Due to the COVID-19 crisis, all clients are currently being seen through teletherapy (phone or videoconferencing).
Social Anxiety Treatment in Reston & Herndon VA
Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia or “shyness”)
We have treated social anxiety disorder with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for over two decades. We keep up with the scientific literature, devote considerable thought to understanding the unique aspects of each client’s difficulties, and frequently engage in peer consultation with our large network of highly experienced colleagues.
CBT treatment for social anxiety is an evidence-based approach. Support for CBT’s treatment of social phobia appears in a number of top-tier psychological journals.
We are long-time full members of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) and the Association for Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies (ABCT). Our participation in these organizations has helped refine our skills in the treatment of social anxiety over the years by attending numerous professional meetings and workshops. As university professors, we have taught a great many doctoral students in clinical psychology how to treat social anxiety.
Social Anxiety Symptoms
Individuals with social anxiety disorder experience a marked fear of situations in which they may be judged by others. These situations commonly include groups of friends or co-workers, parties, meetings, and sometimes public places. Some have particular difficulty with public speaking which creates difficult at work or school. Anxiety around dating and establishing romantic relationships is also quite common.
Most individuals with social anxiety fear they will look foolish, appear boring, or that they will “say something stupid.” There are significant fears of showing signs of anxiety in front of others such as blushing or sweating. Internally, people with social anxiety tend to feel inadequate, unintelligent, or that they do not “fit in."
Almost all individuals with social anxiety avoid social interaction. They may have a limited social network despite a strong desire to have friends or an intimate partner. When social anxiety is widespread and begins early in life, it is known as avoidant personality disorder.
Our Approach for Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is a well-studied condition and is typically quite treatable. CBT treatment for social anxiety incorporates a combination of cognitive and exposure-based interventions.
Cognitive Strategies: Cognitive strategies focus on examining destructive beliefs. For instance, it is extremely common for those with social phobia to misattribute neutral cues (e.g., a yawn) as negative evaluation. In other cases, a feeling of inferiority is an important driver of the problem.
Exposure and Behavioral Experiments: Intellectual awareness that one’s fears are exaggerated is rarely enough to quell discomfort in social situations. Therefore, gradually exposing oneself to feared social situations is critical. Following a detailed assessment, an individualized plan of targets for exposure is developed.
Well-planned exposure allows fear reactions to habituate and tolerability of discomfort to increase. Exposure is also used to set up “experiments” to test negative predictions (e.g., “people won’t respond well to me;” “I won’t have anything to say”). Exposure is always done gradually, thoughtfully, and only when there is a trusting therapeutic relationship.
Other Interventions: Some individuals have social skill deficits that can be addressed in therapy. Others are so distracted and ruminative that they may benefit from mindfulness training to reduce reactivity to negative thoughts and emotions. For those with long histories of negative social experiences (including bullying), imagery exercises can be helpful to lessen the impact of past experiences on current functioning.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center of Northern Virginia
1800 Michael Faraday Drive, Suite 206
Reston, VA 20190
(one block east of the Wiehle-Reston Metro Station)