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4 min read

Group Therapy for Social Anxiety: How It Works

Wait. Group therapy for social anxiety? That seems... counterintuitive.

The truth is, it is counterintuitive - but that's kind of the point!

Social anxiety is one of the most common mental health concerns in the world. It ranges from mild nervousness around new people to a debilitating intolerance for leaving one's house.

There are a number of treatments for social anxiety. Individual therapy is the most common, where a therapist administers brief therapy like CBT over the course of 8 to 12 sessions. But there are a number of alternatives designed to tailor treatment plans to benefit patients most.

One such alternative or supplement is group therapy. While it's not for everyone with social anxiety, and you should ask your therapist before going to a session, group therapy can be very effective for people with social anxiety.

Key Takeaways:

  • Social anxiety can be addressed in group therapy in order to reinforce and encourage interpersonal interactions.
  • Group therapy for social anxiety usually involves a cognitive-behavioral aspect, and can be used to supplement individual therapy.
  • Speaking with a therapist is the best way to determine whether or not group therapy for social anxiety is right for you.

Find out if social anxiety group therapy is right for you by reading through the sections below.

What causes social anxiety disorder?

How does group therapy for social anxiety work?

Group Therapy for Social Anxiety: Benefits and Drawbacks

What if I'm too scared or nervous for group therapy?

Interpersonal Group Therapy in Austin: Williamsburg Therapy Group

What causes social anxiety disorder?

There's no one root cause for social anxiety. It's not like there's a gene or virus we can target to develop a cure-all: the cause of your social anxiety has to be discovered through the vulnerability and practice of therapy.

There are, however, a number of statistically significant factors that can contribute to social anxiety.


Some people are genetically predisposed to anxiety in general. Scientists are still researching many facets of this idea: How much "genetic predisposition" is actually just related to how someone is raised? Which genes are responsible for the predisposition? Can we map it?

Of course, there are many cases of social anxiety that are not the result of genetics.

Past Trauma

Bullying and abuse can also contribute to social anxiety. In our childhood years, our brains are like sponges, soaking up everything they encounter and encoding it into our psyche. This, over the years, builds the thing that is "you."

If someone is consistently bullied by classmates during childhood, it makes sense that social situations - especially new ones with new people - would be distressing for them. Most of their experience in the social realm is negative and hurtful.

Low Self-Esteem

Some cases of social anxiety are caused primarily by low self-esteem. Someone who fails to see their self-worth often finds it difficult to believe others will either.

Physically, anything that does not conform to traditional media representations of beauty can also create a sense of embarrassment in social situations.

Regardless of the cause behind your social anxiety, there is therapeutic treatment that can get you started on the path to healing. One such treatment is group therapy.

How does group therapy for social anxiety work?

Group therapy for social anxiety comes in many forms, but one of the most common and effective is cognitive behavioral group therapy.

Cognitive behavioral group therapy, or CBGT, is much like individual CBT, but with an added emphasis on interpersonal relationships.

During a course of group therapy for social anxiety, members will learn about their social anxiety and the mechanisms and thought patterns behind it. The therapist will also work to restructure those thoughts to reduce symptoms and guide interpersonal conversation between members.

Group Therapy for Social Anxiety: Benefits and Drawbacks

Straight away, it's easy to see one major drawback to group therapy for social anxiety: It requires, at least in some capacity, being social.

For people with social anxiety, talking within a group can be a daunting - even seemingly impossible - task.

In fact, for some people with very severe social anxiety, going to group therapy is unsafe and unproductive. Sending someone into a group session before they are ready can do more harm than good. This is why therapists recommend starting with individual sessions.

After a course of individual sessions, assuming progress is being made and the therapist feels you are ready, they may refer you to a social anxiety support group.

The benefits of group therapy for social anxiety arise after a patient is ready to go to this next step:

  • Social anxiety is, by definition, isolating. Hearing stories from others with similar struggles and learning that you are not alone can be a relief.
  • People who have experienced social anxiety in the past and have since made great progress in reducing distress can share unique insights that otherwise may have gone unrevealed.
  • Group therapy can act as a sort of "exposure therapy", encouraging members to get out of their comfort zone and experience a safe, confidential social environment. Note that any kind of exposure therapy should be closely monitored and administered by a licensed professional, as it can cause harm and distress if not done properly.

What if I'm too scared or nervous for group therapy?

That's okay! While it can be good to get out of your comfort zone, your healing and peace is of the utmost importance. If you don't feel ready to go to group therapy for social anxiety, no one can force you.

If you want to try group therapy but feel too anxious, talk to your therapist about your options. They may make suggestions that can help ease the nerves or suggest a trial session. They may also recommend continuing individual therapy sessions to keep making progress, and then revisiting group therapy later.

Above all, listen to your therapists. Only they know your specific case well enough to determine if group therapy for social anxiety is right for you.

Interpersonal Group Therapy in Austin: Williamsburg Therapy Group

If you're ready to address your anxiety or another mental health concern in group therapy, our team of dedicated doctoral-level therapists offers interpersonal group therapy in our local Austin community.

Guided by a licensed psychologist, our Austin interpersonal group therapy sessions are safe, confidential, and productive, and consist of 8 to 12 people.

Give us a call, and our patient coordinator will help you find the right group for you.

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