What Goes On in the 3 Week Group?

I Answered Random Questions, I was Put on the Spot, I Made Presentations,
I was in charge of job interviews, and was interviewed myself, 
I was Assertive and Stood Up to a Rude Employee,
I Introduced Myself at work, in college, and at social gatherings,
I Danced Like A Chicken, 
I wiggled like a worm, and
Discovered I was “bad”… (so bad, so really, really bad)!


By Trevor Mason

I have been asked many times what goes on in the three-week therapy groups at the Social Anxiety Institute.  Since so many people want to know details about what we do, I am motivated to write down all I can remember and summarize the therapy we do during the three-week period.  

I started the process by submitting my application to Dr. Richards in February, and he contacted me shortly after reading over my application.  (To be accepted, one needs to meet some common sense requirements.  You can read about the requirements on the SAI group therapy page here.)

Everything we did during these three weeks was geared toward overcoming social anxiety, so the group members and I worked gently and repeatedly on behavioral activities to decrease our

  • Self-consciousness around other people,
  • Fear of being the center of attention,
  • Avoidance habits we have formed throughout life because of our anxiety.

These are major symptoms of social anxiety.

In my group, there were eight participants.  Five of us were from the states, and we also had people from the UK, Croatia, and Australia.  Each group is different in its composition, and some groups are almost entirely made up of people from other countries.  That is why we call this three-week group the “international group”.

Each day we spend six or more hours at the Social Anxiety Institute (SAI) with Dr. Richards.  He fully explains and reinforces the behavioral therapy while emphasizing the cognitive concepts and rational beliefs that go along with them.

All behavioral exercises are done voluntarily.  I had to say I was willing to do a behavioral exercise before doing it.  Dr. Richards makes it clear that the motivation to do these cognitive and behavioral exercises must come from inside us. 

It is my desire to get over social anxiety that allows me to move forward.  All behavioral exercises we do are explained in great detail, and Dr. Richards uses examples from his former clients to get messages across to us.  The cognitive and behavioral therapy we do needs to make rational, common sense in our brain for us to get better.  We also learn that once is not enough.  We do things repeatedly to the point where we "overlearn" behavioral and cognitive strategies.  Repetition and reinforcement are constantly emphasized because that is the only way the human brain learns new habits, and gets rid of old, destructive beliefs.  

Here are some of the behavioral activities we practiced at SAI during the three weeks:

Making Introductions (for business, social gatherings, college/educational situations) 

Introductions are when we go around the room and introduce ourselves to a group of people.  Since this causes a lot of anxiety for most of us, we practice gently calming ourselves down, de-stressing ourselves, and relaxing when it is our turn to talk. 

We practice giving a short and concise introduction by saying our name, where we are from, and a few of our interests.  These introductions vary depending on if they are in the context of a business setting, a social setting, or a college setting.  By keeping our introductions short and concise, we don't keep blabbing on forever about our lives, and we don’t question when we should stop talking.  This can make giving introductions much easier for us.  By ending our introduction with a drop in our tone of voice, it signifies to the next person that we are done talking and it is their turn. 

Through practicing giving these short introductions over and over, eventually we learn not to have so much anticipatory anxiety leading up to our turn.  We learn to externally focus on what is being said, and we become more and more confident and skilled at the task.  It was surprising to hear how calm and professional we sounded; but this is an activity we practiced every day, so it is natural to have made a lot of progress with it.

The name given to these introductions at SAI is "The Circle of Death."  While this may sound ominous, group members like the name because they can see it isn’t true.  While we may not like giving introductions and we may feel uncomfortable with it at times, we all realized that we were not going to "die" from doing it.  Therefore naming it “The Circle of Death” actually eased tension about the situation because it added some humor to what we were doing.

Mingling with Others 

Mingling is making "small talk" with one or two other group members, and then switching every few minutes to talk with someone new.  By learning not to over-think or analyze what we talk about, we realize that anything we say is fine because we are just making “small” talk. 

To reduce anxiety in this situation, we slow ourselves down, loosen our muscles, and focus externally on what the other person is saying.  If we do these things, and realize that small talk is no big deal, we become more comfortable and less anxious about it over time.  We also had the opportunity to meet local group members every Saturday we were here.  On the first Saturday we didn’t know them, so we made a lot of small talk to find out their names and other information about them, doing this in the “therapy” way I just explained.

Proactivity Reports

In our proactivity talks each day, we talk about the specific proactive steps we made against social anxiety since our last talk, and/or any cognitive realizations we may have discovered.  We talked about what we did outside SAI, and anything else that related to our progress.

The point is to be comfortable being the center of attention and to share with the rest of the group some small steps we are making against social anxiety.  Others can learn from our experiences and be encouraged to continue making progress themselves.  This also further helps us relate to each other, as we all go through many of the same problems. 

For example ,it helped me make deeper friendships with other group members, and gave me a “team effort” mentality.  We were all working on overcoming social anxiety together, so why not help each other out as much as possible?

Conversing across the room

In this exercise, we are paired with another person across the room and we hold a conversation with them while everyone else is talking across the room with their partners.  This helped me to focus externally on the other person.  We all had to focus on what the other person was saying so that we could hear them above all the talking, while also ignoring other conversations going on around us. 

This exercise also helped me with voice projection, as I needed to speak especially loud in order to be heard by my partner.  I saw and heard myself on video and realized I was speaking too quietly.  In addition, voice projection is something that most people with social anxiety need to work on, and it is something I made progress on during the group.

Conversing across the room also helped me not worry so much about what I talked about.  It’s  all small talk, and it’s a success just to be able to hear what is said and then respond to it in a loud and clear voice.

Assertion Role Plays

To become more assertive when necessary, we worked on assertion role plays.  These could be a variety of things, such as giving my personal opinion to the whole group and then purposely having them disagree with my idea.  The goal is to stand up for my position no matter how much others attack and belittle me and my ideas.  I also learned to be as calm and relaxed about it as possible.  The more I stood up for my ideas, and practiced on slowing myself down, relaxing my muscles, and loosening up, the easier it became.   Being calm in a tense situation like this melts  our anxiety and fear.  I stood up for myself calmly and rationally, and felt myself remain calm in the face of verbal criticism. 

Dr. Richards stressed staying in the moment while we were doing this, and he let the role play go on longer than it would in actual real-life situations, to give us the chance to work on being calm and relaxed, and answering in a calm, deliberate way, and being clear and precise when we talked.

Another example of an assertion role play is the infamous “Line 13” role play that has been used in the SAI groups since Dr. Richards began group therapy  in the early 90s. 

In the "Line 13" role play, we work on assertiveness by refusing to walk away from a mean clerk at the DMV who won’t give us our driver’s license.  The clerk keeps saying we need to fill out "line 13" on the form before she can accept it.  Line 13 says that it is optional, however, and so the assertive person has every right not to fill out the line, and to get a driver’s license.  By acting out this role play, we learn to stand up to others who may be treating us unfairly or using us as a doormat. 

By not avoiding the situation, we learn to have a "thicker skin" when someone is treating us unfairly, and this “thicker skin” bleeds over into other situations where we need to be more assertive (and less anxious).  Not being assertive causes us additional anxiety, and if we learn to calmly stand up to others instead, our anxiety goes down.

In this role play, one group member plays the role of the rude person, while another is the assertive person.  Both roles are beneficial in giving us a thicker skin and making us less sensitive to criticism.  The “rude” role is more difficult to act out, because the rude person has to blatantly act mean to others; something that people with social anxiety don’t have much practice with.

Being Put on the Spot..."Call on you" Questions

This exercise is used to help us get used to being put on the spot without letting our anxieties get the better of us.  We also learn to be okay with whatever response we give, as it's impossible to answer any question perfectly.  Dr. Richards once asked me, "Trevor, what does patriotic mean?  Is it always good to be patriotic or not?  How do other people define it?"

I was asked this question out of the blue, which put me on the spot.  Everyone else in the room watched and was listening to how I responded, which helped me work on my self-consciousness and fear of being the center of attention.  I answered as best as I could, with the therapy emphasis being on calming myself down, relaxing as much as possible, and using slow talk when I began to speak.  

Dr. R always asks these questions seriously, as it is necessary to make the situation as realistic as possible.  He continues to follow up our responses with more questions, and doesn’t always give us positive or affirming feedback, which is typically what happens in a classroom or work environment. 

For example, in college the instructor might call on you to answer a question, or at work your boss may single you out at a business meeting and ask you a question about the project you’re working on.  We use the cognitive strategies of taking our time and keeping the pressure off ourselves.  By responding to the questions calmly, clearly, and to the point, we prevent our anxiety and worry from taking hold.  If we use (and repeat) the cognitive strategies, our anxiety always goes down.  By repeating “call on you” questions over and over, we learn to relax more when we are called on, rather than tensing up and getting stuck in “anxiety overdrive.”  

Eye contact exercises

In this exercise we make extended eye contact with another person in the group.  This is not a staring contest – it is a calm situation in which we maintain eye contact for a minute or two without saying anything.  At other times we converse with our partner while holding eye contact throughout the conversation.  These exercises allow us to be more comfortable with making eye contact and having less and less anxiety about it.

There are many different exercises for eye contact difficulties, as this is an area in which someone may have a dysmorphia (i.e., a long-held, strong belief that is irrational).   

Deliberately Doing Something Foolish

For this exercise, we deliberately do something "foolish" or embarrassing for us.  For the majority of us, this was out of our comfort zone and initially caused quite a bit of anxiety.   (Dr. Richards asked us to practice this in our hotel rooms at night.)  As we put ourselves out there and allowed ourselves to act foolishly – anyone could have criticized or disliked us – instead, we found that others thought it was funny and it helped them relate to us at a deeper level.

Some things our group did:  Some people acted like an animal or made animal noises.   Others  did jumping jacks in front of the group, or rolled around on the ground, pretending to be an earthworm.  We played Simon Says and give everyone a chance to be Simon, which allowed everyone to act foolish together.   Doing something foolish with another person can make it easier to act foolishly, especially to start with.  I was able to do several foolish things and was able to be calm enough so that I could laugh at myself, too.  

I rolled around on the ground like a worm, danced like a chicken, and pretended to be an ostrich and a seal.   (Being an ostrich was hard!)  


A group member will ask for acting suggestions, and act out whatever the group members choose for them.  Sometimes it was a scene from a movie, or a famous actor, or a common ordinary situation, like “Breakfast at My House”.    The whole idea is that we get comfortable with not "being perfect" or thinking we have to follow a strict “code of behavior."  Anything we do is fine, and the other group members usually laugh at what we decide to do.

Laughing exercises 

The group forms a circle and just start laughing for no specific reason.  Everyone's laughing will start out as fake, but eventually – this takes several days/weeks of doing this exercise -- genuine laughter emerges.  The more we practice this, the easier it becomes, and the more comfortable we are with getting into laughter mode.  While some people have anxiety about it at first, they find that it actually causes less anxiety to join in with the laughter once they start to  laugh.  This must be practiced (like everything else) but with time, I was able to get to the place where I could begin laughing genuinely in a short period of time.

Laughter is always great medicine for anxiety because it's pretty much impossible to experience anxiety while having a good laugh, and it helps to exercise the diaphragm also.  Research shows that laughter is a good physiological process for our bodies, and we feel better after doing it.  It can also help us to build up more “positive” emotions, which directly cut down on anxiety.

Individual time

On each day of therapy we had "individual time,” meaning that each group member chose a specific anxiety exercise to work on.  People pick the activity they want to work on (i.e., something that causes them anxiety), and chose to work on it, repeat it, and do it again.  As an example, during individual time group members read from a book out loud, gave an impromptu speech, or worked on a formal speech.  Other choices included working on voice projection (i.e., speaking more loudly), answering questions from a book or from other group members, working on assertion role plays, etc.  Everyone has the choice every day to specifically work on the things that cause them the most anxiety.   As these things are practiced in the appropriate manner, people learn to reduce their anxiety while engaged in the activity.  The event that caused anxiety no longer causes anxiety.    

Impromptu (Unplanned) talks

Some group members gave an impromptu talk about a topic they understood fairly well.  The talk may last 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the topic and the person.  The subject is always something the person knows well, and has spoken about before.  Impromptu means they did not plan this out and did not prepare this ahead of time.  The person does this to get practice making unscheduled talks in front of a group of people, without worrying what others think.  All of this helps reduce anxiety.

Formal talks/Speeches

Sometimes, group members will bring in poems or speeches.  Or they may have a particular presentation on a computer and they want to practice giving a professional presentation.  This is a more serious and organized talk, so it may be more anxiety causing for some people.  This is especially helpful for group members who have to give speeches or presentations at their jobs, because they can focus on specifically reducing their anxiety symptoms and calming down while giving the talk.

By practicing these activities, I learned not to worry or focus on whether others think my speech is interesting or not.   I just focused on giving the presentation as calmly as possible, and using slow talk, so that anxiety cannot interfere.

Voice Projection

Sometimes group members speak too quietly and feel invisible, so practicing voice projection can be very beneficial.   One way of working on this is placing two people in different rooms and holding a conversation across the house.  The person needs to project their voice to be heard by others.   This is a great way to help people get used to talking louder without feeling embarrassed about it or having anxiety about it.  Paradoxically, when people start to speak more loudly, they also feel more confident -- and anxiety goes down as a result.

Job Interviews

This is another "serious" role play in which we work on our anxiety concerning being put on the spot and made the center of attention while answering questions calmly, clearly, and concisely.  A business meeting around a table is a good way to set this role play up.  One person is the hiring committee chairperson and is in charge of the meeting.  The person in charge asks the committee to come up with a good question to ask the interviewee.  The committee comes up with a few suggestions, and the person in charge walks to the door and gets the applicant, who is waiting to be interviewed.

Then everyone at the table goes around and introduces themselves, and someone will ask the applicant a job related question.  All the questions asked of the applicant are common questions that are typically asked in job interviews.   The point of this role play is to see how to reduce anxiety when in a situation like this.  The therapy involves slowing down and  relaxing as much as possible (instead of tensing up), and taking your time when under pressure.   Dr. Richards asks us to wait three to five seconds before answering a question, so that we can calm ourselves down and gather our thoughts before answering.  

This helped me reduce my anticipatory anxiety when I was put on the spot.  I allowed myself time to loosen up and calm down so that I could take the pressure off myself and answer questions calmly, clearly, and concisely. 

Being videotaped

We are videotaped each day at SAI so that we can see how we come across to others.  It is difficult to know how we are seen and heard from the eyes and ears of others, without seeing an actual video recording of what we did.  By getting each member’s activity on video, we help prove to ourselves that we appear “normal” when we are working gently against our anxiety. 

An interesting thing that happens is that people remember times when they felt anxious during their activity, but when they watch themselves on camera, they cannot “see” any anxiety.  Even if they felt a lot of anxiety during their individual time or proactivity report, it is not noticeable when seen and heard on video.  This surprised me, and it seems to surprise everyone who was in my group.  I feel more confident now about what I do and how I’m coming across, because I’ve seen what is actually true.  I know that the “camera” can’t lie.  The ANTs thoughts and feelings inside my head can lie.  But the video camera tells me the truth. 

So I am in the process of changing my thinking and my beliefs even further.   I am beginning to believe that I come across well to other people, that I sound professional when I slow down, and that I look normal and good.  I don’t see even a trace of anxiety.  

Some people in the group didn’t like the sound of their voice or their appearance the first few times they saw and heard themselves, so getting used to the sound of your voice and your appearance is something everyone goes through, but it helps us to be able to accept ourselves more fully.  It can also make us more aware of ways we can change certain things, such as speaking louder, looking around the room more, or being more expressive during a talk.

But it definitely showed me that I looked and sounded fine when I was up in front of the room.  

Skits and Goofy Karaoke's (we learned to laugh at ourselves)

For this exercise, the group is split into two halves, with each half working on their own "Goofy Karaoke,” in which they choose a song to choreograph and move around (or dance) to.  We also choose silly outfits or costumes to wear, and may make goofy sounds during the song, or sing along (badly) to it.  Anything the group decides to do is fine.  These are practiced during the week (although not much time is given to this), and then performed on Saturday, in front of everyone else in attendance (i.e., the local group), so there may be twenty people watching each performance. 

Four of us chose to do “Rock Lobster”, “Brick House” and “Bad”.   We did them together, but one of the members volunteered to be the front person for “Bad”.   We found outfits (costumes) to wear that were silly, and we did some goofy dance moves to fit in with the music. 

The point of these "Goofy Karaoke’s" is to learn to be loose and comfortable in front of people while deliberately acting stupid and foolish.  We want to be able to laugh at ourselves -- even when people in the audience are watching us and possibly judging our performance.  When these Goofy Karaoke’s are performed, most people find that they are not as difficult as they seem.  I think all of us were able to laugh at ourselves and not take ourselves so seriously.  After all, who cares?  So what?  It’s no big deal.  It’s was also fun to do, and helps us focus on our sense of humor, laughter, and lightheartedness, which are all antidotes to anxiety.

A skit is also planned and practiced, and then performed on the final Saturday we are at SAI.  The point of the skit is essentially the same as with the goofy karaoke’s.  We want to be the center of attention and deliberately act foolishly in front of other  people, without having our anxieties take control of us. 

Some examples of skits people have done are acting like Dr. Richards, running a “fake” therapy group for social anxiety, Social Anxiety Jeopardy, The Social Anxiety Dating Game, etc.  None of the skits need to be therapy related; the point is to be the center of attention and play an acting role, while learning to be okay with it.

In one of my skits, we did intentionally-exaggerated “Before and After” portrayals of how we were before starting therapy -- and how we were afterwards.  I played a really shy guy who couldn’t even talk to the sales woman when I was buying things at a drug store.  I was bashful and timid, and couldn’t look her in the eye.  She asked me what was wrong with me, and when I couldn’t answer, she called me a “goofball” and a “loser”.

Then, later (miraculously!), we return to her store and I was all confident and cool, wearing an expensive suit and sunglasses and pumping my muscles.  She hears I am rich and immediately falls in love with me, leaving her job to follow me, swooning after me and kissing my bulging biceps.  (This turned out to be very funny, and the goal is that I can laugh at myself and the skit I just acted out.)

All this is silly, stupid, funny, and goofy, but that is the point.  We want to “make fun of ourselves” in front of a group of people and learn it is OK.  What this does, of course, is make other people laugh, show them I am a person who wants to engage in life (instead of being inhibited and avoiding it), and draws other people closer to me.

Keeping up the Momentum

Outside of the behavioral activities we practice at SAI, Dr. R talks (and talks!) about cognitive material that is relevant to what we are doing, which helps us be more rational and realistic.  The cognitive material is essential, as it’s impossible to make permanent changes and progress against social anxiety without first changing the brain and the inaccurate beliefs we’ve held concerning  ourselves and the world.  We must start to view things more rationally and accurately, before we can feel our anxiety lessen.

It is important to tie in the cognitive therapy with the behavioral activities we do, because it makes our progress faster and it continues to make permanent changes in the neural pathway systems in our brain.

Dr. R discusses why we need to "keep up the momentum" when we go home, and in our proactivity reports we talk about specific behavioral changes we plan on making when we get  home to help us keep moving forward, step by step, against social anxiety.  This is an important topic, because although it is motivating and exciting to be making so much progress in the group, we are not fully “cured” in just three weeks.  By continuing to practice behavioral experiments and social activities each day when we are home, we cement our progress into place, little by little, so the irrational anxiety thoughts and feelings can’t disrupt our lives as they did in the past.  

Evening Activities and Experiments (Exposures)

Each day after therapy, the group decides on an activity for the evening.  The first few days consisted of doing things to relax and help us feel comfortable around each other.  We ate at restaurants and hung out at the hotel pool or someone’s room, and played games like Guesstures or Taboo together.  Playing these games had therapeutic benefits, as they usually raised our self-consciousness, and, at times, we became the center of attention.  Despite this, the group often laughed and had a good time playing these games, which helped us realize that even if we were experiencing anxiety during the game, it was okay because anxiety goes away with practice and persistence.

After we became more comfortable with one another, we started doing more "social" things outside of the hotel (e.g., bowling, dance lessons, going to a high-octane rap concert, hiking, art walks).  Activities like these helped us feel more loose and relaxed.  In my group, we did lots of freestyle dancing at the concert and at nightclubs, and sometimes around large groups of strangers.  I found I didn’t need to be so self-conscious when dancing because other people didn’t notice me that much anyway, so I proved to myself first hand that I did not need to have anxiety about any of this.  These “experiments” proved to be powerful social experiments for all of us.

Our social activities included things that helped us become more comfortable with small talk and socializing.  We used “the look around technique" and other cognitive strategies while engaged in our social activities, to help prove to ourselves that people are not judging or criticizing us as much as we think they are.  Consequently, these cognitive techniques help us reduce our anxiety while in these social situations.

After getting to know each other better, we decided to meet the local group members and hang out with some of them.

When we had more time, usually on the weekends, we went out of town to Sedona and also visited different places throughout the metropolitan Phoenix area like the art walk, different nightclubs, and an Improv Comedy Show.  We also went to a mall once again to work on more anxiety "experiments," and we mini-golfed and spent a day at the water park.  

Behavioral Experiments

We went to a large shopping mall to practice different "behavioral experiments" that were individualized for each group member.  Before we left, Dr. Richards had each of us list several experiments we wanted to do at the shopping mall which we thought would cause us some anxiety.  These experiments cover a large range of things that social anxiety people struggle with.

Here are some of the behavioral experiments we engaged in:

Voice projecting from one floor of the mall to another –

This helped us work on self-consciousness and center of attention fears.  We projected our voices from one floor of the mall to the other, talking to another group member above or below us.   I looked around to see how other people in the mall took notice of me or responded to me negatively.  Interestingly, I noticed that some people observed me for a second or two, and then looked away when they realized my conversation was not related to them.  Others did not look at me whatsoever, since talking from one floor to another in a mall is a common thing friends and family do, when necessary.   This experiment also helped me practice voice projection in a more "real life" setting.

Going up or down the escalator facing the wrong way

This is a self-consciousness exercise and is something that may draw people's attention because it's so unusual.  By doing this, and then observing others' reactions, we can see how much they’re really paying attention to us.  Sometimes others will just not notice or care at all.  Others may look at us for a second or two, and then look away.  People’s responses vary, but it’s up to us to prove to ourselves what the rational truth is in these situations.

Dropping a tray in a crowded food court

We do this to work on being the center of attention, and to use the “look around technique” to see how others react.  The tray makes a very loud noise when it hits the ground, and it can startle people sitting nearby.  Others often look for a few seconds, but then get on with their own conversations.  

The point of this experiment is to slow down and take it easy when we become the center of attention. I found that if I looked around and observed others, no one “thought negatively” of me for dropping my tray on the ground.  In fact, some people were concerned and asked if they could help.  I have done this experiment several times now, and have not received any negative responses at all.

Singing "happy birthday" to a group member while they look around and observe others’ reactions

Once again this is working on being the center of attention.  This seems very anxiety-provoking at first, especially if you are in a crowded restaurant.  To my surprise, although all the group members were singing loudly to me, when I looked around, the majority of strangers were not even looking my way.  Some of them were curious and looked, but then they quickly looked away.  Sometimes there were even people who smiled and wanted to sing along as well!  This was surprising since the first time I did this experiment I was expecting to look around and see negative, judgmental faces.

Making eye contact with people passing by

This is done to prove that not as many people are "staring at us” or judging us as we might think.  Most people are just wrapped up in their own worlds, and are oblivious to us.  If a person did catch my eye, they looked away almost immediately, as this is the custom in most Western cultures.  I proved to myself that I didn’t need to have anxiety when I looked in people’s eyes.    It is a normal (and very short) thing!

Saying "hello" or talking to strangers, and asking them questions

This can help us get used to greeting others and taking the initiative.  By saying "hello" to others first, we reduce our anxiety because we are taking charge of things.  This is better than worrying whether or not others will say hello to us or not.  By getting rid of anticipatory anxiety and just saying hello, we prove to ourselves that most people respond positively or at least neutrally when we ask them a question or say hello to them.  I found people to be friendly when I was friendly to them first.

Experiments within department stores

Asking for directions or help finding something was somewhat new to me (and others had never done it before), and because it involves taking the initiative and acting first, this actually decreased my anxiety and I found I could slowly and calmly ask for directions or help.   In an electronics store, we turned up the music very loud, pretending to be interested in the system, but drawing attention to ourselves because of what we did.  Again, nothing bad happened to us.   Other examples include going into a pet store and "testing out" the squeaky toys to see how loud they are, or going into Victoria's Secret and asking them questions about women's lingerie. 

Staying in the moment with all of the behavioral experiments

Staying in the moment (i.e., a longer amount of time) and repeating each experiment multiple times are major elements in helping us reduce our anxieties during experiments.  We had to continue doing these experiments over and over again to concretely – without a doubt -- prove to ourselves that people are not out there judging, criticizing, or negatively evaluating us.  All of us have believed the negative outcomes for so long, that it is almost like a dream when we realize that people are not judging us all the time, like we supposed.  Becoming more rational has helped me see myself as others see me – and has been a major part of overcoming social anxiety.


Each Saturday, we joined with members of the local group (into a larger group) and everyone had a chance to make small talk with one another and give a proactivity report in front of a larger group than normal.  We also had some individual time, which is different because approximately twenty other people were watching and listening to us, as opposed to only seven. 

Since we were used to standing up in front of our group without having anxiety, it wasn’t too big of a step to stand and talk in front of the larger group.  It is different, and it does feel different, but it was only another step, so I learned not to think about it and just do it.  It worked out well for me each time, and this also proved that I didn’t need to have the anticipatory anxiety that I had lived with all my life.

Sunday is the one day the group has off, and so we would often plan a "trip" or all-day event, usually something fun, to "de-stress" and prepare ourselves mentally for the next week.  The first Sunday we decided to visit Sedona, a unique city known for its red rocks, mountains, and beautiful landscapes.  Some of us decided to hike up a mountain near Sedona, while others were content to take in the scenery, go shopping, and just relax.

We also continued dance lessons, had a party at a local group members' house (with lots of social interactivity), and went to a nearby lake and rented a large boat for the day.

The 2012 International group was very proactive in its time at SAI, and I think everyone made a great deal of progress in learning how to continue working against social anxiety when they got back home.  This showed me how participating in a behavioral therapy group for social anxiety can change a persons’ life so that they can keep moving in the right direction in order to overcome this horrible disorder permanently!