Thirty years of broad-based academic research, published in the best journals, definitively shows that cognitive-behavioral therapy helps people with social anxiety disorder get better. Many of these articles, some in abstract form, can be found on the internet, and other journals can be accessed through libraries or internet paywalls.
Psychologists and psychiatrists have studied hundreds of different aspects concerning social anxiety disorder, and the strongest conclusion that can be drawn from all this research is that structured cognitive- behavioral therapy works to help people overcome social anxiety.
Many times people say "I've been through cognitive-behavioral therapy and it didn't help me." The answer is that you were not going through a legitimate cognitive-behavioral therapy group. This is a sad fact of life. Not all therapists have the understanding or the dedication to run comprehensive cognitive-therapy groups. Some therapists even try the old "How was your day?" approach, which never works.
We have spent many pages of this website in describing what a successful cognitive-behavioral therapy group should include. The most difficult part of this is that there aren't CBT groups like this almost anywhere in the world.
At the Social Anxiety Institute, we have learned, over the years, that therapy must be comprehensive. The more time spent in learning the cognitive strategies and the more time that is allowed to do the behavioral activities -- the better outcome there will be. We have given up short-term evening groups, in which people are tired at the end of the day, and replaced them with weekend groups, particularly our all-day Saturday group, where we seven hours to work on both cognitive and behavioral therapy. In addition, we have activities six nights of the week for group members so they can put the cognitive strategies into place in their daily life.
Again, to overcome social anxiety, the approach must be comprehensive in nature.
Most people would be amazed at the progress a person can make in one fourteen-week group. For example, one activity that scares people before therapy is introductions (we call them "The Circle of Death").
As we gently proceed, and I break this down into small pieces, "cognitivizing" everything we do, it isn't long before everyone in the group is willing to try doing the circle of death. From the very first trial, the introductions sound calm, clear, and professional.
That is the whole point of the social anxiety therapy group. We learn to do things without having anxiety. No matter what we work on in the behavioral therapy session, what we are doing is learning to calm down and reduce our anxiety. When we feel no anxiety about introducing ourselves in public, then we feel less anxiety in general. This reduction in anxiety spreads over into other areas of life quite nicely.
Sticking with the therapy, step by step, in a structured, systematic, and consistent manner guarantees you will overcome social anxiety.
Those with biological or neurological knowledge, realize this is all related to the brain's neural pathway systems. As you learn to calm down and have less anxiety, the wiring in your brain is literally changing, and the change in brain circuitry is permanent. There is no way to relapse from this kind of therapy.
Other therapies do not work because they do not change the neurons or neural pathway sytems in the brain. Only direct, structured cognitive-behavioral therapy can do that.
Anyone who follows the therapy through, has patience, and reinforces what they're learning, gets better.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy only works if the person is motivated to get better. So if someone isn't ready to get better or is too depressed, then they should be encouraged to wait. People ready and willing to get over social anxiety do so.
That is why the Social Anxiety Institute exists.