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Counseling for Social Anxiety Disorder: What Kind of Therapy?
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Do you need counseling for social anxiety disorder? Although social anxiety disorder is very serious, people around you may dismiss it as you being shy, introverted, or difficult. Unfortunately it is a true disorder. It can affect your ability to be successful in romantic relationships, family relationships, friendships, and at work. In its most severe form, it can cause you to stop leaving your house!
Depending on where you are in your experiences, you may want to seek counseling rather than tackle it yourself. What can you expect?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
As with most forms of anxiety, therapy for social anxiety disorder is usually delivered in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy(CBT). This kind of therapy teaches you to change how you think and behave in the situations that cause you anxiety. You can learn to change almost anything about your experience if you try hard enough. Social anxiety, although it feels very real and terrifying to those who experience it, like most anxiety, is not based on any real threat.
The most well researched form of counseling for social anxiety disorder is exposure therapy. Exposure therapy teaches clients to gradually expose themselves to the feared situation. What happens in exposure therapy is that you learn that you unlearn the bad habits that you have learned.
The worse habit you have probably acquired along the path of this illness is avoidance. Avoidance is the most powerful perpetuator of all anxiety. When you avoid something you are afraid of, you reinforce the idea that the feared situation is actually harmful. This works well it seems. You immediately decrease your sense of anxiety in the moment, unaware that you are actually increasing your anxiety in the long run. When you expose yourself to what you are fearful of, you see that your anxiety goes down on its on. This allows you to gain more confidence and to tackle your fears.
Exposure therapy will often consist of making a ladder of feared situations, and receiving coaching and homework to help you to conquer each situation, thus restoring confidence in your ability to deal with your life.
Exposure exercises will not exceed your capacity to handle them, and the process of rating your anxiety level accurately is one that your therapist will guide you through.
Other forms of counseling consist of teaching relaxation techniques and social skills so you feel more prepared to deal with the fearful social situations. Counseling for social anxiety when it follows these methods is 50-75 percent successful over the course of approximately 2.5 to 3 months with weekly hourly sessions. These are the best treatment methods for social anxiety. If you are attending counseling for social anxiety disorder and your therapist is not using CBT, or ACT described below, it may be helpful to ask why.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy(ACT)
New research studies continue to show that acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)is an effective form of counseling for social anxiety disorder as well. This is my favorite approach to teach my clients. Acceptance and commitment therapy is different form cognitive behavioral therapy in that it teaches you to accept the thoughts and emotions that are creating the social anxiety and then to learn not to pay so much attention to them. Efforts to control and avoid anxiety are often what exacerbate and complicate a diagnosis. Learning how you do this, and how not to do this, is often a highly effective technique taught in counseling for social anxiety disorder.
An ACT therapist will teach you how to create an awareness of how your thoughts and feelings have unnecessary power over you rather than teaching you that you need to change your thoughts and feelings. ACT counseling for social anxiety disorder also teaches you new skills to observe and be aware the present moment rather than to attempt to escape it. You will also learn how to clearly focus on and what you deeply believe about what is important in life. Later you will commit to create action consistent with these values , despite how you feel or think at the particular moment.
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