A great many outcome studies have repeatedly demonstrated that cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most effective treatment for social anxiety disorder (SAD), the third or fourth most prevalent mental health disorder in the United States. The core treatment element in CBT for SAD, like that of any other anxiety-related disorder, involves the use of exposures (aka experiments) conducted in anxiety-provoking situations.

But to what end? Are these exposures designed to achieve anxiety habituation, or the pursuit of life values while accepting anxiety and reducing avoidance? Are these exposures designed as experiments to test anxious predictions (aka violating expectancy) and underlying core beliefs? How we conceptualize exposures / experiments impacts the strategies we use in helping those whose lives are diminished, often severely so, by SAD.

This session will discuss the different objectives of several approaches to using exposures / experiments in the treatment of SAD, and what research indicates is most effective. The strengths and limitations of each approach will be discussed, with emphasis on how to combine or adapt the approaches to the needs of particular clients. A clinical demonstration will be included. Recordings of several other clinical demonstrations, as well as many client worksheets and instructional handouts, will be distributed to attendees.

Note: although conducting behavioral experiments is the core component in cognitive-behavioral therapy for social anxiety, it is ideally not a stand-alone strategy. It is meant to be combined with external mindfulness (curiosity training), cognitive restructuring, assertion training, and core belief change work. If you need training on all aspects of CBT for social anxiety, please watch our recorded seminar on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies for Social Anxiety Disorder: An Integrative Strategy.



Larry Cohen, LICSW, A-CBT, is cofounder and Cochair of the National Social Anxiety Center (NSAC). He has directed the Social Anxiety Help clinic (NSAC District of Columbia) in Washington, DC since 1990 where he has provided cognitive-behavioral therapy for more than 1,000 persons with social anxiety, and has conducted some 100 20-week social anxiety CBT groups. Larry is certified as a Diplomate in CBT by the Academy of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies, which has also conferred on him the status of Fellow for having “made sustained outstanding contributions to the field of cognitive therapy”.


Chamin Ajjan, LCSW, A-CBT, CST, is the founder and Clinical Director of Chamin Ajjan Psychotherapy (NSAC Brooklyn). She serves as NSAC’s Marketing Coordinator, and as a member of NSAC’s Board.

(This workshop was a State-of-the-Art Clinical Session presented on April 13, 2023 at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America conference in Washington, DC.)




Our workshops and webinars are offered as an educational resource for
mental health professionals who are already familiar with cognitive and behavioral therapies.
These resources alone do not suffice as adequate training
to conduct cognitive and behavioral therapies
for those with social anxiety and related problems.