Phoenix Group Therapy


The local Phoenix CBT group is a friendly, active, structured group that can change your life.  Our only goal is learning to get over social anxiety.  Cognitive-behavioral group therapy has been shown to be most effective at reaching this goal and providing long-term, permanent change. We use a gradual (step by step) approach to (a) limit anxiety, and (b) allow progress to become permanent.  This is best achieved in a structured group setting.   We handle all therapy with as much calmness and peace as possible. 

The 10 week Local Phoenix CBT program is an active, structured treatment program for people with social anxiety disorder.  The program is run by Dr. Thomas A. Richards, a psychologist, who has been running social anxiety therapy groups since 1995. 

A new group consists of  no more than eight (8) members who are motivated and ready to overcome social anxiety.  New group members will be using mindful cognitive methods and strategies using the audio/video  therapy series, “Overcoming Social Anxiety: Step by Step.”  By using the series, you receive daily reinforcement of what we are doing in the group.

The all-day Saturday session includes review, discussion, and reinforcement of the cognitive therapy.  We have had multiple past group members move to Phoenix from out of state, and if you are interested in doing this you should read Moving to Phoenix.

Behavioral activities are also included during the sessions in which you gently move up your anxiety hierarchy at your own pace and completely under your own direction.  Group members do behavioral experiments when they feel ready.  You are never forced or made to do anything.  Working at your own pace when you are ready to volunteer to do behavioral activities is the only way to effectively overcome social anxiety.


We run the active, structured cognitive-behavioral therapy group for people who are willing and motivated to overcome social anxiety.  This means we work with people who will do what’s necessary to overcome social anxiety. 

We can only work with self-motivated people.  We cannot accept people unless they themselves want to participate.   There is nothing anyone can do unless change is wanted by the individual themselves.  This means a willing and active participant in the group.    

The therapy group is held all day on Saturday, and at the end of the session the group plans activities for the next week in the evenings.  Meeting together with the other group members and learning to be comfortable with them in all types of situations is part of the program and is a necessary step in overcoming social anxiety.   You can't stay home and simply come to the Saturday sessions and hope to get better.   We have found an active approach works much better and faster.  

The group will discuss evening activities and/or weekend activities, but it will not be every night, and we need to leave Friday night open to relax and get a good night's sleep before the Saturday session begins.   Meeting with other group members outside of the Saturday sessions helps you by reminding each other of the anti-anxiety strategies to use as you are in various situations.  You pick the activities you want to go to, but attending the event when they are scheduled, working regularly with a therapy “buddy” and eventually participating in the behavioral experiments is all an essential part of the program.  

We ask you to sign a contract stating you understand and will comply with the therapy as we only want to work with motivated people who are going to get better.   Again, you need to work on this program  everyday, 7 day a week, as you know if you've started the series.   Everything is geared toward helping you use the solutions in the program to get better and feel less anxious.   Visiting with Dr. Richards when necessary is very helpful, and costs can be adjusted if necessary.

Please do not apply unless you meet the following qualifications:

  1. The new application must be filled out fully.  Questions need to be answered completely.  No simple or short answers, please. 

  2. It is necessary to be through session three (3) in the audio/video series at the time of application, and you need to guarantee that you will work through session six (6) before the group actually starts. 

  3. Three (3) individual sessions with Dr. Richards are needed before before the group starts.  The first is a diagnostic session.  In the second appointment we talk about everything the group does, both cognitively and behaviorally, so you will have no surprises.  In the final pre-group appointment, you’ll discuss the therapy sessions themselves with Dr. Richards.   Please schedule appropriately:  No more than one appointment per week, and do not plan last week or last minute appointments.    You can make appointments through the office at 602.230.7316

  4. People moving here from out of town must check in with the office BEFORE moving.   Please do NOT move here until you are formally accepted into the group.   You MUST tell us where (location) you’re planning on living so we can give you general advice and make sure you are living a reasonable driving distance from SAI. 

We want to prevent problems that have existed in the past and hinder people from overcoming social anxiety.

Living a reasonable distance from SAI is important for participating in weeknight therapy activities.  (We’ve now had someone who’s moved to Phoenix, but was 75 miles away from SAI, making it difficult for the person to therapize with the other group members.)  Although everyone agrees in writing to take part in the activities, we’ve now had three (3) people who did not carry through with this, and took up space in the group that someone else who was more motivated could have had.

It is necessary to hang out with other group members sometimes in the evenings so that you can get to know them and feel comfortable in their presence.  You will also find a therapy friend that helps you with the solutions as you help them (you motivate and hold each other accountable).  Keep in mind that people with social anxiety are non-judgmental, and you will not feel self-consciousness in the group.  The group activities are planned by you, the group members, and we only move one step at a time.  We learn how to gradually, and without anxiety, ease into situations.  Later, the group works together doing behavioral experiments, usually at a large shopping center. 

We would  rather run a group with 5 motivated people than have a group of eight who won’t do what’s necessary to overcome social anxiety.  It’s exciting when people are motivated to get better.  You can feel the therapeutic electricity in the air.

Since we move slowly, one step at a time, and gently guide you through each step, and since you will have daily help and support, making progress is not difficult.  But when a group member doesn’t do the therapy and/or refuses to take part in the scheduled activities, they have essentially chosen not to get better.  Please do not plan to join the group unless you really want to overcome social anxiety and will do what’s necessary.  The process takes regular interaction with the other group members. 

We are located almost directly off the northern loop of the freeway (101) and access to the Institute is easy.  Please use Google Earth to map out exactly where we are: 2058 E. Topeka Dr. 85024.  However, living on the other end of the city – which could be 100 miles away -- will prohibit you from taking part in the therapy program – and participation is important to overcoming social anxiety.   

This is a comprehensive program that requires regular participation with other group members.  You plan events during the week and the cognitive/behavioral therapy group is conducted on Saturday.  

Our groups consist only of people with social anxiety.  The groups are friendly and highly therapeutic.  Working together with other people like you adds a tremendous amount of proactivity to the program.  You will always have the encouragement and support of Dr. Richards and staff.  Plus, you will always be surrounded by your group members who will help you when needed just as you will help them.  Your decision to actively and persistently work on overcoming social anxiety will change your life.

The first group meeting covers sessions #1-4 in the online therapy series, "Overcoming Social Anxiety: Step by Step".  It is imperative people be conversant with the therapy and have a good understanding of it.    Having this cognitive understanding and knowledge will allow you to make more efficient and faster progress in the group. 


The Social Anxiety Institute uses social-anxiety specific cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), from the perspective of mindfulness and acceptance.  The only therapy shown to be effective for overcoming social anxiety disorder is this form of cognitive-behavioral therapy.  Another way of explaining this type of therapy is RATIONAL emotive therapy.   Learning to see things "rationally" is an essential part of the program.    Please take the time to read these articles:

What is CBT?
Why CBT works for Social Anxiety
Successful Social Anxiety Groups

Please also read the main articles on this website.  We're looking for people who understand the importance of repetition and reinforcement.

Appropriate CBT for social anxiety is not difficult, by itself.  But, the program will emphasize the persistence necessary to overcome this disorder.  You must be motivated and willing to change in order for CBT to work.  In therapy, we work toward a rational, permanent change in the brain’s neural pathways, to include the thoughts, feelings, perceptions, emotions, and behaviors.  The brain can only process new thoughts and beliefs with repetition of rational information over a period of time.  The key words here are repetition and consistency.

Participating in the group is much easier than you expect.  There is never a rational reason to be anxious about participation.  Dr. Richards lived with social anxiety for 40 years, so he understands how to run a group without causing you anxiety or embarrassment.  You are never singled out, called on to answer questions, or made the center of attention.  You must be ready, not forced, to do these things for therapy to be effective.  The group operates on a volunteer basis.  Only when you are ready will you volunteer to answer questions, read publicly, or do any other activity.  You are never pressured, forced, or coerced into doing anything.

Group members are always relieved to find an entire group of people who have social anxiety just like they do.  The realization that you are not alone is very motivating. People fit in the group fairly quickly and make acquaintances and friends faster than they expect.

The Local Phoenix Group is held on Saturdays from 10 to 2:30.  During the last few minutes, the group plans the activities for the week's activities based on what you want to do and your schedules.  Later on, you can plan what you want to work on that will help you overcome social anxiety (e.g., shopping center experiments, etc.)  We consider TWO (2) ten week groups to be the minimum attendance needed to overcome social anxiety.  Every one is different, but one ten week group will provide help that you can feel (quantify) but it will not be enough to "overcome" social anxiety or make you happy.  Instead, you will want to keep making progress.  Continuing with your friends in the group will make sense to you at this point.  


All groups are open and friendly.  Only people with social anxiety are members.  We will move along in an easy, step by step manner, with no pressure being put on you.  You do not need to say or do anything until you feel ready to participate.  It is much easier to participate in the group than you think.  We do not want you to have or to reinforce anxiety.  We will come at the problem completely differently than you've ever done before.  We will take one little step a time -- one that will cause only the smallest amount of nervousness -- and gradually move up from there.  The small, or incremental, steps help you make forward progress much faster than you think.  

Doing the therapy, cognitive and behavioral, and hanging out with other group members will change your life completely.  The brain does learn new rational thoughts and habits, and you learn to reduce and keep reducing anxiety, day by day.   We want to stay consistent with our persistence in doing the therapy every day.  It's not hard to do at all -- most people say it's fairly easy, in fact. 

*  Note that under TrumpCare, insurance for mental health care problems is no longer covered.  Insurance for health conditions will be cut drastically.  We usually accepted insurance by having   you can file it with your own insurance company with Dr. Richards' diagnosis and signature.  However, this will not be covered anymore under TrumpCare.  If you do not like this, please write your Congressperson, and vote sanely in the next election.   In the past,  Dr. Richards signed insurance forms and included the ecessary DSM-5 diagnosis code.  Dr. Richards is a licensed psychologist with a Ph.D. from Arizona State University.

Individual Appointment Fees *

Appointment Fee
Diagnostic Appointment  (1st appointment) $175.00
Individual Appointments   (all other appointments) $150.00

We have not raised our fees in over 15 years, but will be forced to rethink this with the new administration in Washington doing their best to pressure us to raise fees significantly.  We do not want to do this and wish that our patients would protest to their congress people about this unjust bill.  Under the ACA (Obamacare), everything was headed in the right direction and people were being helped. 

Initial individual appointments are at regular rates.  Sliding fee scale does not apply.

*See Requirements for explanation on appointments.

Regular Rate

The Regular Rate is $150.00 per group or individual session.  After the initial three sessions, you can use the sliding fee if needed.

Sliding Fee Scale Rates

The Sliding Fee Scale is available only for participants in need of financial assistance.  To be eligible for Sliding Fee Scale Rates, participant will sign a formal statement as to financial status and submit a previous year’s income tax filing return.  Sliding Fee Scale Rates are based on annual family income.

Annual Family Income Fee per Group Session
Over $100,000 $150.00
$75,000 - $99,999 $140.00
$50,000 - $74,999 $130.00
$25,000 - $49,999 $115.00
0 - $25,000 $100.00

If you file your own insurance, Dr. Richards will sign and date your form, according to law.  (We can no longer do this under TrumpCare.)
Note:  At this time, rates may raise from what they are currently.
Group members individual appointments with Dr. Richards during the group can be adjusted below sliding scale rates if financial circumstances dictate. 

Application for the all-day Saturday Phoenix therapy program.