Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a practical, results-oriented approach in which you learn specific skills and strategies to help you overcome personal problems and to achieve personal goals that you choose for yourself.

CBT is based on the fact that our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, biology, and life circumstance all influence each other.  Therefore, if we are having problems in one area—anxiety and social interaction, for example—we can make changes in our thinking and behavior that can help us feel better and achieve our goals.

A central premise in CBT is that how we feel about a situation is affected by our thoughts about the situation–the self-talk and images that go through our mind—as well as our core beliefs about ourselves and the world.

Two different people might feel very differently in the same situation—one person very socially anxious, the other person comfortable and confident—in part because they have very different thoughts and beliefs about the situation and themselves.  For example, the socially anxious person may believe s/he is socially unskilled and uninteresting, and that s/he is likely to make a bad impression when meeting new people at a social activity.  The calm and confident person in the very same situation may believe s/he is a likable, interesting person, and that if someone at a social activity doesn’t enjoy talking to him/her, that most other people at the social likely will.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Social Anxiety is Effective

A cognitive-behavioral therapist will help you figure out the vicious cycles you unintentionally engage in, such as cycles of distorted thoughts, upsetting feelings, unhealthy core beliefs, and self-defeating behaviors. These vicious cycles help cause your problems and make you feel stuck.  Then you experiment with different way of breaking those vicious cycles by applying the skills and strategies that you learn and practice in CBT.

It’ll take hard work and determination on both of our parts.  But if you’re really committed to doing the therapy homework regularly–homework that you choose for yourself in collaboration with your therapist–you’re likely to be making significant progress toward your goals in a matter of a few months.

Many outcome studies have demonstrated CBT to be the most effective approach to overcoming social anxiety.  One of the key advantages of CBT is that it’s an empowering for of therapy, aimed at training you to become your own personal therapist.  In other words, in CBT you learn and put into practice insights, skills and strategies that you can continue using on your own after leaving therapy to help you reach further goals and handle future problems.

Overcoming Social Anxiety:  Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to Build Self-Confidence and Lessen Self-Consciousness
Larry Cohen (NSAC Chair and cofounder, and Director of NSAC DC) explains the basics of how to use CBT to help you learn to overcome social anxiety.  Watch this webinar, and download the helpful handouts. (Recorded on June 9, 2017 for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America ( © ADAA 2017.)



* These handouts were updated four years later, in June, 2021.