, junior high and high school levels, both in California and Arizona. Later, he moved into administrative positions within the field of education, and was executive director of two private schools in the Phoenix area. Social anxiety continued to be a major problem for him, however, and many career and personal opportunities were lost because of this.
After an attempted career in real estate and insurance, Dr. Richards enrolled and was accepted into the graduate school program at the University of Iowa, where he spent two semesters and was a research assistant. He later transferred to Arizona State University in Tempe and received both the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in psychology, with a concentration in life-span human development. His master's thesis involved community college retention rates, and his doctoral dissertation concerned the role of feedback in fostering intrinsic motivation in adults.
After receiving his doctoral degree, Dr. Richards served as instructor and assistant professor of psychology. He was the psychology department chair at Amarillo College. He taught in colleges and universities in Arizona, Texas, and Arkansas, finally leaving academics in the early 1990s to open a private psychological practice. During this time, he won several awards for teaching and instructional excellence, and was chosen outstanding professor of the year in 1994 at a branch of Arkansas State University, near Little Rock.
After going into private psychological practice, Dr. Richards began working with people who had anxiety disorders and turned the practice into an anxiety clinic. He founded the Anxiety Clinic of Arizona in September, 1994, and treated people with panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder. The first social anxiety groups occurred at this time and have continued through the present day. As the clinic reputation grew, Dr. Richards and staff made the decision to focus entirely on social anxiety disorder, as there was virtually no help for this problem anyplace in the world. The Social Anxiety Institute was officially founded in 1999, as a way to indicate to everyone that the institution treated and worked with people who had social anxiety disorder only. Prior to the official re-naming and incorporation, Dr. Richards had already begun working solely with social anxiety people. The first international group happened accidentally in 1998, but within several weeks of agreeing to do it, the first "international" group was in operation.
As the Social Anxiety Institute grew, he established the first web site on the internet entirely dedicated to social anxiety. In 1999, the Social Anxiety Institute became active and continues to this day. It was totally updated and revised in at the beginning of 2013, and has increased its presence on the internet as a source for information on social anxiety disorder. As a result of his prior experience dealing with other anxiety disorders, he had written and published the first website that dealt solely with all the anxiety disorders. The Anxiety Network became operational in 1995, and continues to this day, reaching 30,000 people a month.
Today, Dr. Richards is seen as one of the leading clinical authorities on social anxiety disorder, due to the international reputation of the Social Anxiety Institute and the fact that he has seen more patients with social anxiety disorder than any other therapist or psychologist in practice. People travel to SAI from every corner of the world because adequate treatment for social anxiety disorder does not yet exist. The international program at the Social Anxiety Institute has been operating continuously since 1998. The treatment programs at the Social Anxiety Institute are the most comprehensive and therapeutic programs in the world.
The weekly all-day Saturday programs continue to run, and the program has grown exponentially since 1994. The current Saturday group is made up of people from all over the United States -- people who have moved here to receive treatment, as treatment for social anxiety virtually does not exist in the U.S. yet. In the "local" group we have six people from out of state, and one person from a suburb of Phoenix. The Social Anxiety Institute has become a national and international treatment center.
In addition to speaking engagements, Dr. Richards has organized and run large conferences about social anxiety disorder in San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago, Davenport, IA/Moline, IL, and in Phoenix.
At present, he and his team are working on another large project to provide added therapy assistance to people who cannot make it to the Social Anxiety Institute for any of its programs.