International Group

Therapy Information


Read all about the program (below).  Candidates need to have come close to finishing the series "Overcoming Social Anxiety: Step by Step" so that we can spend most of the group time on behavioral activities.  Thomas A. Richards. psychologist, Matthew Whitley, behavioral therapist.   

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

We use social-anxiety specific cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), to help you overcome social anxiety.  To clear up philosophical misunderstandings, we use gentle "mindful" CBT, which is the only therapy shown to be effective for overcoming social anxiety disorder.  Take the time to read these links:

What is CBT?
Why CBT works for social anxiety

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.  The articles, the therapy, the 3-Week Program – all will emphasize these necessary points.

The cognitive therapy is reiterated while we are doing the behavioral therapy here in Phoenix.  Thus, it is vitally important that you have taken the appropriate time to learn, read, and practice the cognitive therapy in the audio series, "Overcoming Social Anxiety: Step by Step," BEFORE you come to the 3-Week Group.  If you have not done this, your 3 weeks in Phoenix will be a waste of time and money.

Behavioral Therapy

Our 3-Week Group works best with at least 7 and no more than 8 committed people.  In an active, structured CBT group, we work directly on our anxiety hierarchies.  This means that we practice the things that make us anxious, gradually.  We work up our “anxiety list” slowly and in a hierarchical manner, repeating things often.  In this way, anxiety can be reduced, and you will feel ready to take the next step.  Read more about behavioral therapy activities here.

As you improve, YOU make the decision to move slowly up your hierarchy, gently and slowly without surprises.  We will always “rationalize” or “cognit-ize” your behavioral steps to make sure that you are on the right path mentally (cognitively) with what you are doing physically (behaviorally).

Behavioral “experiments” will be planned and structured.  We will need your cooperation to do some on weekdays and on Saturdays. These experiments are done with someone else from the group and will be fully explained to you.  They are very powerful and positively reinforcing.  You will find that they are nowhere near as difficult as you think.  And, as you know, we will start small – there will be no jumping off gangplanks.  Real-life experiments with other group members will also be planned and carried out with help from SAI “mentors."  We join the Local CBT Group on Saturdays for some practical help with strangers.  Of course, these strangers are simply other people with social anxiety disorder also.

We deliberately leave some afternoon/evening time for these practical experiments done in the real world.  You will always have help for these experiments.  Your other group members are a real asset to therapy in these situations.

All outside-SAI experiments will be thoroughly discussed beforehand and will proceed in a step-by-step fashion.  You will not be pushed or pressured into doing things that are too difficult for you at the time.


Who is helped most by the 3-Week Group? - People who come prepared ahead of time.  These are very motivated people who have finished the cognitive audio therapy series and reviewed it several times.  These are people who have genuinely been doing the cognitive therapy daily and consistently.  (It is not unusual to find people who have spent several years reinforcing the solutions to social anxiety and want to come for an intensive behavioral group.)

Success rates for motivated people are very high.  Over the last 20+ years of running CBT groups at SAI, we have found the 3-Week program to be very helpful to anyone who is committed to change.  However, there is not an adequate research knowledge base available at this time concerning intensive CBT treatment.  Research has generally addressed only short-term, time-limited, weekly-only treatment.

It would be accurate to say, at the very minimum, that you will feel and think better, and you will have the tools to continue improving when you return home.

Testimonial Quote

It will be important to continue your CBT exercises after you get home.  If this is done faithfully, we have found people improve significantly and continue their recovery after returning home.  Because CBT produces permanent changes in the brain, the methods, beliefs, techniques, and strategies you learn will not be forgotten.

You will not be “perfect” or “anxiety-free” at the end of just 3 weeks.  But, if you continue to apply what you have learned when you get back home, you will continue to improve.


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